April 27, 2015

Yallwest!

Hey guys!
A few days ago, I had the pleasure and honor of attending the very first ever Yallwest. Yallwest is the sister festival to Yallfest, held annually for the past 5 years in Charleston, South Carolina. Yallwest was founded by Santa Monicans Melissa De La Cruz and Margaret Stohl. The lineup this year was fantastic, containing authors such as Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, Kami Garcia, Brendan Reichs, and Lauren Oliver, just to name a few. Check out the entire lineup here. Anyways, Yallwest is typically a two-day festival, but I only stayed for Saturday, which was the main part anyways. Most of the famous authors and interesting panels took place Saturday, so I don't think I missed out on much. Yallwest was fantastically fabulous. I had tons and tons of fun! If you didn't get a chance to go, you should definitely consider making plans for next year. Below, I'm going to talk a little about the panels, the signings, other stuff that was going on, and also a survival guide for all of you who plan to go next year.

Yallwest in all it's glory. So much better than Coachella, guys. Seriously.

~Survival Guide a.k.a What To Bring~
1. This one's the most important- people. Bring lots and lots of people so you can divide and conquer. Some of the lines were reallllly long, and 8 authors sign in the same hour. So, if you bring friends, one of you can stand in line A and the other in line B and one more in line C or something. Also, each author signs a maximum of 3 things, so if you have more than 3 books to get signed give some to a parent or friend that didn't bring any. If you bring parents or friends too, you can get more tickets to spin a wheel and win ARC's and you get more freebies! But, the most important thing is that Yallwest is an experience best taken in when you're with people you're close to. The more, the merrier, right?
2. Coffee if you're a coffee person. Getting in line at 7 or 8 am for a 10 am keynote often means you have to get up early, especially if you're not a local. They did serve free coffee at around 9:15, but just in case.
3. Water and snacks are super important. When you wait in line, being hungry or thirsty is not a good thing. Bring food. There were tons of food trucks serving shaved ice, ice cream, grilled cheese, and in n out, but it's always good to have snacks when you're in line.
4. A portable charger, camera, and phone is really really really important to have so that your phone doesn't die the second you want to take a picture.
5. Money to buy books. Enough said.
6. Comfy shoes. Seriously. I wore Nikes and my feet were almost blister-y by the end of the night. Imagine if I wore heels or something. *Shudders.* Also, wear layers since the weather can be weird.
7. A notebook and a pen are a great idea if you want to take down some notes about what the panelists say. Or, y'know, the notes app on your phone works too.
8. If you have a lot of books you want to get signed ( I didn't) bring a wheeled suitcase or crate. It will save your shoulders.

Patience and enthusiasm are must-haves too. Okay, that sounds corny, but you know what I mean.

I. Signings

I got a grand total of 4 books signed - one that I had brought, and three that I had purchased. I already owned We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, so I got that signed. I also bought The 100 by Kass Morgan, Panic by Lauren Oliver, and Noggin by John Corey Whaley. All three of those were also signed, thanks to my AMAZING mom who patiently stood in all the lines so I could go to the panels. The lines for some authors wrapped around the block three times *cough cough Veronica Roth* and some were only a few people long, like John Corey Whaley's. Either way, bring something to do while you're in line. I also received an ARC of a book by Sara Shepard, but someone asked me for it and in return they bought me a copy Popular. Unfortunately I couldn't get that signed because it was too late in the day. Oh well, maybe next time. Also, you'll notice I only bought paperbacks because I didn't feel like lugging the hardcovers around. Lazy me. :)
My Yallwest book haul, everybody.

II. Panels

The panels at Yallwest were soooo fun. It was actually really hard to pick which ones to go to. At 10 A.M. I attended the Morning Keynote with Ransom Riggs. It was really really cool and lots of fun. Ransom talked about how he found some old photos at a market, purchased them, and began to write stories drawing inspiration from the photo and the inscription behind it. By combining a lot of these photos, stories, and ideas, Ransom wrote Ms. Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. His one piece of advice? The mind is a fiction-making machine. Listen!

