Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Wrap-Up

Image From This Month
"If you're ever gonna find a silver lining
It's gotta be a cloudy day
If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning
You're gonna have to stand in the rain"

On the return flight during my unexpected trip to California (see below), there were several mix-ups, delays, and cancellations, which gave my family and I an extra 12 hours in SoCal. We were extremely bummed out and just wanted to go home, but we ended up heading to Venice Beach for a lovely dinner and walk during sunset which was so worth the flight mix-ups. 

What did I read this month?

What Fun/Noteworthy Things Happened?

1. An Unexpected Trip to my Homeland | CaliforniaI know it seems like I got to California in every single one of my monthly wrap-ups, but I promise there isn't a (foreseeable) trip in April. Sadly, my best friend, Emma's (pictured above) grandfather passed away this month and the entire family and I made an emergency trip to California for the funeral. We were in there and out in less than 72 hours, and despite the reason for being there, I had a great time getting to know more of my family.

2. Forever is Composed of Now and I Seek a Great Perhaps | Wandering ~ I normally don't put books in as events of a certain month - mostly because I'm ALWAYS talking about books - but this is a special case. I FINALLY read/reviewed Paper Towns after watching the Trailer and am now completely obsessed with exploring, wandering, and discovering. Throughout the month of March, with my boyfriend by my side, I've been exploring Syracuse and all of the lovely nooks and crannies it has to offer including long walks in the cemetery and trespassing on my local golf course. I've probably walked 25 miles worth of Saturdays alone while traipsing all around his neighborhood and mine, and Paper Towns was yet another nudge I needed to live life in the moment and take chances.

3. Getting My Lay Butt off the Couch | Track ~ I've been "getting back into shape" for the past two inconsistent months of attempting to run a few miles here and there. Well wait no longer, because it is Track season which means I have practice and/or meets 5 days a week until June. It's been taking up a lot of my time lately and there has definitely been some juggling of my schedule to be done, but ti's overall been a lovely experience of learning, making new friends, and of course, running. 

4. An End of an Era | Playwriting ~ You might remember my tried and failed attempt at a 10 week series of videos/blog posts called A Progression in Playwriting. There actually ended up being only 4 episodes, but there is always next session (perhaps "A Pondering In Poetry"). In short, I did make one grand wrap-up Progression in Playwriting just to gush about everything I learned about Playwriting and how much I valued the new experience.

5. Excuses, Excuses, Excuses.... | I mean "being busy" ~ I have to admit, I said that I would get out of my blogging/reading/YouTube slump in my February Warp-Up, but that didn't happen either. My excuse is the multiple projects/essays that were assigned this month (including a 25 page Screenplay of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein), Track Practice every day after school, and spending time with my boyfriend (they require a lot of attention, you know - JK :p) In all honesty, I have absolutely no excuse because my extracurricular activities related to reading are all conscious choices of mine to make and there is no one to blame for my busy schedule. I'm hoping that I will do better in April, but I've learned that I just can't beat myself up and attempting to spread myself too thin. I need to take some serious time for scheduling/prioritizing in the beginning of April, but there is also Spring Break to spend much-needed blog/YouTube Channel maintenance. 

What Movies/TV was I obsessed with?

What music was I obsessed with?

Kacey Musgraves released her first new single since 2012, you can bet your bottom dollar that I spent the entire month listening to it on repeat. Biscuits has the same feel that "Blowin' Smoke" and "Follow Your Arrow" did, and I am so looking forward to a second full-length studio album from her.

I have to admit that I hadn't even heard this song until it was featured in the Paper Towns trailer, but it is definitely my most-listened to song of the month. I love its message, lyrics, and overall instrumentals and think it was PERFECTION to put it into the trailer.

I got overall obsessed with the dynamic duo known as Maddie & Tae this month (especially "Girl in a Country Song") and absolutely adore their harmonies as well as feminist lyrics.

Luke Bryan came out with another chart-topping country album this month and Games was its headlining single that I have listened to on repeat for way more hours than I care to admit.

