Friday, August 17, 2018

To Carpe the Heck Out of This Series | The Darkest Legacy Book Launch + The Darkest Minds Film

[I meant for this post to go up nearly two weeks ago, but blame summer brain (and so. many. activities.) for distracting me from getting some blogging done! But even though this is a little late, I thought, "Well, better late than never!"]

July 30, August 1 and August 2 were all very special days for me this year. Why? Well, I had the chance to support a series and an author I love so very much by attending a book signing, an early screening and an opening week showing. The series? The Darkest Minds. (I have a full series review if you want to check that out!) The author? Alexandra Bracken.

July 30
Alex was in NYC to celebrate an early launch party for the latest installment of the series, The Darkest Legacy (which I absolutely loved), at Books of Wonder. I managed to be there for the first half of the event, and it was really great to hear Alex discussing her writing process, the series and the new book (all Zu-related factoids are always of interest to me) and the film. While I had a previous engagement and had to duck out just before the actual signing proper started, I was still thrilled I could have been there for part of this event. (I'm also pretty proud of my outfit, as I tried to match the book!)

August 1
I received an invitation to attend a special screening of The Darkest Minds, and brought my forever date Macky to come with me. We were both really excited to be able to see how the story we loved (yes, Macky finally read the series and he enjoyed it as much as I did!) was translated onto the big screen! The screening was actually held at the Crosby St. Hotel in a fancy screening room (those chairs were so comfortable and we got free popcorn), and it was a really special experience for us both. (Don't worry - I'll share my movie thoughts with ya'll shortly!)

August 2
Before I got the screening invite, I had actually already made plans with some friends to see the film in theaters together! Rachel, Kristin, Lili, DJ, Emily & I all went over to AMC Kips Bay (after getting pizza for dinner!) to catch a Thursday night showing of the film. It was really cool to be able to share the filmgoing experience with some of my favorite bookish folks and friends, and I'm happy we had the chance to do it. (PS - Lili had to run off to her train, and Kristin left early because she was sick, hence only four people in this photo.)

Alexa's Thoughts on the Film
Here's the bottom line: the film is fun, even though it's not a new favorite. Seeing the Black Betty gang on screen all together was a treat, particularly when it was a heartfelt moment between those characters. (I have a special soft spot for Skylan Brooks and his incredible Chubs portrayal, as well as Miya Cech's charming Zu.) While there are certainly changes (to the storytelling, reveals, characters, etc), it was enjoyable for what it was. Again, it is not necessarily my favorite book-to-movie adaptation ever, and I do think it suffered from issues in script and direction, but I think it was decently entertaining. (I still prefer the book series and would 10/10 recommend picking those up.)

Macky's Thoughts on the Book Series and the Film

Found families are always a staple of my usual story diet... especially the kind that involves super powers and the need to save the world with your friends. Though dystopian YA has never been my go-to genre, the Black Betty gang has brought me to tears on several intense and heartfelt occasions, giving them an eternal (soft) spot in my heart. Their stories matter because they matter and I always feel I owe it to characters I love to follow where they lead... even to genres I normally wouldn’t go to. 

That need to follow where favorite characters go sometimes leads to the silver screen. And I have to agree with Alexa that seeing Ruby, Liam, Chubs and Zu come alive, thanks to the lovely young people they got to play them, was something special indeed. Not the best book-to-movie translation there is (I mean, how does one successfully cram several months of detailed events into ninety or so minutes?), but there are gems that are worth sitting through to get at (I am also, of course, also talking about Alex Bracken’s five second cameo). All in all, very grateful to have been invited to catch an early screening and hope that they learn from this run, take that and whatever worked well, and make the rest of the books into films!

There you have it - a quick recap centered all around The Darkest Minds! It was fun to be able to be a part of so many different things within one week. I also wanted to do a shoutout to Disney Books (and Alex Bracken) for all the goodies sent my way leading up to this release week, because they were spectacular (and I shared all of them on my Instagram)!

Have you read The Darkest Minds series? Have you read The Darkest Legacy?
Have you seen The Darkest Minds movie? Tell me all your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Abbreviations #63 | Heart of Thorns, These Rebel Waves + The Forest Queen

Mia Rose has spent her entire life learning how to hunt Gwyrach, women demons who can manipulate the bodies of others and who happen to be the cause of her mother’s death. But her plans for the future are abruptly changed when arrangements for her marriage to the crown prince are put into place; they’re changed yet again when the wedding goes wrong and she finds herself on the run armed with new knowledge of herself and the crown prince at her side… I honestly didn’t remember the entire plot of this novel when I went into it, but I think that worked out well since I went into Heart of Thorns with no expectations. This novel does bear a lot of the hallmarks of fantasy tropes (forbidden/evil magic, power plays and court intrigue, a journey or quest for answers and/or escape), to name a few). But Barton’s take on them interested me, and I’m actually quite curious to see how things will play out. I do wish that the initial set-up chapters were less jarring, and that I’d connected more with the characters. But overall, I liked it. I think it’s a fun new YA fantasy read to check out (and I also finished it in one sitting, which says a lot about the writing itself).

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton | Series: Heart of Thorns #1 | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | Publication Date: July 31, 2018 | Source: Hardcover received from publisher (Thanks!)

