Friday, May 29, 2015

Screens & Scenes || April-May 2015

I decided earlier this month that I wanted to tweak this feature, just so it's a little more in line with what I'm envisioning for the blog. I'll be posting once a month, instead of every two weeks, and I'll be sharing my top three picks right off the bat. Also, I'll be separating everything into three sections - movies, Broadway & ballet, and TV shows, where I'll write brief thoughts on each item. I hope you enjoy the new Screens and Scenes!

Avengers: Age of Ultron / La Sylphide / Finding Neverland


Puss in Boots (trailer) - I enjoyed the Shrek movies back in the day, and Donkey and Puss in Boots were always my favorite secondary characters. I was curious about this film, and loved how it explored Puss' origin story. It had very fun moments, but overall, it was regrettably forgettable.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (trailer) - I'm a sucker for the Marvel films, and I adored Avengers: Age of Ultron. I'm not much of a comics reader, so I only know the barest basics of these characters and their stories (plus whatever I gleaned from other Marvel films). I really liked how it was done, and it left me eager to see what the next movie will bring!

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (trailer) - I'd consider this film a classic, and I love how the story holds up for me, even all these years later. For its time, this film has some pretty savvy special effects. It's kind of cool to see how they managed to convey all the space-y things with what technology they had at the time! Plus, it's so much funnier than I remember it being when I was a kid!

X-Men: Days of Future Past (trailer) - I don't know why I hadn't watched this one before now, but I'm happy I finally have! I love the way it brought together a lot of my favorite mutants, the way it played on the "past" and how changing it warped the entire future of the X-Men. It's one of the best movies of the X-Men franchise, though still not my favorite one.

Pitch Perfect 2 (trailer) - I laughed a lot. I cried a lot. And most of all, I just fell in love with these characters all over again (and fell for Hailee Steinfield too). It's got so many fun moments, and throwbacks to the first film! While it hasn't eclipsed my love for its charming predecessor, it was certainly worth seeing in theaters. (I'm obsessed with the finale from the Bellas, by the way.)


Finding Neverland (video) - I love when Broadway shows are related to books in some way, and this one was no exception. Even though I'm not a big Peter Pan fan, it was fascinating to see this creative take on J.M. Barrie's life. Matthew Morrison was amazing, as was Laura Kelly. I really found the story to be the right mix of sweet and emotional and funny, and I totally cried during the Finding Neverland (Reprise) (and you'll know it when you watch it). 

La Sylphide (video) - I finally got to see a ballet in New York! La Sylphide is the tragic love story of a man in love with a sylph, who is determined to capture her. I won't say more for fear of spoiling this story, but the execution is spot on. There's a lot of charm and humor, a lot of romance and whimsy - and Tiler Perry, who danced as the Sylph during the show we watched, was phenomenal.


The Legend of Korra (Book One: Air) (trailer) - I finally got my act together and watched the entire first season of this follow-up to Avatar: The Last Airbender (which I'll talk about in some future post, once my feels are coherent and manageable... which may never happen). Korra is completely different, in terms of setting, story and even Korra herself. It took me a while to really get invested in Korra, her friends and her story - but the first season turned out to be so impressive by the time it finds its stride. Plus, I loved the nods to A:TLA that were sprinkled all throughout the show! Looking forward to checking out the next three seasons!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Proof of Forever - Lexa Hillyer (+ Giveaway)

Proof of Forever book cover
Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this novel from the publisher. This in no way affects the content of my review.]

Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe were once best friends. Now they barely speak. That is, until the fateful flash of a photo-booth camera transports them back in time, to the summer they were fifteen--the summer everything changed. Photos fade. Friendships dissolve. Summers end. But this one will change the girls forever... again.

Proof of Forever is a debut novel that focuses on the lives of four girls who are bound together by the remnants of the close friendship they once shared. While it does have the same vibe as Now and Then, The Start of Me and You and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Proof of Forever holds its own with an absorbing story told from multiple points of view.

The novel starts off with an odd pace, as readers meet Joy, Tali, Luce and Zoe and find themselves involved in their lives with no warning whatsoever. But gradually, the story does find its stride, with a deft juggling of these four individual narrations. Once the plot started moving at a steady pace, it was all too easy to enjoy Proof of Forever. There are a variety of issues included in this novel: the joy of falling in love, the ebb and flow of friendship, discovering what you truly desire, the growing awareness of your sexuality, the necessity of the truth, confidence in who you are. Hillyer handles each one in a way that feels pretty natural to her four main characters, and I was surprised and impressed at some of the twists and turns encountered along the way.

I really liked Proof of Forever, in spite of the clunky beginning pace and the way it glossed a little bit over some issues. It's not a perfect novel, but it does happen to be downright diverting. If you're craving a new friendship story to read, and one that features four very distinctive characters, then I highly recommend you give Proof of Forever a shot.