Even though I haven't experienced what the story-teller has, I inexplicably related to the song so much and absolutely relished in the sound of Florida Georgia Line's more acoustic sound.

I actually wrote a review of last year's On the Record (both the episode and the soundtrack), and while I haven't (as of writing this blog post) watched the episode yet, I have been listening to the soundtrack avidly since the day of its release. I love how the stars of Nashville are their own artists themselves and sound amazing live.

What was my favorite book?

What posts/videos am I proud of?

In this video I tackle the big question of "What do you want to be when you grow up," my hated for it, as well as the fact that I absolutely despise the fact that we live in a society that expects decisions on what will impact the rest of our lives done in haste then judges us.

 The Paper Towns trailer dropped this month and I absolutely adored the trailer which was the final kick in the butt towards reading the darned book.
Lost In Translation
The Role of "Pictures" in Young Adult Literature

This post tackles the subject of what should be retained during a young adult novel's translation from its original language to another. We don't often consider what elements of story must be preserved and I had so much fun tacking the question.

In the 21st century, there are obviously pictures, drawings, and graphics in novels, but that doesn't make them "picture books" or "graphic novels." Sometimes they help readers visualize sequences, sometimes they provide comedic relief, or are essential to the story.

What was my favorite quote?

I did a compilation of my favorite quotes from Paper Towns and any one of those could be considered a favorite of this month. I also critically read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein which had some of the most brilliant quotes I have ever read. But my favorite quote would have to be one by Emily Dickenson which I discovered because of (no surprise) Paper Towns. [Disclosure: I don't own this image]

When life gets busy, what do you do to relax?
Despite my many excuses for not being productive, I can still be classified as "busy." Life sometimes feels like it's going a mile a minute and is suddenly made up of sensory overload. When I need to relax or at least clear my head, I'll go on a run (you know, to overthink about everything I need to do) or take a shower, two very important things that at least put my life into perspective no matter how crazy I think I'm going.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

{Favorite Quotes/BookTalk} Paper Towns; John Green

Rating: 95%
Series: None
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Page Count: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis: Who is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...

Favorite Quote Compilation

“The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.” --- 1

Right off the bat, we get ta full picture of the way our main character Quentin sees the world. His point of view is one he is absolutely sure of as well as one that captures life in a sort of vintage filter way only John Green can write. This brings me to the fact that the opening paragraph of Paper Towns is obviously a John Green book, simply because no other author has such a distinct word choice, tone, and way of stating things that only he can do.

“Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.” --- 10

"I did not aspire to become the world's only virgin with pubic lice." --- 16

Chuck Parson did not participate in organized sports, because to do so would distract from the larger goal of his life: to one day be convicted of homicide." --- 16

"I’d had nearly four years of experience looking at these clocks, but their sluggishness never ceased to surprise . If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight for the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years." --- 18

"The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle.” --- 32

“It’s a penis,” Margo said, “in the same sense that Rhode Island is a state: it may have an illustrious history, but it sure isn’t big.” --- 41

"Margo’s beauty was a kind of sealed vessel of perfection— uncracked and uncrackable." -- 51

“Everything’s uglier close up,” — 57

"I think that’s why she never really worried about me— as long as I wasn’t ritually decapitating gerbils or urinating on my own face, she figured I was a success." --- 86

“Because I think that is precisely what Whitman would have wanted. For you to see ‘Song of Myself’ not just as a poem but as a way into understanding another. But I wonder if maybe you have to read it as a poem, instead of just reading these fragments for quotes and clues. I do think there are some interesting connections between the poet in ‘Song of Myself’ and Margo Spiegelman— all that wild charisma and wanderlust. But a poem can’t do its work if you only read snippets of it.” --- 161
I needed to discover what Margo was like when she wasn’t being Margo. — 170
"Talking to a drunk person was like talking to an extremely happy, severely brain-damaged three-year-old." --- 181

"Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start." --- 183

Margo Roth Spiegelman was a person, too.... Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl. — 199 

"The town was paper, but the memories were not. All the things I’d done here, all the love and pity and compassion and violence and spite , kept welling up inside me. These whitewashed cinder-block walls. My white walls. Margo’s white walls. We’d been captive in them for so long, stuck in their belly like Jonah." --- 227

"leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can’t do that until your life has grown roots. --- 234

"You’re pissed at this idea of me you keep inside your brain from when we were little!” — 285

“Forever is composed of nows,” — 296

Thursday, March 19, 2015

{Mini Reviews} Cut | Sold ~ Patricia McCormick

Background & Backstory
The very day after making my March TBR video, I decided that I didn't want to read all of the books on that list, so I went to my school's librarian to ask for some recommendations. Because she thinks my reading is severely lacking in historical fiction, she recommended Sold and then Cut, since the book is also by Patricia McCormick, an author that comes highly recommended from her.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
There isn't a huge possibility of me reading another book by Patricia McCormick mostly because I have a ton of other books on my TBR that need attending to before I pick up another one by her. She seems like a bit of hit-or-miss author considering I loved Sold and hated Cut, so I think I would have to be pretty certain that I was intrigued by the premise of whatever other book I read by her in the future.

Rating: 75%
Series: None
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: Disney Hyperiion
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Page Count: 263
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. 

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt-then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi's life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother's words-Simply to endure is to triumph-and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision-will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life? 

Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
That was beautiful.

What I enjoyed in Sold was its lyrical qualities stemming from the book's free verse. At times, pages were full-on poetry and at others, it was more narrative-style. I sped through Sold even faster than Cut, mostly because of how hard-hitting it is and how invested (unlike with Cut) I was in the story.

After I finished Sold, I deliberated over whether I should give it 5 or 4 stars because there was no singular element I disliked and I enjoyed the story and its elements as a whole. What made the decision for me was the timeline Sold focused on. Because Lakshmi's story is so much like many other girls who have unfortunately been trafficked into prostitution, her story from start to finish has been told in different words many times. I would have liked a little more information about Lakshmi's life after as well as if she ever found out what became of her family. 

In short, I loved how McCormick treated the topic of trafficking with such brutal honesty without making it overly graphic. We got a clear picture of the simple wants and needs of her family as well as how desperate they were for the money. Then the moment Lakshmi was sold for the first time was quite horrific and described well. I appreciated how the author kept her strong and determined to get out once she saw the disease and the consequences of "living" in the brothel.

Conclusion: Sold was a beautifully executed glimpse into the not-so-glamorous world of child prostitution featuring a strong female protagonist that helped put my own life into perspective.

Rating: 30%
Series: None
Genre:  Realistic Fiction, Social Issues, Cutting, Fiction, Young Adult, 
Publisher: Push
Publication Date: February 1, 2002
Page Count: 151
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: "A tingle arced across my scalp. The floor tipped up at me and my body spiraled away. Then I was on the ceiling looking down, waiting to see what would happen next." Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long...

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Why the heck did I just spend the past two hours of my life reading this book? 

To be honest, I didn't understand the point of Cut. I get it, Callie has cut in the past, was caught, and landed herself in a rehabilitation facility. Her silence will, for some reason unbeknownst to readers even after they finish the novel, harm her if she doesn't speak up. What I gleamed from the synopsis was the identical story I received from reading 151 pages. Firstly, a synopsis is not supposed to span the ENTIRE story. Secondly, the execution and delivery of the premise was terrible. 

Cutting is a serious social and mental issue that more people should be knowledgeable and aware of. I have known of friends that cut and have been depressed, but the way McCormick presented it was almost like a joke. Let's give Callie a depressing backstory about why she cuts, throw in Sea Pines setting, and make her silent.... PRESTO, you have a novel. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way about the book, it received a 3.74 average on Goodreads out of almost 40,000 ratings. My general rule is to not pick up a book with anything less than a 3.8 mostly because my reading taste usually parallel's the general populace's opinion, so I wouldn't have picked it up if my librarian hadn't recommended it.