I missed the 11 o'clock panels because of signings, but I did go to the 12 o'clock panel, It's A __ World. This panel was about how gender, race, and sexuality can affect a character and a story. People on the panel were Libba Bray, C. Alexander London, Marie Lu, Tahereh Mafi, and Nicola Yoon. This was moderated by Kami Garcia. After a really interesting discussion, I asked a question, which was, "Does writing a straight white character become a bad thing when we're trying to diversify YA?" A lot of the authors complimented me on my question, to which I was like, !!!, and then they told me that no, it's not a bad thing, because we're trying to write the world as it really is, and there are straight white people in the world. Very astute, if I do say so myself.

It says - For Soumya- Thanks for being here and for reading! Lauren Oliver.

At 1 PM, I attended the That Time I Sucked panel, moderated by Brendan Reichs. On this panel, there was Melissa de la Cruz, Lisi Harrison, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Roth, Coe Booth, and Greg Neri. It was one of the best panels ever. Most of the authors shared a one-star review their book had received. For example, someone called a book of Veronica Roth's "The Taco Bell of Books." The question remains whether they mean tasty or cheap and easily reproducible. Unfortunately my money's on the latter. In addition to this, another reviewer called one of Brendan Reich's books "My first and last book." That's pretty intense, but at least his book was the first one someone read! Authors also talked about other things such as death threats from readers. (!)

Aww, thanks, Kass Morgan.

At 2 o'clock, I got to watch a crazy round of truth or dare between Julie Berry, Aaron Hartzler, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Gary Rosen, and John Corey Whaley. The moderators, Pseudonymous Bosch and C. Alexander London, also took part in some of the challenges. Below, I'll talk about some of the highlights. Aaron Hartzler did an interpretive dance of his memoir with the help of some parasols. Holly Goldberg Sloan told a funny story about when she got bit in the face by an alligator, and did the expressions as well. Gary Rosen talked about how he wished he could go back to eighth grade and solve the Manson Murders. He also said that the entire panel had slept at his house. Take that as you will :D. John Corey Whaley had to pick a historical figure to put his head on, and he chose Channing Tatum and James Dean. *Starts singing Style* aaaanyways, there was also a speed round, in which JCW kissed HGS on the cheek, PSB sang a few words of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" JB did a celebrity impression, and AL hugged a random crowd member. It was so funny and I had a great time.

I just read this and fell in love with it. Guys, read Noggin. Read it.

At 3. Oh, at 3. At three, I got to meet jessethereader, polandbananasbooks, and katytastic, or, Jesse, Christine, and Katy. It was a lot of fun to ask them questions. I asked them about their favorite YA characters and they had a lot to say about that. Christine said Will Herondale and Percy Jackson, as well as Tessa Gray, and Sydney from Bloodlines because she's anxious like Christine. Jesse said Isabelle, as in SimonandIsabelle from the Mortal Instruments, and also Harper. I forget what Harper's from. Ooopsies. Kat chose Katniss Everdeen, Will Herondale, and Hermione Granger. I also took part in a round of Jeopardy where I lost on the question "What is the latest movie release that was a contemporary book?" The answer was The Duff. I should have known that. I didn't. :( I didn't get a picture, however, because the line was too long.

E. Lockhart had a very fitting personalization. And I got a bookmark. Double win!

I missed the 4 pm keynote because the tickets had been sold out, so instead I spun a wheel and won some ARCs, got a few books signed, and did some other fun stuff like a photobooth strip with my mom and getting my makeup done like a character's. At 5, I attended part of a Pants Not Required: Real Talk About Writing seminar with Elizabeth Craft, Marissa Meyer, Kass Morgan, Brendan Reichs, Ransom Riggs, and Carrie Ryan. It was moderated by Veronica Rossi. Midway through, I left to go back home. Overall, Yallwest was AMAZING AMAZING AMAZINGLY AWESOME. I had an insane time and I really hope to go back next year.

That's it for this crazy long post! Hope you enjoyed and didn't fall asleep midway through. Tell me what you thought down below in the comments!
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April 26, 2015

Insurgent Movie Review

Hi guys!  Back in March, I saw the movie adaptation of Insurgent! I thought it was mildly entertaining, but as I had expected, it wasn't faithful to the book.

Before the movie was out, I knew that I was going to watch it because I'm a huge fan of the Divergent series. However, I was not very impressed by a lot of the trailers. So, I went into the movie theater with pretty low expectations. I definitely enjoyed the Divergent adaptation a lot more. Which, of course, wasn't perfect, but was significantly better than this sequel.

