Friday, August 29, 2014

Katherine Rambles about The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art's Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake.But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.
One night when I spent too many hours on Goodreads I came across this book and added it to my to-reads. I planned on reading it at some point, but when I saw it sitting on my library's shelve on the way out I decided to grab it. I then added it into the pile of books I had and brought them home. It was one of the best spur of the moment decisions I've made.
The book focuses on a small group of friends that reminded me of my own. They are even as talented as my friends too! Luke and is a talented writer and the the group's "leader" in the vigilante acts. Elizabeth is part of the graphic design classes in the school and Jackson works in light design. Each of the friends have their specific talent, where Ethan plays trumpet and takes drawing classes, but does not exceed at either. Each character shines separately and together, they are amazing! The story is told by Ethan who begins to tell the reader many ways of how the story could begin. The first and probably my favorite, details his entrapment in a school locker. The story is starts in a fun way and tries to follow the attitude throughout.
The show For Art's Sake is very interesting as well. It's corrupt, just like most of reality television. The story shows how twisted the show gets. During the story there are only a select number of contestants that are competing for a scholarship. The competition is intense, and though the main characters do not compete I was able to see how hard it would be to try and balance the show as well as attending a rigorous arts academy. 
I really loved the friendship in this book! It's not focused on romance which is nice, though there are a few cute almost things. The group start to write this epic poem to try and shed some light on the show. As a reader I never saw the finished poem but the beginning of each shows an excerpt from it which was awesome. They work towards spreading this message in the best ways. Jackson's house is where all planning or just hanging out occurs. It's a totally interesting location because of all the pets named after condiments. Like really, every single pet is named after a condiment. Baconnaise the heroic, genius, loving gerbil, Honey Mustard the golden retriever. Really it's the best.
I just really loved all of these characters, even when I was mad at them. I loved all of their quirks like Ethan's love for tricolons, his sisters' love for Candy Land, Jackson's love for math. I love them all. This book made me think a lot too. Like what or who would you give up for success or what is the most important within our life. I feel like I've learned a lot.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rachel Rambles About The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
From Goodreads:
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.
—Adele Griffin

*A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my participation in a blog tour.*

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is unlike anything I've ever read. It's dark and gritty and unsatisfying in the best way possible.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is about a teenage artist named Addison Stone who dies one summer at age eighteen. This novel is composed of stories about Addison told by her family, friends, and fans. The novel jumps around from one story to another, with different characters and different perspectives shedding light on Addison's life. The format is unlinear, with a collection of stories that take place at different points on Addison's timeline, so the reader has to gradually piece everything together as new details are revealed.

Not only is this book intriguing and mysterious, but it also touches on a lot of heavy topics. Addison's struggles with mental illness make this story a dark and gritty one, not to mention her death, which is the main focus of the novel. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone definitely isn't a fun and light book to fly through in one sitting. I think this is the kind of book that should be read in small doses, so the reader has lots of time to think about it.

Even though Adele Griffin assures readers that Addison is entirely fictional, the book reads like it's nonfiction, so its easy to get caught up in the drama and forget that you're not reading the tragic biography of an artist who died young. The format and topic of this book make it seem like it's a true story about a real girl named Addison Stone, and at times, it's hard to believe that The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is actually fictional. One of the most interesting things about this novel is that it includes a lot of photos of Addison, her friends, and her art, and the photos definitely make everything about Addison Stone's life feel more real. When reading, it is rare to be able to attach a face to a name, but The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone gives you a real girl to match the description of Addison. This format makes the reading experience much more unique and interesting than it would be without the pictures.

Art plays a big role in this book, and I love the glimpses of the "art scene" Addison becomes a part of when she moves to New York City. I'm not an artist, but I was totally sucked into the intriguing, gritty world of artists in New York. The "art scene" is a very rich setting and community that comes across so vividly through various characters' descriptions. Art is a huge part of Addison's life, and it's a huge part of the book, too. Addison's art is very creative and unique and unprecedented, as is the format of the story, so Addison's art and the format of this book are reflective of each other.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is dark, mysterious, and unlike anything I've ever read before. Adele Griffin has created something amazing here, folks. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone blew me away, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that is totally different from anything else in the Young Adult category.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rachel Rambles About Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
From Goodreads:
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Warning: There are no spoilers for Isla and the Happily Ever After in this ramble, but I compare it to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door quite a bit, so if you haven't read those, I recommend staying away. And also you should read them because SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