Plot - The story didn't exactly go anywhere until the last third of the book, and even then, we didn't get a solid conclusion because Callie didn't even reveal why she felt the need to stay silent. It felt as if the last 50 pages or even a whole other book was abruptly cut off.  

Characters - As what would usually be expected with realistic, social issues fiction, Cut is told in first person so readers can get a deeper understanding of the character's motive. However, I felt as if, even by the end of the book, that I didn't know Callie and subsequently, didn't care about her. What I found interesting was the fact that the entire novel was Callie telling her therapist everything that happened to her, so the use of "you" was frequent throughout.

Pacing - Like I mentioned previously, the plot wasn't going anywhere up until page 100, so I was extremely bored most of the time. The events going on around Callie made the story intriguing and is what spurred me to keep reading as well as the book coming on my librarian's high recommendation. 

Conclusion: In my opinion, the execution and delivery of the premise coupled with the protagonist's voice is what made Cut a boring, slightly confusing read.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Books of My Spring 2015 TBR | Top Ten Tuesday (18)

March 10 | Confess: Colleen Hoover ~ I've read four books by Colleen Hoover (featured in my January and February Reading Wrap-Ups) and have fallen in love with each and every one. I completely understand why they call her the queen of New Adult, there's chaos, romance, and scandal.... the perfect combination *raises eyebrows attempting to be seductive but actually looks stupid*

April 7 | Simon vs. The Homo Sapien's Agenda: Becky Albertalli ~ I originally heard about this from Margot over at Epic Reads and have not heard a word of bad feedback since. The cover and title are undeniably witty and I'm crossing my fingers for an awesome, quirky story with a strong narrator I can't help but love.

April 28 | An Ember in the Ashes: Sabaa Tahir ~ I don't know what book by Penguin has EVER gotten as much prepublication hype as AEITA, but I've been hearing about this book since FALL of 2014 and no one can stop talking about it in all of its standalone high-fantasy novel glory. 

May 5 | The Fill-In Boyfriend: Kasie West ~ I LOVE me some good ole cutesy contemporary from Kasie West and this sounds like an impossibly ridiculous (and hilarious) situation for the main character to go to that I'm certain will elicit a ton of LOLZ from me. Check out my review of On the Fence if you want to know more of my feelings towards West as an author. 

May 5 | A Court of Thorns and Roses: Sarah J. Maas ~ Who is NOT sitting on the edge of their seats anticipating ACOTAR?!? It's Sarah J. Maas with a Beauty and the Beast retelling mixed in with fae lore.... HOW can you go wrong?  

May 8 | What Remains: Helene Dunbar ~ I read Helene's debut novel -These Gentle Wounds- a little less than a year ago and gave it 5/5 stars for all of its emotional, feels-packed glory. I love the premise and am looking forward to see what Dunbar does with it because TGW did not end up how I thought it would.

May 12 | The Wrath and the Dawn: Renee Ahdieh ~ I love Young Adult fairy tale adaptations and an adaptation of Scheherazade makes me want to flail all over the place. It's my favorite story in A Thousand and One Nights and I can't wait to see how Renee puts a spin on it.

May 26 | Extraordinary Means: Robyn Schneider ~ I absolutely ADORED The Beginning of Everything when I read it last September, and it made my Top 14 books of 2014. What I loved about it was the distinct voice of the narrator, Ezra, and because of it, I would pretty much read a grocery list written by her. 

May 26 | P.S. I Still Love You: Jenny Han ~ I read and fell in love with the first book -To All The Boys I've Loved Before- back in January and even though I am a bit wary of the sequel living up to all the contemporary rom-com glory, I am still dying to get my hands on more of Jenny Han's writing.

