Review: Everything, Everything

Dienstag, 15. August 2017

Everything, Everything
Release Year: 2017
Length: 96 minutes
Cast: Amandla Stenberg (Maddy Whittier)
Nick Robinson (Olly Bright)
Anika Noni Rose (Dr. Whittier)
Ana de la Reguera (Carla)

   A teenage girl (Amandla Stenberg) is unable to leave her home because she has an immunodeficiency that makes her allergic to almost everything. However, her life changes for the better when she begins to communicate with the boy next door (Nick Robinson). Everything, Everything was directed by Stella Meghie, and was adapted from the YA novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon. (rottentomatoes.com)


   If you've read my trailer reaction post, you know that I've been skeptical of this movie from the get go. The trailer spoiled a lot of the movie, and after watching it, I can say it probably showed all the best bits and really it was kind of enough. As someone who read the book, and loved it, I knew exactly what would happen so I was rather watching it to see how they've translated this book that I loved into a movie I hoped to at least like.
   Unfortunately that didn't happen. I really wanted to like it, enjoy it, but in the end I unfortunately didn't.

   Everything, Everything is very much a teenage movie, another coming-of-age story starring good actors playing in nice sets with pretty dialogues and all of that. That is of course totally fine, the movie isn't trying to be more than that, but something was lacking for me in it from beginning to end. As I said I liked the actors, though maybe they weren't like the best actors in Hollywood as of right now, but they were convincing enough. The dialogues were okay, too, with a few funny bits that did make me chuckle, but also a lot of it that just came across a bit too forced for my liking and to be natural.
   The sets and places we get to see in the movie are great. Seeing the house, getting a visual representation of his bubble in which Maddy grew up, the airlock entrance and everything, that was amazing. It was a stylish high-tech house that didn't seem too over the top but like a house I'd love to live in. Then we also had the other place, that I won't spoil even though we see it in the trailer, but it's undoubtedly beautiful.
   Speaking of which, a lot of the movie is exactly that: beautiful. All the clean rooms that don't really look lived in at all, nice and clean windows, wrinkle free clothes. What Everything, Everything really lacks is this feeling of reality. It all just feels like some kind of fairytale were everything is easy and perfect, an even if something goes wrong, there are only small short complications and we swiftly move on to the next thing.
   We know that Maddy is sick, it's the first thing we find out, yet throughout the whole movie everything lacked this sense of danger. Even when she walked outside, we had her mom panicking and it still wan't one of those moments that would push you onto the edge of your seat in suspense and worry of what would happen to her now. It was just kind of...there? The metaphore with the astronaut, that Maddy could identify with him, it was another one of those pretty things, but it unfortunately got lost somewhere along the way and just felt like it was randomly thrown in there a few times without having any real meaning to things.

   All in all I really hoped that the movie would surprise me and be fun and enjoyable, a nice YA book-to-movie adaptation you could sit down and watch with friends and have a nice time. But unfortunately I found myself feeling bored in a lot of places, or just sighing because of some odd turn of events or wondering how some of it was possible exactly. I know there are a lot of people who loved the movie, and maybe it is a good one, but it simply wasn't for me even though I really had high hopes for it.
I give Everything, Everything 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Blog Tour - Review: Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn (+Giveaway)

Donnerstag, 1. Juni 2017


   I'm very excited to be part of the blog tour for this book. Pintip Dunn has become one of my favorite authors so I was very excited to receive her book early and be part of this.

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn
Expected publication:
June 27th 2017 by Kensington

Number of Pages: 256 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.
   In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.
   When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong… (goodreads.com)

*I received an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you.*

   I love Pintip's writing and I have read all of her books, so I was very happen when I got to read Girl on the Verge early. Unlike with her other books, this one took me a few pages to really get into the story, but once I did, I couldn't put it down anymore. Personally I love books that can show me something I'm not familiar with, like in this case Thai culture and the struggle you face when trying to balance two cultures within you and figuring out who you want to be.
   When asked for #ownvoice recommendations, this is the story of book I would honestly recommend since the level of discussion and exploration in it is truly amazing and makes it easy to understand how someone like Kanchana must feel. For that alone I'm already very happy that I've gotten to read this book. I'm sure it would be even more valuable for someone who is Thai-American like Kanchana and could thus truly identify with her experience and struggle.