You all know how much I love Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, right? RIGHT?! Well, just as a reminder...I'm obsessed with them! ANNA and LOLA have been two of my all-time favorite books ever since I read them a few years ago, and I've been eagerly anticipating Isla and the Happily Ever After for what feels like FOREVER. Needless to say, I had ridiculously high expectations for Isla and the Happily Ever After, and I am thrilled to report that Stephanie Perkins did not disappoint one bit.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is a story that stands completely on its own, meaning that you don't have to read ANNA or LOLA to appreciate it. This book is not cluttered with references to the other books, although it does focus on two characters who were introduced in ANNA. You could totally read Isla and the Happily Ever After without knowing anything about the stories of Anna and Lola, which is really awesome. I'm glad Isla and Josh have their own story, because I think it would have been easy for Stephanie Perkins to put in so many references to her other beloved characters that Isla and Josh would be overshadowed. But that doesn't mean the characters from ANNA and LOLA don't make cameos in ISLA, because THEY SO DO. Anna, Lola, St. Clair, and Cricket all pop into the story and it's WONDERFUL. I think fans of the previous two books will be satisfied with the cameos, and if you're anything like me, you'll be squealing with excitement when their names pop up on the page. 

I also love the settings in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Half of the book takes place in Paris at the school Isla and Josh attend, while the other half takes place in New York City, where Isla and Josh live. Both cities are charming and magical and rich, and Stephanie Perkins writes about them in such a way that makes the reader want to live there, or better yet, makes the reader believe he or she already does live there. I love the way these cities play into the theme of identity surrounding Isla and her indecision over what to do after high school because she feels torn between two places she calls "home."

While Anna and Lola both have very strong senses of who they are, Isla is a little more confused. She does not have their confidence or their specific goals and dreams. Isla struggles with insecurity and trying to figure out what she likes and is good at, and I really enjoyed reading about her character's journey throughout the book. I love that Stephanie Perkins portrays this extremely common case of identity struggle in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Isla's problems are ones that many teenagers can relate to, and I appreciate the honesty behind Isla's indecision and cluelessness about what comes next for her.

As usual, Stephanie Perkins also writes about a complex and fascinating group of secondary characters. Isla's best friend, Kurt, is a character whose voice isn't heard from often enough in Young Adult literature, and the messy friendship between Isla and Kurt feels raw and realistic. Isla's sisters, specifically Hattie, also receive a lot of character development despite the fact that they don't have all that much "screen-time" in the story.

I love that the romantic relationship in Isla and the Happily Ever After goes in a different direction than the romantic relationships in ANNA and LOLA. The conflicts in ANNA and LOLA come from the characters' inability to just realize they love each other and get together already! but the conflict in Isla comes from external forces in the relationship. Isla and Josh get their crap together pretty early on, and they don't spend too much time playing the does-he-like-me-should-we-get-together-I-don't-know-what-to-do game, which is super refreshing, but it also means that other things have to happen in their relationship in order for there to be conflict. I really like that the conflict comes from unexpected places in this book. It's a nice change from ANNA and LOLA.

Another difference between Isla and the Happily Ever After and its predecessors is that the romantic relationship in ISLA is at a different stage than the ones in ANNA and LOLA. The other books are all about the couple trying to get together, and everything in the story leads up to "the big kiss," but in ISLA, readers get to see the relationship progress beyond that. This means that ISLA has the steamiest and most abundant make-out scenes of all the books. :D

Finally, let's discuss Josh. I thought he was an intriguing character when he was introduced in Anna and the French Kiss, but I fell in love with him in Isla and the Happily Ever After. He has the whole tortured-artist vibe going on, and his classmates view him as a kind of slacker/goofball, but he is actually incredibly intelligent, talented, and charming. There is a lot going on with him, and he just feels like a totally realistic teenage boy. Also, everything about the graphic novel is AWESOME and I'm happy it plays such a big role in the story.

So those are just some of my super intense and passionate feelings about Isla and the Happily Ever After. I think my favorite of these three companion books is still Anna and the French Kiss, because Anna and St. Clair will always occupy a special place in my heart, but I'm not sure I can pick a favorite between LOLA and ISLA just yet. (LOLA has an unfair advantage right now seeing as I've read it like eight times more than I've read ISLA, so I'm trying to be as unbiased as possible.) If you loved Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, there is no doubt in my mind that you'll love Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone (Rachel)

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
From Goodreads:
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.
—Adele Griffin

This blog tour isn't your typical blog tour! Instead of featuring reviews, interviews, or guest posts, bloggers were asked to get a little more creative. On this tour, over 50 bloggers are sharing stories about Addison, tributes to Addison, fan art of Addison, poetry inspired by Addison, or whatever else they can come up with! Obviously, none of us actually know Addison since she's a fictional character, but that doesn't mean we can't pretend, right? I'm so happy to be a part of this fun, creative, and unique blog tour, and I definitely recommend checking out the other stops if you haven't already!