Our question: What is your favorite summer camp movie?

I was very close to choosing It Takes Two as my answer, as my sister and I were both obsessed with the Olsen twins as children. But my all-time favorite summer camp film is The Parent Trap, the reboot version starring a very precocious, lovely Lindsay Lohan. I've seen the film so many times, and still feel the same giddy love for it every single time! (Plus, that handshake is stellar.) It's definitely the type of movie I consider a comfort to watch, and one I'd even share with my future kids.

Thanks to Harper Collins, there's a giveaway that I get to share with you guys today!
It's for a surprise set of Harper ARCs, and it's US only.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!

May 26th - Lisa @ Lost in Lit
June 3rd - Liza @ WhoruBlog

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Going Undercover

Series: Gallagher Girls #1-6
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Dates: May 1, 2006 / October 2, 2007 / June 9, 2009 / June 29, 2010 / March 13, 2012 / September 17, 2013
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Paperback; Hardcover

Covert Operations Report || May 2015

Operative Alexa (henceforth known as the Operative) made the executive decision to investigate the popular young adult series “Gallagher Girls”. This series is penned by author Ally Carter, and is about the adventures of one Cammie McGovern, a student at an exclusive girls’ boarding school-slash-spy-academy, and her family and friends as they come up against some unexpected enemies. 

The Operative’s initial impression of this series is that it derives its fan base from being pure entertainment. It is easy to see how the fast-paced plot, cool action sequences and intriguing twists would draw a reader in. 

In the course of her investigation, the Operative has discovered a few things with regards to “Gallagher Girls”. In the interest of making a full, objective report, the Operative has included this information below so that readers will take something away from her experience.

1. These novels are easy to read, and hence, easily finished. The speed and ease with which a reader can read through the six novels in the series is quite unexpected. But the Operative discovered that she was barely able to stop for breaks as she was reading, because the entirety of the story and its major arc is very compelling. It may be of importance to note that the story seems geared towards the younger side of the young adult spectrum.

2. If you didn’t want to be a spy before, or even if you did, you will probably reconsider it after you finish the series. “Gallagher Girls” showcases all the cool parts of being a spy. Readers will witness the special abilities, cool inventions and the importance of spies and what they do, particularly a covert operative such as myself. But the series also shows the real, day-to-day struggles and life-or-death moments. It will really test your mettle, and whether you really want to pursue the life of a spy.

3. The plot starts off a little slow, but the build-up results in the most spectacular climax. While the Operative thinks the first book was just so-so, each successive book just gets better. Ally Carter does know how to tell a story filled with unexpected moments and surprise revelations. 

4. Ally Carter has created a fun cast of characters. The Operative cannot even tell you which character is the standout, as all of them play such unique roles in this story. Cammie is the character readers get to know best, and she’s smart, stubborn and strong. But the other characters – her mother and her aunt, her teachers, her best friends, the boys she likes – are all fun additions to the cast, and definitely serve their intended purposes.

5. The character relationships (friendships, family, and romance) are definitely a factor in the Operative’s enjoyment. Ally Carter knows how to capture the nuances of each type of relationship, particularly how it can be affected by being a spy. All the development felt natural, if inevitable, and the Operative found this element of the series particularly fascinating.

In conclusion, the Operative would highly recommend “Gallagher Girls” for those readers searching for something quick and fun to read. While it has not quite joined this Operative’s “favorites” shelf, it is definitely a series that will come with a good recommendation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ever Yours

Everneath / Everbound / Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath #1-3
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Dates: January 24, 2012 / January 22, 2013 / January 21, 2014
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover; Paperback

summary (book one):
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

You know that feeling you get when you start going downhill on a bicycle? You start off at a pretty manageable pace, still in control of your direction and speed. But with every second that passes, you start going faster until you’re not sure anymore if you have control or if gravity is taking over. That’s the only way I can think of to describe how the Everneath trilogy made me feel. 

While things are off to a decent start in Everneath, I was caught up in the clever world-building and adventure of Everbound and found myself dying to know what would happen in Evertrue. The momentum definitely paid off, too, as Ashton doesn’t hold back when it comes to the way everything ends for Nikki and the Everneath!

There are two reasons in particular that I was hooked on this trilogy. First, we have Cole Stockton, an Everliving who remains immortal by feeding on human emotions. Though the initial impression readers will get of him is that he’s the “bad boy” of the series, there is certainly so much more to him than just being arrogant and manipulative. While I almost next to never get drawn to the bad boys, Cole is definitely an exception – and investing my feelings in him is totally worth it.