Overall, there were a few changes and parts that I did like, and a lot I didn't. To put it bluntly, it was like the directors took the characters, the title, and a very vague concept, and then threw the rest of the book away. They created this sort of Frankenstein of their ideas and with some actual Insurgent content thrown in from time to time. I'm pretty sure their when they were writing the script, their thoughts were something along the lines of, okay, I'm gonna take a Tris and a Four and a Peter, with a dash of Caleb and Uriah and then lets throw in a super weird high-tech box and kill a bunch of divergents to dice things up!

Now I'm gonna go into more detail about my thoughts and opinions, so if you don't want to get spoiled for the book or movie, exit the post right now!

First I'm gonna start by talking about what I did not like.

1. Uriah, Lynn, and Marlene still had close to insignificant roles. They were already taken out of the Divergent movie, supposedly so the characters could be better developed in this movie. They were going to play and oh-so-big part in this movie! However, Uriah was on screen for one minute- AND THEN BAM! He gets shot. We don't learn Marlene's name until after she falls off a building to her doom. And I'm pretty sure they don't even mention Lynn's name. HER BROTHER PLAYED A BIGGER ROLE! This frustrates me so much because I feel like they were pretty significant characters in the book, but were completely overlooked in the movies.

2. I felt that quite a bit of the technology used in the movie was sort of cheesy and unrealistic, even for the future. For example, the magical tripod-like thingies that can tell what faction you're in and your percentage of divergent-ness by scanning your face. *sigh* I don't even understand. How would that even work?! It also pretty much goes completely against the "don't judge a book by it's cover" rule. The stupid device determines everything about you by your appearance, which irritates me so much! And don't even get me started on the box. But I'll talk more about that later on.

3. Four looks older than, or at least the same age as, his mom. I mean, this was more of a casting issue rather than a movie issue, but still, it bugs me. In real life, the actors are actually only sixteen years apart in age. I JUST CAN'T GET OVER IT!

4. Tris's screams/cries/yells. I know, it sounds weird, but if you pay attention, you'd notice whenever Shai raises her voice, it gets really high-pitched and squeaky sounding. Sort of how I imagine suffocating a mouse would sound like. For example, when Tris is under the truth serum, she cries, but her voice gets super high and it made it hard for me to pay attention to anything but that. Also during the sim when Tris is trying to save her mom, she screaming and yelling and jumping off buildings, but there it was again, the squeak. Another time this happens is when Tris turns herself over to Jeanie, but then holds a gun to her head and threatens to kill herself if Jeanine didn't stop killing innocent people. Tris said, "''I'm guessing you need me alive for this to work, right? RIGHT?" And her voice squeaked on the second "Right", which kind of ruined that intense moment.

5. THIS. FRIGGIN. BOX.
Honestly, this box really pisses me off. Why did the directors have to get all high tech? What the heck is wrong with normal flash drives? Did they think, ooooh, a magical box with snake-y wires that kills people will be far more believable than a flash drive. I think that the only reason they had this box put in was to keep the simulation aspect that was in the first movie. I think my main grudge against it is because it significantly changed the entire plot of the movie and I didn't really like the way it replaced other scenes that were in the book. In this case, I don't think it would've been too difficult to just follow the book.

6. Every single character minus Tris and Four seemed minor. It's like Tris and Four are in every single scene and every now and then, Evelyn or Jeanine pop up. The people like Christina and Marcus (he's on for about five seconds until he gets shot at by evil dauntless. How typical) pretty much had the same amount of screen time as Uriah. It bugs me because in the movie it's like the only person Tris has is Four, but in the book, that is not the case at all.

Okay, that was the end of my rant. Now on to the few things that I did like!

1. Peter. I found it so ironic that one of the things I liked about this movie was Peter. But anyway, Peter acted as our comic relief throughout the movie and I really enjoyed that. But then I could counter that and say that he wouldn't have needed to be the comic relief if Uriah in the movie played the same role as he did in the books, but whatever.

2. The relationship between Caleb and Tris. I liked that we got to see more of what Caleb was feeling and going through. For example, on the factionless train we can see his expression after he beat that factionless man. We get a sense of how these events affect him. I also liked that in the movie we get to see a bit more of Caleb's motive and why he decided to betray Tris. To see that scene in Tris's prison cell and hear Caleb ask her what else is more selfless than turning over his only remaining family so the city can be safe and whatnot, was really interesting.