I wrote the following piece from the perspective of a character of my own creation who knew Addison Stone. This piece is from a former classmate of Addison's who wishes to remain anonymous, and it's the transcript of an interview. I really enjoyed reading this book (expect a review soon!) and it was so much fun to write this piece. If you haven't read the book yet, you should definitely add it to your to-read list, but in the meantime, feel free to read this transcript because there aren't any spoilers.

ANONYMOUS: Addison Stone was in my first grade class. Before she came along, I had been the most artistic one. I was creative and talented and special. All the students knew it. All the teachers knew it. And I loved it. I loved feeling like I was better than everyone else. I was a seven-year-old on this wild power trip, and I flaunted my artistic talents like a total brat. Before Addison showed up, I would always spend recess beneath a tree with piles of paper and colored pencils spread around me, and usually an audience would gather to watch me draw.

I remember feeling so proud of my art, and I would create pieces special for my classmates. They would marvel at how good I was and I'd have this gigantic smile on my face because I knew that I had a achieved a position of power that normal first-graders rarely reached. 

And then Addison--well, she was Allison back then--came along and ruined everything. I mean, sure, in hindsight, I needed to be knocked down a few pegs. But Allison--I mean Addison--just came out of nowhere and knocked me clear off the ladder, and I was flabbergasted.

It didn't happen immediately. I mean, at first, Addison was just a normal first-grader. She was new to the school, but so were all of us really, and she just fit in with the class the way any first grader would. At first, no one noticed anything special or different about her. It wasn't until we'd already been in school for a few weeks or maybe months that Addison started producing these art projects and doodles and drawings and people started realizing that she was good. Once everyone started noticing Addison, they stopped noticing me. Suddenly, it was all about Addison. My little drawing sessions on the playground came to an end because no one wanted to watch me draw anymore. "You're not as good as Addison," my classmates would tell me matter-of-factly. And then they'd shrug and go play tag on the other side of the playground while I sat underneath my tree by myself.

At the time, I hated Addison more than I'd ever hated anyone or anything in my life. She took everything from me and she didn't even notice or care. My art could never compare to hers, but she was so deeply unapologetic about her talent that I don't think she even realized what she was doing. And that just made it worse. Like...she didn't even have to try and she was a thousand times better than me. The jealousy just kept eating away at me throughout that entire school year, and I would come home and cry to my parents every day.

Eventually, it got so bad that my parents decided to move to a new school district so I wouldn't have to keep seeing Addison every day. We left Peacedale the summer after first grade and settled into a town only about forty minutes away. I had a fresh start at a new school and once again became the best art student in school. It was far enough away that I never had to see Addison again--well, at least until she started getting famous. I couldn't ignore her memory when her face and art were plastered all over the internet. I think a part of me hoped that as she got older, her art would become less remarkable, but of course she had to produce these stunning pieces that had the art community practically vibrating with excitement.

Once she got famous, there was no avoiding her, and every time I read an article about her I would be instantly transported back to first grade. She forced me to relive all these terrible childhood memories, and I mean, I know it's not really her fault that she's so good and I'm nowhere near as good as her, but I can't help but hate her for it, you know? Maybe that makes me a terrible person, but...whatever. I couldn't stand her, and I hated her even more for becoming famous. I know she's probably a nice person and all, and she's obviously very talented, and I feel kinda bad saying all this stuff about her since you're not supposed to say mean things about dead people, but...that's my story. That's my Addison Stone story.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour to read pieces from other characters' perspectives, tributes to Addison, and more!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Random Ramble: Feeling Overwhelmed and a bit Crazy (Megan)

This blog post is going to be much more personal and self-reflective than I usually am on the blog, but maybe that's an okay thing. Maybe in order to understand my opinions on books and other things it helps to know me a bit better. Or maybe not. Maybe you think this is stupid and I should just go back to happily fangirling over books. That's okay too, and I will; just not today.