   Speaking of which, I really liked Kanchana, her voice was interesting and she seemed like someone I could genuinely imagine being friends with. Shelly on the other hand was quite...something. You could immediately feel that there was this weird aura around her that definitely made me curious and coaxed me into wanting to continue reading to find out more. Pintip does an amazing job when it comes to characterization.

   The mystery aspect of the story with all the details that were uncovered about Shelly across the story was amazingly orchestrated and well paced. I definitely enjoyed slowly seeing Shelly show her true self and the effects she had on Kanchana's life the more the story progressed.

   All in all Girl on the Verge is an amazing read that I can more than recommend. If you've read any of Pintip's other books you'll definitely enjoy this one, too, at least I did. She has shown how amazing of an author she is in this one once again and I will definitely continue to read anything she decides to write in the future.
I give Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn 5 out of 5 stars.

* * *

Purchase
Amazon // B&N // iBooks // Kobo

   Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.
   Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella BEFORE TOMORROW.
   She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com


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Blog Tour - Review: True North by L.E. Sterling

Freitag, 14. April 2017


   Thank you so much to YA Reads for making me part of the blog tour for True North. When I saw the sign up post for this tour, and L.E. Sterling had tweeted me (and a few others) about it, I just knew I had to be part of it.

True North by L.E. Sterling
Published: April 4th 2017 by Entangled TEEN
Number of pages: 400 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: Yes, #2 in the True Born Trilogy

   Abandoned by her family in Plague-ridden Dominion City, eighteen-year-old Lucy Fox has no choice but to rely upon the kindness of the True Borns, a renegade group of genetically enhanced humans, to save her twin sister, Margot. But Nolan Storm, their mysterious leader, has his own agenda. When Storm backtracks on his promise to rescue Margot, Lucy takes her fate into her own hands and sets off for Russia with her True Born bodyguard and maybe-something-more, the lethal yet beautiful Jared Price. In Russia, there's been whispered rumors of Plague Cure.
   While Lucy fights her magnetic attraction to Jared, anxious that his loyalty to Storm will hurt her chances of finding her sister, they quickly discover that not all is as it appears…and discovering the secrets contained in the Fox sisters' blood before they wind up dead is just the beginning.??
   As they say in Dominion, sometimes it’s not you…it’s your DNA. (goodreads.com)

* Thank you to Entangled TEEN and NetGalley for providing me 
with an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion *

   Ever since I read True Born last year, I was anticipating book two, curious to see how the story would continue. After reading True North I can safely say that I wasn't disappointed and that the wait was definitely worth it. Now the only problem I have is that I'd like to read book three right about now.
   Since this is a second book in a trilogy I don't want to say too much so I won't spoil anything, so I'll start off by saying that I love the cover. It's just as amazing as the cover of True Born, so I can't wait to have both books on my shelves sooner or later to show them off.
   Okay, let's go into plot and character thoughts but trying to stay spoiler free, of course.
   I loved following Lucy throughout the story once more as she tries to find Margot and figure things about with Jared. They are amazing together and their tension is off the hooks. She remains an amazing and interesting character which makes following her and her thoughts a lot of fun once more. True North is full of mysteries and also a few answers, though leaving a lot of them still unanswered and thus the reader hooked and thirsty for more and more. The world building continued to amaze me in this one, adding more details to the world L.E. Sterling created. Also the fact that we go to Russia made me happy because I love books that play there in any sort of way.
   All in all True North is a worthy successor to True Born, fast paced and amazing beginning to end. I am definitely looking forward to the final book in the series and seeing how everything ends, even if saying goodbye to this trilogy will be a sad moment.
I give True North by L.E. Sterling 5 out of 5 stars.