May 26 | The Cage: Megan Shepherd ~ I devoured the first two books in the Madman's Daughter trilogy (and have the third book on hold) and I love Shepherd's suspenseful story telling and the premise sounds interesting for this one.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

{BookTalk} The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone: Adele Griffin

Rating: 75%
Series: None
Genre: Realistic Fiction,  Mystery, Multi-Media, Young Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: August 12, 2014
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.

Disclaimer: BookTalks mean that there are clearly marked spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
For fans of mysteries, unreliable narrators, and psychological thrillers like the Mara Dyer Trilogy, We Were Liars, Andrew Smith,

Background & Backstory?
I had no genuine desire to read The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone until my school's library got the book in and my librarian and I delved into this lengthy conversation about how to shelve multi-media novels. With that in mind, coupled with the intriguing premise, I had to read it.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?

Multi-Media Books | My latest Sofia Speculates dives into the nitty gritty of multi-media novels and my overall opinion of them, but now I want to discuss the way Adele Griffin used art to truly bring this story to life. Addison Stone is an art prodigy, so naturally, Griffin supplies us with photographs of her work from sculptures to drawings to paintings. What is more, there are also photographs of Addison with various characters in the story, aiding readers in picturing certain scenes and crucial events in the overall story arc. I have to admit that not all of the graphics made sense in the context they came from, nevertheless, they enriched the reading experience of this particular story, succeeding in their job of being the various threads making up a great tapestry.

The "It's Not a Biography" Issue | My school's librarian originally had issues with how to shelve The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone because Adele Griffin goes to painstaking measures to get the reader to believe Addison's story is a true one. Obviously, everyone in America would have heard of Addison Stone had she been a real person, but the amount of "newspaper clippings," "magazine articles," and "photographs" of her truly added to the larger-than-life image Adele painted of her protagonist. My librarian also pointed out that she would have loved to know how Griffin accumulated all of the photos/images and the whole behind-the-scenes process of creating this book.

Is this book a mystery? | One of the issues the librarian and I discussed was the mystery behind Addison Stone. As readers, we delve deeper and deeper in Addison's life, every bit and piece of people's narration being thrown onto the grand canvas known as the big picture of this story. But because of the way it ended, on has to ask themselves if Adele Griffin intended for it to be a mystery. I accepted the truths the author presented, but another reader could have easily interpreted the premise as a call to action "to find out what really happened." The best comparison I can make is with the book We Were Liars in terms of the type of character Addison was as well as the air of mystery and "something is not alright" that surrounded the novel.

Toxic Relationships & Teenage Love | The majority of the bookish community detests insta-love and love shapes of any kind. While it can be annoying, I never usually effected as much as I was with the dynamics between Addison, Lincoln, and Zach. She become so involved, both emotionally and physically with the both of them at different times. I have never once read about a relationship in a novel before and said to myself, "She should get out of this ASAP because of how bad he is for her." because I truly believe that she may not have gone to the same extremes she did, had it not been for the unhealthy relationships she was involved in,

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
There is obviously no way Adele Griffin could possibly write another book like this, and I wouldn't be able to expect that either, but based off of everything that made up The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone, I will likely pick up another book by Adele Griffin. 

Conclusion: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a gorgeously accomplished multi-media, multi-perspective masterpiece surrounding one unforgettable girl and an even more unforgettable story that will stay with you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Role of "Pictures" in Young Adult Literature | Sofia Speculates (6)

Sofia Speculates is the official name for all of the times Sofia just NEEDS to ramble on and on about whatever topics suit her fancy at the moment. Check out my review of The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin, the book that inspired this discussion.

What do you think of when you see a picture in the book you are reading? This may be a photograph, a drawing, a computer-generized image, a nifty photoshop-made graphic. 

Back when you were a child, finding a picture in a book meant that it was a picture book, plain and simple. A book where the artwork was clearly done by someone and is paired with the text to form a complete story that would usually be labeled as a Children's Book. Not that there is a single thing wrong with reading a book with pictures (I love them for that matter), but when you were younger it was SUCH a big deal when you had graduated BEYOND the books with pictures.