As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm going to be a senior in high school come September. This comes with a whole whirlwind of of emotions I don't feel at all prepared to handle. On the one hand, I'm deliriously happy and relieved. One year left! Then it's on to college and the rest of my life. A lot of times I can stay in this positive side of things, but other times I can't even fathom how to get there. 

See, I've never dealt with change well. Even the smallest detail like changing my phone case can be a big deal for me. I'm sentimental and I get attached not just to objects but to people, places, routines, and feelings. I get attached to the way my life has been going and how I've been feeling. When something changes, it sucks and I can get really stressed out, actually to the point of tears and break downs if its a massive change. 

Usually, small changes are manageable. Since life is ever changing, fluid, and rushing past I know I can't just dig in and stay the same. I'm not different than anyone else. I'm bobbing in this crazy current too. Lately though, my life has been all change. Suddenly it's not just another summer, but my last summer, the last real family vacation, my last pre-season for soccer (although admittedly this is not really a bad thing). Everything is the last something and I don't know how to handle it. It feels like as soon as I get over one change, another one slaps me in the face. I want to enjoy what's happening around me, but I can't stop seeing how different my entire life is becoming all at once.

The only thought I have is that I'm going to blink and it will all be gone. I'll graduate, my friends and I will say goodbye, at least temporarily, and go to college, probably not in the same place. I know it has to happen just like I know college will be great and I'll make new friends who will bring wonderful new memories. But I'm not ready for any of that yet. I'm not ready to be a senior. 

It feels like my life is a car speeding out of control and I need to pull the emergency brake, stop for awhile, rest, prepare, and the move on. But life isn't my Kia Soul. It doesn't have an emergency brake conveniently in the center console. There is no slowing down, no reverse, only forward motion. I'm not really sure how to deal with that.

This has basically been a long rant with no real answer. I didn't write it hoping you could give them to me either. I'll probably hate myself for posting something so full of angst years from now (if I even post this). I also know that future me will probably read this and be glad none of these things mattered in the end as I'm cringing in embarrassment. I won't feel like this anymore and this will be some embarrassing memory, a bad story to tell. These feelings will be totally insignificant. 

But right now, they matter. Right now as I write this at midnight in August while I should be sleeping, this is how I feel. And you know what? I feel just a bit better because I acknowledged my feelings and breathed life into them by writing them down. More than anything else that is why I am a writer. To put feelings on paper, to cope, and to help myself. Whether or not anyone else reads it or ever cares comes second. Always.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Katherine Rambles about Landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
From Goodreads:
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point.Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?''

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Landline when I went to BEA. I was really excited to read this and when I finally did, I read it in one evening. I was not let down. This book was as great as Rainbows YA novels. I have not yet read Attachments her other adult novel so it was my first experience, and it was great! It was definitely different from the YA stories since it focused on different parts of the character’s lives, but I was still able to relate to it. Though the topics were different they were executed wonderfully and some of the heavier parts in the story were done just as well, just like in some of the Eleanor and Park scenes.

I loved each character dearly in the book even the characters that were only in a few scenes! And oh my details! The details and the little character quirks were the BEST! There were little details about the romantic relationships and the friendships and the family dynamic and they were SO great. I just loved every second of it.

Georgie is a screen writer with her best friend Seth for a family sitcom. The scenes in the office were great. Seth, Scotty, and Georgie made a great team and the scenes where they planned their new show were some of my favorite. I also loved all the references to older TV shows like M*A*S*H and Barney Miller. I also loved Seth so much! The banter that the group had was very engaging and entertaining. 

Georgie's family is very eccentric and entertaining as well. Her mother wears low cut bedazzled shirts and has two pugs, her step-father was their pool cleaner and her sister was still in high school. I loved that Heather and Georgie were still able to get along and talk about things without focusing on their age difference. Their dynamic was great always kept me on my toes. 

When  I first meet Neal I loved him. Just the first few descriptions were great. My thoughts kept changing as I read the book. All the flashbacks between Georgie and Neal from when they fist met during college and the continuous encounters they had after made me fall in love with their relationship. I saw that everything they had wasn't perfect, but it made their relationship real. I just have a real soft spot for Neal.

Now to the time travelly, not time travel parts of the book. They were great too. Georgie starts using her telephone from her childhood room, and when she calls her husband he answers from another time. The phone is magical! It’s very complex and a little stressful, and great. I just wish there was more about the phone. I just want to know how it worked and if there were any consequences!

I really enjoyed this book because it was something different then I usually read and the characters were so real. I definitely recommend for you to read it! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rachel Rambles About Let's Get Lost

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
From Goodreads:
Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost. 