About the Author


   I was a voracious devotee of sci-fi and fantasy novels all through my childhood, so I suppose it doesn’t come as much of a shock that I’ve returned to the genre with a vengeance.
   For a while I turned my back on the genre in favour of ‘high-brow’ literary texts. Ironically, it was my doctoral degree that saw me circling back. There’s something about the way postmodern literature plays with the arcane that had me utterly fascinated, and it wasn’t long until I fell headlong back into my old ways and haven’t looked back since.
   My first novel, which isn’t in the Urban Fantasy or Fantasy genres, isn’t high literature, mind you, even if it tangles with some serious statements about politics and the way our western world runs. My editor described it as something between Charles Dickens and The Catcher in the Rye: Serious Fun, in other words.
   My second novel, Pluto’s Gate, is where I’ve come home to myself: it’s a contemporary retelling of the Demeter-Persephone-Pluto story from Greek mythology. Folded into the mix is a Shaman-in-training, a magical book, Underworld Gods, a world covered in ice, a three-headed dog, and one lousy ex-boyfriend.
   But I’ll tell you this much: I believe in the power of words and stories to transform our inner worlds. Whether the characters be vampires or vagabonds, a good narrative sucker punches so-called reality anyhow.


Read the first 6 chapters HERE



So this happened...

Dienstag, 21. März 2017

   I didn't think I would get to write a post like this any time soon, especially not for this particular manuscript, but here we are and I am beyond excited. But, let's start at the beginning, shall we?

   As you guys know I've been writing, as in taking writing seriously and everything, since somewhere between age 17 and 18. In those past almost six years I've completed eight manuscripts ranging between 72.000 and 112.000 words across various genres. One of them was a YA manuscript that is now known as ECHOS.
   I've written ECHOS about two years ago, queried it with marginal success getting a few partials and full, but ultimately all of it led to rejections. So, in true Alice Reeds fashion, I decided to shelf this manuscript and move on to other projects. But than #PitMad rolled around sometime September 2016. I didn't plan on pitching ECHOS but a different manuscript of mine, one that ultimately landed me a spot during Pitch Wars. But, my mother who always loved ECHOS urged me to give it a shot because what's the worst that could happen? So I did. And lo and behold, I got a request from an Entangled TEEN editor and right about died.
   Of course used to rejections upon rejections I didn't promise myself too much off of this request, but I went on and submitted it. A round of revise and resubmit later, along with some help from my brilliant friend Mia Siegert (JERKBAIT), my manuscript was accepted.


*queue the happy freakout right about now*

  Basically one of my biggest dreams came true, one of my manuscripts finding a home at one of my absolute favorite publishers. It's been over a week and I still can't believe it, still find myself occasionally wondering if it actually happened.

   So, take it from someone who's been in the query trenches for years, who wrote story after story, who received rejection after rejection, who barely got any requests during pitching events on twitter: don't give up. It might be hard to keep going at times, but if you keep going, keep writing, keep fighting for your stories, you will eventually get there. Feeling shy of participating in #PitMad or similar events because you don't think you'll get any requests? Try anyways because you can never know.
   Also don't be afraid to make some friends along the way. For years I sat in the query trenches alone until I got to know Mia and Judy (who was my Pitchs Wars mentor and is now a dear friend) and somehow everything started to feel that little bit easier. I'm basically the personification of 'someone with exactly zero social skills' and social anxiety, so if I can do this, you can, too.
   If you love writing, don't give up. Maybe your first stories will suck and, looking back at them years from now you'll want to set them on fire (at least that's how I feel about a bunch of my first manuscripts) but keep going. Practice makes perfect.

   As always this post has turned into a way longer thing than I originally planned, bravo me. Basically all I want dot say is OMG MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED BY ENTANGLED TEEN AND I'M FREAKING OUT but it somehow turned deeper than anticipated. 