Okay, I am now finished with my very lengthy rant review! I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the Insurgent movie! What did you like or dislike about it?
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April 21, 2015

Event: LUNAR BALL!

Hi guys! This post is kind of, really, overdue. Like by two months. Oops. But anyways, back in February, Soumya and I [Kaylie] had the honor of meeting Marissa Meyer on her Fairest Tour! It was a ticketed event and I got premier tickets, so for the first time EVER, I didn't have to stand in the back.

I got to the bookstore pretty early, around half an hour before the event started at seven, and got seats around the third or fourth row of seats. I met up with two of my other friends and we just talked and browsed the bookshelves while we waited for the event to start.

Marissa eventually got on stage and she was wearing the cutest little tiara. I really wanted to film parts of the discussion, but my camera didn't have enough memory and just cut off the video if I tried filming for longer than a few minutes. She started out by talking about the plot for Fairest. If you didn't already know, it's the prequel to Cinder and centers around Levana. It begins before Cinder was born and Levana's parents have just been assassinated. The rest of the story follows Levana and her rise to power, etc. After that she read an excerpt from Winter, which was an adorable Jacin and Winter scene. When she finished that, she took a bunch of questions from the audience.

Soumya, my friends, and I all got the chance to ask Marissa a question and since I've waited so long to finish writing this post, I can't quite remember what my question was... Awkward. After that, there was a costume contest, which Soumya talks about more below. We were then excused by rows to get our books signed, AND HURRAH! I didn't have to wait for two hours in line.

It was really fun to experience with my friends and I absolutely cannot wait for Winter!

Soumya: Marissa read us an excerpt from Winter - the entire fourth chapter, actually. She really made her writing come to life and it was super cool to hear her read it out loud. Then, it was question time! I asked her to use one word to describe each of her main characters. Marissa described Cinder as "resourceful" and Winter as "crazy." I forgot exactly what she described Scarlet and Cress as, but it was just as good, I promise. And lastly, there was a costume contest. I had kind of thrown together an outfit of short brown lace-up boots, skinny jeans, a white top and fancy red coat for Scarlet. The girl who won the costume contest, though, definitely deserved it. She was this adorable girl in a frilly dress and shoes but with princess Winter's scars drawn on her face, and the costume was amazing. Then, we waited for about twenty minutes because we were near the front, to get our books signed. I only had Fairest, but Kaylie had them all. You go, girl! We also got a bunch of cool stickers from the sticker contest Marissa had run a while ago, and some postcards and a bookmark too. And then it was back home to do homework. But it was a really fun event, and I'm so glad I got to go. :)


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April 19, 2015

New Blog Design!

Hi guys! If you haven't noticed yet (seriously, if you haven't yet, you're probably legally blind) or are new to the blog, we got a new look! I've been working on this new template for a while now, but just hadn't gotten around to installing it and tying up all the little loose ends in the design. BUT NOW I HAVE AND YOU GET TO SEE IT IN ALL IT'S SHINEY NEW GLORY. HUZZAH!

I had also designed the old template, but was never really been completely satisfied with it. I grew tired of the color scheme quite quickly and thought that the design itself was rather plain and childish. I kind of wanted to try out a different palette and something a bit more sophisticated.

The new template has the same layout as the old design, but it has a different header, fonts, and color schemes, etc., of course. I had a lot of fun combining different fonts, like in the header and post headers. I'm really proud of the end result.


As I am writing this post, I realize that I don't have a screenshot of what exactly the old design looked like... Oops. It looked something along the lines of this, which is an earlier version of our previous template:

I like to think that I have come a long way in my template designing skills... Anyways, hope you like the new look! If you see any bugs or have any design suggestions feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form. That's it for this post!
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April 12, 2015

Soumya's Bookshelf Tour

Hey guys!
I've been wanting to do a bookshelf tour for forever, but there was previously a teensy-tinsy problem - I didn't have a bookshelf. I finally got a shelf installed into the side of my bed, and I've filled it with all my books. The shelf is pretty small, but I don't own that many books, so it's okay. I was actually so excited about my shelf that I alphabetized my books! I actually used to have a bookshelf, but it was taken over by heaps of encyclopedias gifted by clueless relatives and my brother's books. I also shifted my bedroom upstairs over the course of the last year and my bookshelf was unable to be moved too. So I had to wait a whole year for a new bookshelf. I can't even believe I survived. Anyways, I own very few books in comparison to people like Kaylie, so this won't be a very long post, but read on!