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. 

There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. 

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

Let's Get Lost was one of my most anticipated books from BEA 2014, and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint at all. In fact, Let's Get Lost exceeded my expectations, and I think it's going to become one of my new favorite books.

If you've been around this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about road trip books. I absolutely love them! I'm not sure what it is that appeals to me so much--the physical journey paired with the emotional journey? the shenanigans that always ensue? the traveling to new and exciting places?--but I just can't resist a promising road trip novel. I was beyond excited to get into this book, but I wasn't prepared to fall in love with it so quickly and so strongly. Let's Get Lost captured my heart on the very first page, and I knew within the first ten or so pages that it was something special.

Let's Get Lost follows Leila around as she drives all over the United States in her little red car. Along the way, she meets four different teens, and the story is told from each of their perspectives. When Leila enters these characters' lives, she affects them in ways neither the characters nor the reader could see coming. But this book is not just about the people Leila meets; it's also about Leila's journey. Leila starts out as an enigma, an unexpected but not unwelcome presence in her new friends' lives, but throughout the novel, the reader gets to know Leila better and unravel the mystery surrounding her.

At the beginning of this book, Leila gives off some strong manic-pixie-dream-girl vibes, so it was refreshing to have that illusion shattered as the story continued and the reader got to see the story through Leila's point-of-view. All five of the main characters in this story are thoroughly developed, complex, interesting, and unique people, and I enjoyed the format of this book. Rather than getting an entire book from one character's perspective, the reader gets to experience little snippets of each character's lives. Even though each character only gets a short section of the book, I was impressed by how easily I was able to develop connections to them. For the short period during which I was in each of their heads, I felt like I knew the characters and could relate to them really well. This novel is driven by the characters, and, while each character has a different story to tell, all of the stories are intertwined by Leila's presence in their lives, so the novel flows smoothly and the stories feel like they go together. Also, though each section is pretty short, nothing feels rushed or cut-off. Adi Alsaid manages to tell a full story about each character, so nothing feels unfinished when you jump into the next story.

Let's Get Lost is both fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of adventures and shenanigans and hilarious encounters, but there's also a deeper, more emotional undertone. I was expecting the fun side of this book, but the more serious side was a pleasant surprise. This book seems like it's going to be super light and fluffy and yay-let's-go-on-a-road-trip!, but it's actually so much more than that. It's still a fast and entertaining read, but it has some deep and emotional elements to it.

Let's Get Lost impressed me more than I thought it would. I fell in love with this story and these characters, and I will definitely be rereading this book sometime soon. If you love character-driven books about road trips, there's no doubt in my mind you'll enjoy this book. Let's Get Lost has earned a spot on my favorites shelf, and I can't wait to see what Adi Alsaid writes next.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Random Ramble: Harry Potter World in Universal Orlando (Megan)

Recently I went on a family vacation to Florida and we spent two days in Universal. Now since I'm a huge nerd, that means I basically spent two whole days exploring the Harry Potter theme parks there. I had such a good time that I decided I wanted to capture my experience in a blog post. I know that a lot of fellow Potterheads want to go to the park but haven't had a chance to yet, so maybe this post can give you some much needed ammunition to prove to your parents (or yourself) that it is totally worth every penny to go!

Hogwarts up close and personal :)
First, I'll start with Hogsmeade. This is the part of the theme park in Island of Adventure which has been opened for a few years now. The Hogwarts castle as well as Hogsmeade village and now Hogsmeade station are also located here.

The Hogwarts castle is incredible and I cried when I saw it. If you ever go to Universal, no matter how long the line is, make sure you get on The Forbidden Journey, which is the ride inside the castle. It's a essentially a virtual tour of the castle with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. So many of the characters show up and in the line getting there you walk through Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor Common Room and other recognizable places. I was fangirling so hard the entire time my family almost killed me.

Hogwarts from a distance
In Hogsmeade there are a TON of shops that you can go into and some that are just store fronts. They also sell butter beer and pumpkin juice here and they are both AMAZING. Butter beer is, as my friend Karla put it, like cream soda on crack (idk if these are her exact words but it was something along those lines. Either way, I AGREE). Pumpkin juice sounds like it would be gross but it's actually like drinking fall. They also have Honeydukes candy shop where you can buy chocolate frogs, Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans, Sugar Quills, Fudge Flies, and basically all of the candy that is mentioned in the books.