These Rebel Waves is the start of a new fantasy series by Sara Raasch (who also wrote Snow Like Ashes, of which I’ve only read that initial book). It follows three different perspectives - Adeluna (a child soldier of the revolution that helped Grace Loray overthrow its Argrid oppressors and who will do anything to make her home the peaceful haven she believes in), Devereux (a pirate outlaw who steals magical plants to sell on the black market who ends up working together with Lu to figure out how to stop the war), and Benat (the crown prince of Argrid who has been given the task of working with the forbidden botanical magic that fascinates him in order to show it can be used for good). Circumstances will draw all three together, and they are each forced to confront the same questions of their identity and what they’re willing to do for peace. If the plot already sounds a little convoluted in my summary, well, it is and my feelings about it are as well. On the one hand, I was interested in the actual plot, both in the overarching story sense and for each individual character thruline. But I wasn’t overly enthused about the writing style, and I found the world-building jarring and a little confusing on the whole. I’m not entirely confident in recommending this YA fantasy in the general sense. But if the plot piques your interest, I’d say to at least give it a shot!

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch | Series: Stream Raiders #1 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: August 7, 2018 | Source: e-galley downloaded on Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Sylvianna has always known that her brother, John, is cruel. But when his cruelty extends towards trapping her in an arranged marriage, Sylvie decides to take her fate into her own hands and runs away with her best friend Bird to live in the woods. They end up crossing paths with other folks from the village who need a safe haven and wind up joining them. As their community grows, so does the desire to do right by those who deserve better. Sylvie soon finds herself heading up the movement to overthrow those corrupt folks in power, no matter what it takes. I was intrigued when I first heard about The Forest Queen, mostly because I wanted to see this author’s take on the Robin Hood legend. It was fun to see all the familiar elements woven in, characters included (though many have been made female, which I really enjoyed). The story does move along at a fast pace, which made for easy reading but also prevented me from getting fully invested in the characters and their personal growth. While I don’t necessarily think it’s my favorite retelling I’ve ever read, I will say that it was ultimately enjoyable.

The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell | Series: Mechanica #0.5 | Publisher: Clarion Books | Publication Date: August 7, 2018 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Friends with ARCs | The Other Side of Lost + Unclaimed Baggage

The Other Side of Lost is the second book that features hiking and camping that I’ve read this year, and I’ve got to say that it was positively brilliant. Mari Turner is an Instagram celebrity, at least up until the day that she posts a confessional video about how she’s living a lie and it goes viral. To get away from the backlash, she decides to do what she and her late cousin Bri had always said they would when they turned 18: hike the entire John Muir Trail. Armed only with Bri’s gear and diary full of plans and her own emotional turmoil, Mari embarks on this journey not knowing that she’ll have to face both the physical difficulties of the trail and her own internal struggles as she tries to find her way back to who she really is.

I have always enjoyed Jessi Kirby’s novels, and while Golden is still my favorite (though I think I should reread just as a comparison), The Other Side of Lost certainly gives it a run for its money. Kirby just manages to capture both the beauty and hardship of embarking on something as daunting as a hike on the John Muir Trail with her words (and it even made me want to go on a hike, and I’m not the hiking type). She also manages to juxtapose Mari’s internal journey with it, allowing readers to really get into Mari’s head, to see what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. It was lovely to watch both journeys unfold, and I was hooked on this story from the very first page! The Other Side of Lost certainly deserves more attention, and I would highly recommend checking it out.

Is there a natural sight or wonder that you want to see in person one day? I can think of quite a few I would love to see (Antelope Canyon, the Northern Lights, to name two), but the one currently on my mind is Rainbow Falls in Yosemite. It is incredibly gorgeous, and one day, I will get to visit it myself.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Publisher: Harper Teen | Publication Date: August 7, 2018 | Source: e-galley downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Three teens are brought together by their summer job, and it proves to be the catalyst for a summer that will change their lives. If that sounds like the type of YA contemporary you're into, well, Unclaimed Baggage is definitely one you need to pick up! Doris, Nell, and Grant are three very different individuals who are dealing with a lot of personal baggage. Their paths cross at Unclaimed Baggage, a store where lost luggage is cataloged and resold. As the three teens work to get the merchandise sorted, they just might find that their budding friendships will help them sort their own emotional baggage out so that they can move on towards the future.

I'm partial to stories where the characters come together by sheer coincidence, only to find that their presence in each other's lives has a significant impact on who they are and where they're headed. (As aptly quoted from one of my favorite musicals, "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.") That's precisely what readers will get with this novel! Each teen is dealing with something specific: Doris is one of the most liberal individuals in her town, Nell has just moved away from the place she loves and Grant is a football star with a drinking problem. The three of them end up working together at Unclaimed Baggage (which is 1) an actual place and 2) a fun backdrop for this story), and their relationships with one another become catalysts for changes in themselves and their perspectives. While I wish I'd been able to personally connect a bit more to all these characters, and I do think that it does take time to get used to the perspective jumps, I still think this novel was good overall.

What was your favorite summer job? I worked for Nickelodeon in the Philippines for a summer when I was still in college! It required a lot of event preparations and on-site work, but it was so rewarding to see things coming together and to witness the kids having fun with whatever we'd put on for them. I also loved the team of fierce, fabulous, funny ladies I worked with too!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | Publication Date: September 18, 2018 | Source: ARC received during BEA 2018 (Thanks!)


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