Monday, July 28, 2014

Just Like the Movies - Kelly Fiore (Review)

Just Like the Movies book cover
Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Bloomsbury!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson. 

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend. 

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues. (from Goodreads)

Have you ever wished you could be the star of your very own romantic comedy? Have you ever imagined all these extravagant romantic gestures and winning one liners being a part of your day-to-day life? Have you ever wanted to get swept off your feet by your one true love? I know I have! (And I’m pretty lucky since it’s happened for me!)

Just Like the Movies appealed to my inner romantic who enjoys being swept off my feet. A contemporary about two girls who try to make movie magic happen in their real lives? YES PLEASE. This is yet another novel in the string of contemporaries I’ve been reading that is perfect for this warmer weather we’re currently experiencing. It’s light, it’s fun and it’s entertaining – all a recipe for a good beach read, if you ask me.

There are two narrators in this novel: Marijke & Lily. The girls are extremely different, and their paths would never have crossed save for a fateful incident at an old-time movie theater. I really liked that their differences were so pronounced! It made it easier to distinguish between them, and it felt even more like a movie unfolding in front of my eyes (“two very different girls are about to learn the meaning of friendship”). Their friendship was really great, because they pushed each other to get out of their comfort zones and embrace endless possibilities and because they were extremely supportive of each other.

Marijke is a hurdle track star, who happens to be dating one of the most crush-worthy boys at their high school. While it seems like everything in her life is perfect (lovey dovey parents, being part of a power couple, track star status), there’s actually a lot that’s not quite what it seems. Lily, on the other hand, is an introvert, constantly working on volunteer projects and school stuff as a “behind the scenes” girl. While she’s managed to succeed in her projects and at school, she’s rendered nearly invisible to the student body… which sucks when she has a crush on one of the coolest guys at school.

Of the two girls, I personally connected more with Lily. She was a pretty accurate embodiment of what I was like in high school – willing to work behind the scenes, but also wanting to be noticed at least a little. Her story (especially when it came to her crush Joe) was so fun to read! I liked seeing her ease out of that shell, thanks to some prodding from Marijke, and taking matters into her own hands. Even though she fell down (figuratively) more than once, it was still endearing (and totally movie-worthy) to see her get up again. I was definitely rooting for her to get a happy ending from the get go!

But really, one of the best things about Just Like the Movies is that it focuses more on the friendship between Marijke & Lily. Sure, they’re working towards a common goal of getting the boys they like/love to like/love them back, and that adds a romantic angle to everything! But what matters is that they form a friendship that develops into something neither of them can imagine their lives without – and I really liked that!

I laughed, I grinned, I swooned. Just Like the Movies had me daydreaming of my own romantic-moment-from-a-film come to life (and giggling with glee over the multiple references to some of my favorite films ever!). If you’re in the mood for a fluffy contemporary novel to enjoy, you should definitely give this one a shot!

An Author a (Mon)day is my sporadic feature where I ask authors a few questions about anything - themselves, their books and writing, to name a few. While it doesn't happen on a regular basis, you can be rest assured that it always happens on a Monday!

As part of the blog tour, I get to welcome the lovely Kelly Fiore onto the blog for a brief interview! Without further ado, let's welcome Kelly!

Kelly: Thanks so much for having me!

Alexa: Where did you get the idea for your novel?

Kelly: I was a really dramatic teenager. I'd watch movies like She's All That or Drives Me Crazy and see how the best friends would fall in love or next door neighbors would fall in love and I WANTED THAT. I would look at my guy friends and wonder, "Ooh, are they secretly in love with me?" (They were not, sadly.)

But that girl I was believed whole-heartedly in movie love, and I know I wasn't the only teen out there who thought that the movies had something - that if we had the same strategies and big romantic gestures to fall back on, that we could get that same love story to happen in our worlds.

Alexa: Did you have to do anything fun for research when writing the novel?

Kelly: Watched a LOT of movies - like, a LOT. Some of them were: Something Borrowed, all the Step Up movies, Center Stage, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Clueless, Easy A, French Kiss, The Vow, Dirty Dancing, Mean Girls, Twilight (x4), He's Just Not That Into You, Just Go With It, 50 First Dates, Pretty In Pink and Footloose. 