For each book I'll feature a very short description and 1-5 star review.

1. Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
This is what happens when your sister gets haunted. 3 ish stars.

2. From Bad To Cursed by Katie Alender
 This is what happens when you join a cult in support of a demon. A bit less than 3 ish stars.

3. As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender
I still need to read this.

4. The Finisher by David Baldacci
Magical powers in a very complicated world. 3 stars.

5. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Alice (yes, that Alice) looks back on her past and Dodgson, the real name for Lewis Carroll. 4 stars.

6. The 57 Lives Of Alex Wayfarer by MG Buehrlen
Alex Wayfarer has lived 57 lives and someone wants to make this one her last. A bit over 4 stars.

7. Call The Shots by Don Calame
Immature teenage boys trying to make a horror movie. 2.5 stars.

8. Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor
What happens when your dad abandons you and your mom is as good as gone? 2ish stars.

9. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Two boys named Will Grayson, one boy named Tiny Cooper, and a musical. 4 stars.

10. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
A 12 year old boy who just happens to be a very gifted lawyer. 4ish stars.

11. Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham
The same boy goes on another adventure. 3.798555ish stars.

12. Ungifted by Gordon Korman
A troublemaker gets mistakenly put in a school for the gifted. 4.5 stars.

13. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle
Howcanyounotknowwhatthisisabout? It's early science fiction. 4.343 stars.

14. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Rich people and lots of mystery. 5 stars

15. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Is the evil queen really not so evil? Nope. 4 stars.

16. Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean
A troop of British Special Forces is trapped in the Australian Alps. 3.5 stars.

17. The Season by Sarah MacLean
Secrets, love, lies, scandals, royalty, etc. etc. 3.5ish stars.

18. Finally by Wendy Mass
When you're finally 12 you can do anything you want. 3.5ish stars.

19. I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Two twins, art, and lots of deep philosophical writing. Read my review. 5 stars.

20. Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Mutant bird kids who go on adventures. 4 stars.

21. Maximum Ride: School's Out - Forever by James Patterson
They go on more adventures. 4 stars.

22. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
A very complicated game a dead man decides to play. 3 stars.

23. The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan
More Sadie and Carter Kane. Look below. 5 stars.

24. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
Sadie and Carter Kane. 5 stars.

25. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson, a bolt of lightning, and a really cool camp. 5 stars.

26. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and a really cool island. 5 stars.

27. Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
Proof that smart girls really can do whatever they want. 4.5ish stars.

28. The List by Siobhan Vivian
Are you pretty, ugly, or do you not matter? 4 stars.

29. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
An author in NYC and her novel's protagonist take turns telling the story. A bit less than 2 stars.

30. Stung by Bethany Wiggins
An apocalypse-y novel involving tattoos. 4.5 stars.

31. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Death talks about the Holocaust. 5 stars.

32. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
Follow the clues. 1.5ish stars.

Here's a few pics of my bookcase!




Sorry about the TERRIBLE photo quality. That third one's just embarrassing. The camera on my iPad happens to suck, however, so that's the best I could do. I alphabetized the books kinda weirdly, each shelf, it's bottom to top, and the bottom is right to left. (I ran out of shelf space, so I went for bookends and the floor) :P

Facts about my bookshelf:
I own Rick Riordan the most (4 books) then Katie Alender (3 books) and James Patterson, Markus Zusak, & John Grisham (2 books). For the rest of the authors, I only own 1 book.

I own 25 paperbacks and 7 hardcovers.

Most of my books are in terrible condition, since I'm generally a very messy and destructive person :/

These aren't all the books I own, they're just the ones I think fit my room and teensy shelf the best. I own like 30 Enid Blyton books and 50 Agatha Christie short stories and tons of other classics, but I don't really like classics so I decided to leave them on my downstairs shelf and therefore aren't featured here. I also have a bunch of National Geographic books and diy books and stuff (I'm a huge trivia nerd) but those take up tons of space so I decided to leave them downstairs too. Tell me what you guys think of my tour down in the comments! Oh, and I have a super-important question. I think my shelf would look better organized by color just because of the layout. Give me your opinion on that, please :)

That's it for this one, guys!


Update: I just bought/got 5 new books - I'll feature those in my Yallwest post and in my April wrap-up.

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