*Cue Valley Girl Voice* Like Seriously.... You don't even know ho big of a deal it was to read a "Chapter Book"
But what do we do as readers when we come across books with PICTURES in them that ARE NOT from the Children's Section?

 There are many multi-media books, more specifically, full-length novels thats stories are enhanced with "pictures" essentially. They're still regarded on the same level as all other books like it, but sometimes the presence of pictures confuses readers a bit. 

The way I see it, there are a three different sub-genres and/or categories of books with "pictures" in them present in Young Adult literature. 

First up, we have the classic non-fiction memoir where the presences of pictures - more precisely, photographs - are a little more widely accepted because to be frank, it's helpful for readers to see photos of whatever event in a person's life is being talked about. In modern memoirs, images have almost come to be expected, mostly to break up all of the text which may be fascinating to some people to reader about other's lives or extremely boring in another reader's perspective.

Then we have the full-length novels with a combination of drawings and/or photographs in them to ENHANCE the act of story-telling. They're exactly like any other YA novel you can pick up off the shelf and the book could be read without much difficulty, had the pictures been removed. Yet there's a reason why these pictures are present. For Winger and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, little comics/doodles are interspersed through the novels to add comedic relief and in both stories, the narrators have a passion for drawing and the readers get a glimpse of their talent with the addition of pictures. On the other hand, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour has a gritty, "this is real life" feel to it, and the photographs provide some "proof" if you will of the character's experiences and journeys.

Lastly, we have the novels where pictures and text are completely intertwined and necessary for the reader's enjoyment. Every You, Every Me was actually written section by section as Jonathan Farmer brought David Levithan photographs and the entire story is weaved into them. Asylum and Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children are both horror novels with photographs that add to the creepiness factor and are essential for the story. And then there's The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone about an art prodigy, so photographs of her actual artwork as well as ones of her are interspersed throughout the novel.

The fact that there are graphics in these books do not diminish their value as stories, or make them "Children's" books, or make them Graphic Novels for that matter. 

Now that we know a little more about pictures in Young Adult novels, let's talk about how images enhance story telling. Everyone loves an author that can paint the most brilliant picture ever of what's going on during a certain scene. Sometimes, as readers, we just can't picture whatever the author is attempting to describe. Multi-media novels add a whole other level to the reading experience and are quite enjoyable when done right.

There actually haven't been many Young Adult multi-media books that have been hyped up (besides Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children). This is a completely personal projection from my perspective as an adolescent growing up in the 21st century, but I predict that there will be a lot more multi-media books in the next few years merely because of how much people are attracted to images and the different experience multi-media books bring to the table. 

Another quick point I would like to bring up is just because I enjoy reading a multi-media novel does not mean that I don't enjoy books that are made completely of words and it would be the most horrendous day in history if those kinds of books were eradicated. I just wanted to bring up the topic of multi-media novels to hear your opinion. 

So what do you think?
Where are we going the genre of multi-media literature?
What are some multi-media books you would recommend?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

{BookTalk} Red Queen #1: Victoria Aveyard

Rating: 32%
Series: Red Queen #1 
Genre: High Fantasy, Romance, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Page Count: 383
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Disclaimer: BookTalks mean that there are clearly marked spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.  

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Despite the "X meets X" pitch of "Graceling meets The Selection," I would most definitely revise that to "Snow Like Ashes meets The Jewel." I found so many similarities, in terms of the general "feel" and atmosphere you get from reading a certain book, between the three. The passion, motive, and coincidentally the names (Meira/Mare) of Snow Like Ashes and Red Queen's female protagonists was eerily similar and the entire world/royal hierarchy as well as the shoddy love triangles present in both the Jewel and Red Queen.

Would I Buy It?
Despite the cover being downright drool-worthy with a smooth finish that makes me want to stroke it awkwardly in public places, that doesn't change the fact that I disliked the book and don't want to buy it... even though it would look absolutely stunning on my bookshelves.