Alexa: How does it feel to be a published author?

Kelly: Good. Exciting - it's always exciting, actually. That's one thing that never changes.

Alexa: Let's talk about how you first got into writing. Did you always write or want to be a writer? Or was it something that you just stumbled across at some point?

Kelly: I've always been a "writer" in the sense that I've always been writing. I wrote stories in elementary school and a play in high school. I've written poetry since I could write at all and I even have a master's degree in it (which, as you can imagine, doesn't have a whole lot of us). That's the thing about writing - if you want to do it and you do it, you're a writer. It's just what you do with that writing that defines you as an author or a poet or an artist.

Alexa: What's up next for you in terms of writing? Reading?

Kelly: I have two books coming out with Harper Teen - The People Vs. Cecelia Price in 2015 and another book in 2016. I plan on continuing to write and publish YA romance as well and I'm really hoping to move into New Adult as well.

As for reading, I can't wait for the new Cora Carmack and Jay Crownover books. I just finished reading a handful of great YA books, too, including Boy Toy by Barry Lyga.

Alexa: Hooray for summer! What's your favorite thing about this season?

Kelly: Peaches. And corn. But mostly peaches :)

Alexa: Mmm, peaches. And yay! Thanks for paying the blog a visit, Kelly. It was a pleasure to interview you, and I'm looking forward to more of your books. As for you, dear readers, go and grab a copy of Kelly's books!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The One Where We Go to Jones Beach & Watch A Concert

This is a pretty late post, but I figure it’s better late than never, yes? Besides, just thinking about this wonderful day makes me so happy, and I’m inclined to share that happiness with the rest of you. And it’s just a post that’s summery and appropriate for this particular season. Ready?

About three weeks ago, on June 29, my sister and I were up pretty early for a Sunday morning. We were about to go on an unexpected adventure. Destination? Jones Beach. Even though we could have asked a friend to drive, Mel and I decided to be big girls and commute our way there instead. This basically involves an hour-long LIRR ride to Freeport, followed by a 15-20 minute bus ride to the beach. 

So, on Sunday, bleary-eyed, armed with Taco Bell and earphones, my sister and I got on that train. We dozed off, woke up at Freeport, got off and waited for the bus, boarded the bus and then finally got off at Jones Beach!
on the LIRR
Getting off that bus was like stepping into an entirely different world. Gone were the skyscrapers and high-rise apartment buildings of the city. In its place, there was sand, sun and miles of ocean! Having grown up in the Philippines, a decidedly tropical country known for its beaches, it almost felt like coming home. We hurried to find a spot among the rest of the crowd before we settled in for a while.
We spent a few hours just laying out and taking turns running into the ocean. Once our stomachs started growling, we made our way to the little extension of Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg that is up there for the summer to grab some food to eat. We enjoyed our lunch under the shade, and just lingered there until we were ready to be under the sun again.
We walked down the boardwalk, and left the area we were in to see how difficult it’d be to get to the Nikon @ Jones Beach Theater. Turns out it was just a short walk away and there was a much quieter/calmer beach right by it! We settled back onto our makeshift beach blanket and proceeded to nap for the next hour or so (which is a wonderful thing to do at the beach, by the way).

By the time we were up, it was almost time for the doors to open! We waited around outside the venue until the doors opened, and then joined the rest of the crowd in finding our seats. It was really interesting to see that there was a bit of an older crowd, and more families than I expected. Our seats were decent though, and we just relaxed and people watched while waiting for the show to start.
The opening act for the tour was American Authors. I actually didn’t know most of their songs… except the last one, The Best Day of My Life, which is probably their most well-known single! That was the one I got up and danced to and sang along with.
The sun had started to set when the Script showed up on stage. I’ve seen these guys in concert three times (including this one) and they are freaking amazing! I love hearing all of my favorites sung live, and sang and danced along with no shame whatsoever. I even got to see Danny up close since he did the thing where he ran through the venue’s aisles! They put on an incredible show, as always, and left us with the exciting announcement of their new album coming soon!
There was a really long break in between, but eventually, as night fell, One Republic finally kicked off their portion of the show. I’ve never seen them live before, but my goodness, is Ryan Tedder amazing. I seriously just cannot get over how well he sings! Plus, their songs are totally catchy, fun and have great lyrics and sentiment behind them too. I was singing, dancing and yelling my heart out and it was seriously the best. I totally freaked out when they sang my two favorite songs (Good Life/I Lived) back to back, and I just felt how special this whole experience had been then! After a two song encore, they ended for the night, also leaving us with news of a new album dropping soon!