Another awesome attraction was Ollivander's wand shop where they let people in and there is an actual reenactment of a wand choosing a witch or wizard. While I didn't get chosen to do the reenactment, I did get to see it and once it was over everyone gets to go into the wand shop. You can buy any of the character wands in the shop, but you can also buy these super fancy interactive wands. They work on shop windows around Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and let you cast magic spells. Yes, I bought one of these, yes I walked around waving it like all of the little kids around me, and no I am not at all ashamed.

That's probably the best part about Harry Potter World! All of the staff are super cool and in character! They pretend they don't know what camera flashes are and act like muggle technology confuses them. We even had a girl who was in charge of our compartment on the Hogwarts Express who looked like Luna Lovegood. When my dad told her this, she immediately smiled and proclaimed, "Have fun! And watch out for nargles," before she literally skipped away down the train. People walk around in wizard robes. Basically it is Potterhead heaven.

Next, I'll talk about the Hogwarts Express which is one of the most accurate parts of the entire park. The train connects Hogsmeade and the London Waterfront, which then leads into Diagon Alley. You can ride the train back and forth and images are projected on the door of the compartment you're in as well as on the window you look out of. There are more character appearances here like Hagrid and Mad-Eye Moody. Not to mention all the fun of actually walking onto Platform 9 3/4 where Harry's luggage and Hedwig can be seen.

 The London Waterfront features the Knight Bus, an actual Knight Bus driver complete with the talking head, a telephone booth like the one that takes you to the Ministry of Magic, and 12 Grimmauld Place. If you stand outside Grimmauld Place long enough, you might just catch Kreacher peaking out of one of the windows up top. He stands there scowling for a few seconds and then goes back behind the curtain.

You can sort of see Kreacher in the picture above!

 Then once we braved the HUGE lines (and I mean huge. I was there on the second day Diagon Alley was officially open. YIKES) we were finally allowed into Diagon Alley which is PERFECT! None of the rest of the park is visible from inside and once you go through those bricks it is so easy to pretend you're in the wizarding world. I could have stayed there all day!

Pumpkin Juice!
Weasley Wizard Wheezes was a highlight where they actually sell Puking Pastilles and some of the other famous Weasley inventions. They also sell adorable Pygmy Puffs and hold naming ceremonies for them where they make the whole store clap for you and your new pet. My family did this to me. It was embarrassing. My Pygmy Puff is named Gerald.

Butter Beer!
You can also actually eat in the Leaky Cauldron which looked like I had just walked onto the movie set it was so accurate. They serve very British food like Fish & Chips, Bangers and Mash, and other favorites. Pumpkin Juice, Frozen and Cold Butterbeer, Gillywater, and normal Muggle beverages are also available. The food was amazing and I was in heaven the entire time.

 This post is starting to get crazy long so I'm going to start to bring it to a close by talking about Gringotts. You may have heard the drama about people waiting 7-8 hours or more in line to get on the ride. My family and I took advantage of the single riders line and were able to get on in only an hour. We all agreed that it was a really awesome ride and totally worth it, but we would not have felt the same way if we had waited 7 hours.

There were plenty of cameos from Bellatrix, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Bill Weasley, and even Voldemort himself in this one! Plus Gringotts just looks awesome from the outside and the dragon on top of the building actually breathes fire randomly. I mean real, actual fire. Like you can actually feel the heat of it as it shoots across the sky above your head. It's SO COOL.

 Knockturn Alley is also attached to Diagon Alley and you can really go and see the Vanishing Cabinet that Malfoy used to sneak the Death Eaters into Hogwarts in the 6th book. It's really dark, creepy, and cold back there with a window you don't want to miss if you have an interactive wand. It may involve a skeleton that follows all of your movements that you can make dance. Idkidkidkidk.

If you can't tell by this huge ramble of a blog post, I had the time of my life in Universal. There is even so much more I could talk about! I'm already planning another trip there at some point and hopefully with Rachel and Katherine so they can experience it too! If you get the chance to go I wouldn't pass it up! It's totally worth every second! If you have any questions about Harry Potter World, feel free to comment them below or tweet me (@athleticnerd18) about them! I would love to gush about this with someone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read (Rachel)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I haven't made a Top Ten Tuesday post in a really long time, but I decided to join in on Top Ten Tuesday today to talk about the books I'm not sure I want to read. I split the following books into three categories: books I bought but I'm not sure I'm into anymore, hyped books I'm not sure about, and sequels to books I've already read.


1. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh- I remember ordering a copy of this way back when I first started blogging. I had read a string of positive reviews of Nevermore that had convinced me that I had to read it immediately. Clearly, I did not read this book immediately, and while it still sits on my shelf collecting dust and waiting to be read, I don't know if I'll ever pick it up.

2. Blood Red Road by Moira Young- I'm like ninety percent sure I bought this book at Barnes and Noble on release day (or maybe release week). I took it home and was SO EXCITED to read it, but then obviously never got around to it. Now, when I read the summary, I'm just not into it anymore.

3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer- I bought this book during the period between ages 12 and 14 when I was obsessed with Twilight and all things Stephenie Meyer. I bought this book just because Stephenie Meyer wrote it, and now that I'm over my Twilight obsession, I have little interest in reading The Host.

4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore- Again, I remember purchasing this after reading some really good reviews from bloggers, but now I don't think I'll ever read it. It may have sounded like it was my thing back when I bought it, but I don't think it's my thing anymore.


5. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski- I've seen so many glowing reviews of this book on blogs and on BookTube, but the summary just doesn't sound like something I'll ever want to pick up. I've had a lot of people recommend this to me though, so maybe I'll have to read it out of curiosity.

6. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira- I actually started reading this book. I got about 30 pages in before I realized I wasn't in the mood for it, so I returned it to the library with the intention of checking it out again at a later time. Now I'm not so sure I'll ever be in the mood for it. I might just have to avoid this one.

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey- Everyone's been raving about this book, but I'm just not feeling it. Whenever I read the summary, I'm simply not interested. Maybe my feelings will change once the movie buzz starts taking over the internet.


8. Steadfast by Claudia Gray (Spellcaster #2)- I'm a huge fan of Claudia Gray's Evernight series, but I wasn't into Spellcaster as much as I'd hoped I'd be. Part of me wants to remain loyal to Claudia Gray and see this series through, but part of me wants to just quit while I'm ahead and not bother with the sequel.

9. Resist by Sarah Crossan (Breathe #2)- I enjoyed Breathe when I read it for the first time, but I think that my love for it has faded during the time I've spent apart from it. By the time the sequel was released, I realized I didn't have much interest in continuing the story.

10. Deception by C.J. Redwine (Defiance #2)- Defiance was a really fast and fun story that I flew through, but I don't think I have enough emotional investment in the characters to want to keep reading. I'm certainly curious to see where the story goes, but I'm not dying to read the rest of the series.

What about you guys? What are some books you're not sure if you want to read? And what do you think of the books I chose? Should I read them? Leave links to your TTT posts below so I can check them out!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rachel and Katherine Ramble About The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
From Goodreads:
Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.

Rachel: Hey everyone! Today Katherine and I thought we’d ramble together about The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, a book we both adored but Megan hasn’t read yet. Hopefully this ramble will convince Megan to 1) watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series and 2) read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.

Katherine: And also encourages everyone who has not seen the videos to watch them as well!

Rachel: Yes, if you haven’t watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries first, you must do so immediately. You’ll fall in love with all the characters through the web series, and then you can read the book and fall in love with them even more. :)

Katherine: This review will stay away from book spoilers, so you can keep reading if you have seen all the videos. If you have not seen the videos, you might want to look away so you can stay spoiler-free when you start watching.  

Rachel: Okay, first of all, can we just talk about how cool it is that The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is a book based on a web series based on a book? Because seriously, IT’S SO COOL. The transformation from the classic book to the modern web series worked really well, and the transformation from the web series back to a book told in diary format also worked really well.

Katherine: You don’t even need to read Pride and Prejudice to love everything about this! You can read the book and feel like you are watching the series all over again because the book captures Lizzie’s voice so well!

Rachel: Yup, I never read Pride and Prejudice (I know, I know...I’m the worst!) but I can still appreciate both the web series and the book. As I was reading, I went back and rewatched some of the LBD episodes and it really did feel like I was experiencing this story all over again. Every video, every tweet, every little detail from the original web series is captured in the book, and the show and the book fit together perfectly.

Katherine: I am currently re-watching everything with my brother and mom, so I’ve been getting super excited to share all of little secrets and screenshots of the tweets to them. (Especially the ones from the day walking in the city!)

Rachel: (Oh my gosh, those pictures are the best.) It’s so amazing how this story takes place outside of Lizzie’s videos and her diary. There’s a whole world they created with the characters’ social media profiles and updates, and it’s such a developed and realistic world that enhances the story.