Background & Backstory?
I'm not sure how much of a backstory I can give for Red Queen besides the fact that EVERYONE has been talking about it. The only book that has gotten more prepublication buzz is an Ember in the Ashes from Penguin, but I've been reading Red Queen reviews practically since the cover came out. When it hit the #1 spot on the NYT Bestsellers list, I knew I had to read it just so I could tell all the non-readers that I knew about it way back when even when they claim to be superfans.

Now let me tell you something after I finished the book. I could have skipped it. I seriously considered DNFing it and I forged ahead mostly to say that I had read it, which is not a good motive to read/finish a book.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Okaaay then.... *looks at book warily*

Plot | 20% What turned me off from Red Queen the most was the plot. The overall arc felt like a poorly done mash up of every high fantasy novel EVER. It was as if Victoria Aveyard had sat there with a Madlibs-like fill-in-the-blank for all the elements of a YA high fantasy. 

Strong female protagonist with something making her different from everyone else? Check! An opposing force that she is (not so) inexplicably linked with? Check! A startling truth pertaining to the fact that she is unlike who she thought she was as well as the opposing force? Check! Two guys vying for her affections? Check! 

I don't consider myself very good at projecting what will happen next in books, but I anticipated a lot of the general plot points of Red Queen even though ironically, Victoria Aveyard wrote Red Queen so it would not be like "every other book out there."

Premise | 60% While Mare's situation has been done countless times in the past, I have to admit that the actual premise of Red Queen is pretty cool. The idea that the color of your blood determines your place in society is an interesting one and provided a fascinating basis for the story itself. Although, if I were to read the sequel, I would appreciate more information on the substance/genetic material that makes one silver versus red-blooded.

Characters & Romance | 40% May I just say that I strongly disliked the characters and romance in this novel? Mare seemed like an ordinary, run-of-the-mill protagonist and while I understood her perspective, I didn't feel particularly compelled to root for her. On Adventures of a Book Junkie, she explains how Victoria said that her character's names just came to her and I found this interesting because most authors have reasons/meaning behind their character's names. All the other characters didn't have much personality and I couldn't distinguish between our two male leads very well. Not so surprisingly, the characters I felt the most from were the villains, because at least their passion was portrayed blatantly. 

In terms of romance, there was a love triangle that I despised. Mostly because I wasn't sure which guy Mare actually preferred and it seemed like she switched sides just to get whatever she needed from a certain one. I was overall just really confused with the entire situation.

Pacing | 40% Something that kept me reading past the hundredth page was the pacing. I was intrigued with where the story would go and slightly invested in the characters. However, when I got halfway through the book, I already felt like I had spent too much time on it and that I should just keep ploughing through nonetheless. In a way this was both good and bad, because if the plot had been a little slower, I wouldn't have finished the book, but if it had been faster on the whole, I would have enjoyed the book more. It was odd because things were happening, I just didn't particularly care that they were.

***Spoiler Alert***
Ending | 70% Despite not enjoying Red Queen, I will admit that the ending wasn't terrible. It wrapped things up nicely for a first book, while still giving the reader the desire to find out what happens in the sequel. I actually didn't know much about Red Queen until I saw Sasha Alsberg's wrap-up on the novel where I was spoiled for Mare's ability as well as the fact that there is a HUGE betrayal. Naturally, I was hyper-aware on attempting to figure out who betrayed her and when I was checking how many pages Red Queen has, I accidentally saw the word "Maven." This put me onto offensive mode as a reader for the duration of the novel, as I searched for little clues and evidence that he would be the one to betray Mare. However, something Aveyard did a good job on was making you doubt and question EVERYONE. 
***End Spoiler***

How Likely Is It That I Will Read The Sequel?
There truly isn't a large possibility that I will read the sequel or another book by Victoria Aveyard, but if I hear from everyone that the sequel is SO MUCH BETTER than Red Queen, I might consider giving it a shot. 

Conclusion: Red Queen was a huge disappointment due to a bad pacing, undistinguished characters, a weak love triangle, and a hackneyed plot. 
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