And second, I’m in love with how Ashton structured the Everneath and the lore. I can’t really say much about it specifically, but I will say that I was impressed by how much thought went into constructing the world of the Everneath. Ashton certainly makes good use of the material that Greek (and a hint of Egyptian) mythology provide, both in terms of the world and its history. It’s very cleverly done, and I have to say that Ashton impressed me (particularly after I learned at a panel recently that she doesn’t even enjoy world-building at all).

Apart from these two things in particular, the Everneath trilogy was entertaining. I’ll admit that I didn’t care much for main character Nikki; but I did find her story pretty compelling. While I won’t be rushing to add it to my “favorites” shelf, the trilogy was certainly worth a read. If you find yourself interested in the summary, you should definitely give it a shot!

In case you were curious, here are my thoughts on each of the books below:

Everneath is clearly a series starter. Readers will be learning the basics of how the Everneath works, and what Nikki has to do with everything. The storytelling is fairly simple, as Nikki races to find a way to avoid being claimed by the Everneath Tunnels, but the pacing could have used a bit more work. Still, in terms of an introduction, this novel is good as we get to know the world + the characters in it.

Everbound takes some time to get going, but once it does… Wow, what an adventure! Readers are introduced to the well-structured world of the Everneath here, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Ashton matches the world with an action-packed adventure, including some unexpected plot twists. It certainly moves at a better pace than its predecessor too!

Evertrue is just the right conclusion for the trilogy. Ashton keeps up the steady pace and action of the second novel, but combines it with additional insight into the history of the Everneath. Being a part of the race to destroy the Everneath alongside Nikki is definitely a treat for readers, and I think Ashton wrote this one well. Plus, we also get more Cole in this one, which is another reason I enjoyed it!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tunes & Tales: Chaos and the Calm

Even though I fell hard for his song "Let It Go" and even went so far as to pre-order his debut album Chaos and the Calm, I wouldn't have called myself a true James Bay fan, at least not the way my best friend Danica is. The most random circumstances led to me attending his concert last month with Danica and my sister Mel - and I couldn't be more grateful. I'd loved the album, and listened to it, but hearing him live? There's nothing like it. Because I'm still on a James Bay high, I decided it was a good time to feature Chaos and the Calm. And because I know she loves James Bay, I asked Hannah of So Obsessed With to help me out!

VIBE: indie pop, alternative acoustic, catchy rhythms, cheeky lyrics
WHY: I was obsessed with "Let It Go" after I first heard it.
TRY: I currently love "Hold Back the River", though the entire album is brilliant.

Craving // Crash Into You
Take me far from streets and roads
Lead me out in the night
Don't show me the way back home
'Coz I... Yes I'm craving, craving, craving something I can feel
Where do I go, what do I need, is it ecstasy or is it fear?

Hold Back the River // Before I Go
Tried to keep you close to me,
But life got in between
Tried to square not being there
But think that I should have been

Let It Go //  The One That Got Away
I used to recognize myself
It's funny how reflections change
When we're becoming something else
I think it's time to walk away

If You Ever Want to Be In Love // Catching Jordan
I'll come around
If you ever want to be in love
I'm not waiting, but I'm willing if you call me up
If you ever want to be in love
I'll come around

Best Fake Smile // Saving Francesca
She used to put it out and get it all back
But now she slipping trying to carry the act
She's sweating under the lights, now she's beginning to crack

When We Were On Fire // Crown of Midnight
Drifting apart, getting hard to hold you
Days getting dark and the nights are growing cold
Are we burning out?
Swept out of sight, rolling up on an ocean
Let's cut all the ropes and get lost in the moment
If our hearts are alive, maybe then we might
Send us back to the sun
Now I know, I know
That we're losing light, our love is dying
Out cold on the floor
Like a fallen star that shines no more
Take, take-a-me back to where we was before
When we were on fire, fire

Move Together // Private Arrangements
How we gonna breathe? How we gonna be together?
Just keeping the peace between the sheets.
So maybe don't give me cold shoulder
Before you go turn around, let me hold you

Scars // Lady Thief
Your lion's heart
Will protect you under stormy skies
And I will always be listening for your laughter and your tears
And as soon as I can hold you once again
I won't let go of you, I swear

You wear your heart on your sleeve
I wear my blood on my tie
But it's only love underneath, this disguise

Get Out While You Can // The Winner's Curse
So take your final look at me, may even take my hand
Standing on the staircase, come and chase the master plan
Long way to get away, play it like a grand slam
This is no encore, we have only just begun

Need the Sun to Break // Happiness for Beginners
I need the sun to break, you've woken up my heart
I'm shaking, all my luck could change
Been in the dark for weeks and I've realized you're all I need and
I hope that I'm not too late, I hope I'm not too late

I breathe in slow to compose myself
But the bleeding heart I left on the shelf
Started speeding round, beating half to death
Cause you're here and you're all mine


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