Even though the commute back to our apartment took nearly 3 hours, even though it got cooler and we hadn’t exactly prepared for that, even though we both woke up tired the next day, it was so totally worth it. The beach portion of our trip was a much needed mini-getaway from the city. And the concert was definitely a memorable one! I’m so glad we decided (on a whim) to do this last year, and look forward to our next concert adventure.

(PS - All these photos are care of Mel!)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On YA Runs a 5K

Last Saturday, I did something I never ever thought I'd ever do in my life: I actually participated in a 5K Color Run! It was seriously one of the most fun experiences I've had in a long time, even though I was completely exhausted afterwards. Somehow, the entire thing motivated me to want to get more fit -- and to want to do more of these events!

The reason I signed up for this Color Run? I wanted to support YA Runs a 5K

Anyway, Elena & I took a train down to meet up with Jamie on Friday! Once we'd dropped our stuff off, we grabbed dinner at Earth (which has amazing pizza; my favorite is the mac and cheese one!), and dropped by Whole Foods and Target to complete some errands. We ended the night just chatting away in Jamie's apartment.
Elena, Jamie & I (photo c/o Jamie)
Mac and cheese pizza. YUM!
The next morning, we were up bright and early to get race ready! But honestly, this is when Will (Jamie's husband, if you don't already know this) was really our best influence. Without him, we would have been lost and late. He was seriously awesome to have around, and I'm super grateful he was willing to spend his Saturday ferrying around Jamie and her bookish friends and waiting for us to finish our 5K experience.
on our way! (photo c/o Jamie)
Do I look official?
Will was the one who got our butts in gear! 
silly faces (photo c/o Jamie)
jump! (photo c/o Jamie)
kaleidoscope (photo c/o Jamie)
We got to the check-in area early, and breezed through the line to claim our registration goodies. We hung around and explored the area as we waited for the others to show up! Once we'd joined them, it was a blur of hugs and his and introductions. Before we knew it, it was time for us to join the group lining up to start the 5K experience!
gang's here! (photo c/o Jamie)
Honestly, it wasn't too bad, all in all, especially because I walked the entire thing. If I do it again, I might try to do a bit of running, since I think I could have managed a few sprints here and there! But it was kind of just fun to walk, and chat, and observe all the people around us. [PS - The leg pains started kicking in as I was riding the bus home.]

It was so cool to see everyone out in full force! There were adults, teens, kids and even people in wheelchairs, with strollers and even a guy in crutches. Another thing I would probably do next time is get even more dressed up with a tutu or a headband or something fun!

Personally, it was even cooler to see such an eclectic group of bloggers, authors & publishing people (and friends and family) gathered together to support such a great cause! It was really great getting to hang out with Jamie & Elena. Plus, it was a treat to see Sasha, Ellie & Lindsey, as well as being reunited with Susan & Sarah! I also met Blair, Kim, Katherine, and saw Melody and Eric again too.

The one disappointing thing? I was honestly expecting a lot more color for this Color Run. I did get a healthy dose of color thrown on me (as you'll see below), but I kind of wanted more too! I mean, that was probably the one thing I was really looking forward to for this whole race.
#weblueourselves (photo c/o Tiffany Schmidt
it's always a good time (c/o Elena)
Tiffany, Sarah, Elena & I (photo c/o Elena)
Sarah, Elena & I (photo c/o Elena)
post-race color (photo c/o Jamie)
Ellie & I (photo c/o Ellie
Sarah, Susan & I (photo c/o Elena)
hanging out post-race (photo c/o Jamie)
Basically, YA Runs a 5K turned out to be one of the most fun things I've done this year! I felt accomplished at having walked so far, and enjoyed all the color and chaos that came my way. I would most definitely do something like this again (and might actually get to)!


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