Katherine: And The Lizzie Bennet Diaries characters also interacted with characters from Sanditon. All the work that the creators did to make sure that everything worked together really paid off and made following the stories on all front even more exciting!

Rachel: Yeah, and it’s really interesting how some details not mentioned in the videos or social media pop up in the book. So even if you’re a die-hard fan of the videos, there are plenty of things in the book that will surprise you. (No spoilers, but there’s something that happens with Jane that neither one of us was expecting. :P)

Katherine: The book does a great job of staying faithful to the videos as well as including the smaller more secretive details that the viewer wouldn’t know!

Rachel: Exactly. Overall, this book is such a fantastic companion to the videos. I don’t think you can be a fan of the videos and not love this book. It’s just as fun and dramatic as the videos, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience reading it. Just like the web series is meant to be binge-watched, this book is meant to be read in one sitting.

Katherine: I agree with everything that Rachel just said. Everything about the series is great and I can’t wait to read a book from Lydia’s point of view when it comes out next summer!

Rachel: I had not been aware of this book about Lydia until Katherine told me, but I’m just going to trust her and start getting pumped to read it. :D It broke my heart when I finished watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so I’m incredibly happy that this fandom is still alive and we have plenty of content to keep us satisfied, even without a new video every week.

Katherine: We hope this encourages those who have not read the book yet to go get it and read it to continue the Lizzie Bennet love. Now have some Dizzie to get you through your day!


Katherine: They are SO CUTE.

Rachel: Anyway, thanks for reading this ramble-y mess. If you’ve read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, let us know what you thought of it down in the comments!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Katherine Rambles About the Equilibria Series

Wave Singers by Echo Fox
From Goodreads:
The only future that eighteen year old Merry Malone sees for herself is one involving music. She needs to win a music scholarship or all her dreams will come to nothing. 
However, the discovery of a mysterious locket leads Merry to a faraway land, with strange customs and an even stranger people, the Mer. Music plays a magical role here and Merry finds herself warming to this alternate reality.
In an epic battle to free the Mer from their tyrant king, should Merry trust Leander, her childhood best friend or Dylan, a man of the Mer? 

Earth Drummers by Echo Fox
From Goodreads:

Gentian is tiptoeing uncomfortably around his grieving father and headstrong twin sister, doing as he’s told for the sake of peace. However, when strange fire-filled dreams start to take over his nights, Gentian faces a tricky decision. Should he go ahead with his own arranged marriage, his future all planned out before him? Or should he accept the Shaman’s offer of becoming his initiate and learning about Earth magic? With his animal totem Tern to guide him, will Gentian be able to make his choice before his entire world spirals out of control?

I enjoyed both of these two stories. Both used their fantasy elements well and Glossary was helpful if I needed to review some of the terms used to create it. I also enjoyed the way that some mythology was used. Each story was a little slow getting into, but as the end neared I became more invested with each story.

When Merry finds the locket with her friend Lender she gets swept into a new world she had never known about. The world of the Mer, or mermaids that help her better understand herself. As Merry starts to learn about all the new things the reader is brought along with her on this journey.

I really enjoyed the details that were put into the mermaid’s transformations as well as the descriptions of their appearances as mermaids though at times it was difficult to understand which form the characters were in. The settings varied and were done wonderfully. Some of my favorite part took place within the small village where the journeyed to. It was the perfect place to get more characterization and I was able to understand the characters and their relationships the best here. Somne events and actions begin there that start the movement of the plot.

If I had to choose my favorite between the two I would have to choose Earth Drummers. The ending of Wave singers set up for a new story about the other parts of Pangea. This story focuses on Gentian and his twin sister. I really loved the dynamic between the pair. One of my favorite parts of the whole story was learning about their totems, which are animal guides that each person is granted at the time of their birth. Gentian’s totem Tern has great personality and added to the story. Gentian faces a large decision after experiencing terrifying dreams that maybe could predict the future. I was able to understand the deliberation he went through about how it would affect the way they lived and how it might change the opinions of his father. 

After he decides, the pace of the story picks up and made for a great fantasy read. It shows how his decision affected the Stronghold where they lived and the people around him for the better and the worse. Each action had some form of consequence. Later in the story Gen has the opportunity to see the other parts of Pangea that lead to the set-up for the next stories about the trials and tribulations that are occurring throughout the land.

I enjoyed both stories and am very excited to read the third one when it comes out so that I can learn more about the land of Pangea.