Everything, Everything Trailer Reaction

Mittwoch, 15. Februar 2017

Everything, Everything
In Theatres: May 19th 2017
Drama - based on Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Cast: Amandla Stenberg (Maddy Whittier)
Nick Robinson (Olly Bright)
Anika Noni Rose (Dr. Whittier)
Ana de la Reguera (Carla)

   The unlikely love story of Maddy, a smart, curious and imaginative 18-year-old who due to an illness cannot leave the protection of the hermetically sealed environment within her house, and Olly, the boy next door who won't let that stop them. (IMDb.com)



   I want to start of this trailer reaction/review post by saying that I absolutely loved Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It was one of my favorite books of 2015 so when I heard that it was being turned into a movie, I was excited. Then I heard that Amandla was cast as Maddie and I couldn't be happier. She fits the role amazingly.
   After waiting for over a year, here we are today with the brand new trailer for the movie. I was reluctant to watch it because, as we all know, the thing with trailers and YA book to movie adaptations is that it can go either of two ways: be a complete disaster (*cough*Divergent series*cough*) or absolutely nail-on-the-head amazing (*cough*The Fault in Our Stars*cough*). Everything, Everything falls somewhere in between those two.
   Don't get me wrong, it doesn't look bad BUT the trailer is showing way too much, like way, way too much and thus spoiling many interesting plot points that would've been much more convincing and surprising when watching the movie if we wouldn't have seen them in the first trailer.

   Disclaimer: This is very much a train of thoughts type of review since I'm re-watching the trailer as I write down my thoughts to give you my most authentic ones. Hopefully that's okay.

   Let's rewind a little and start at the beginning. I am a fan of the house and finally being able to properly visualize how it looks like and how this whole closed off system kind of thing works that is keeping Maddie away from all the bad bad things outside. It's very high tech, but not too much, so it's convincing and I like that.
   I love the opening narration that perfectly sums up Maddie's life and immediately catches your attention. Great job with that one. Then there's the shot of Maddie in her window and Olly sitting in the back of the truck, great way of telling us that he's the new kid without actually saying anything.
   Moving on, I like the on screen text messages that pop up instead of being read out loud which reminds me of The Fault in Our Stars, though this one doesn't have the fun, quirky animations which is fine. Many people don't like texts and emails being part of movies and shown on screen and all that, but i actually like it. Our lives are full of texts and such so it adds to the realism. Besides reading a couple words doesn't take away from the movie in any way.

   Then we get the scene where Olly visits Maddie and I really like it. The dialogue is funny and Maddie seems a bit shy which makes sense especially when you remember that she's never been outside and thus never really had any real life friends besides her mom and her nurse.

"You're really different than I thought you're gonna be"
"Sexier, right?"
-
"What would happen if you went outside?"
"Probably spontaneous combustion."

   Yes, please, more of these types of dialogues and I will be a happy person.

   And that is basically where I think we go downhill into SPOILERS territory. Olly asks Maddie where she would want to go if she could go outside and we see a shot of her in the ocean, since that's her answer. That in and of itself would be fine since it could be like a 'of I wish this is what I would be doing' type of sequence but it doesn't end there and I think that's a shame really.
   We have Maddie's mom firing her nurse, telling Maddie that she won't be able to see Olly again, and then to top it all off we have these shots of Maddie going outside. Again the latter would be fine if we'd end it here, leave it open to discussion and raise curiosity. But of course we do not.
   The trailer continues and shows us Maddie and Olly actually going to the ocean and that, my dearest reader, is that one step too far that definitely and truly moves into spoiler territory. As book reader I know it happens, they go there and everything, but as movie watcher that is something I wouldn't want to find out through the trailer. That's definitely something they should've left out to make that part of the movie more surprising and interesting. But they didn't.

   Let's talk about music. I really like the songs they've chosen for the trailer, they fit really well and make me curious if the movie soundtrack will be just as good. I am a sucker for good movie soundtracks so that's a good sign. Besides, having a Beyonce song just adds awesome points to the movie simply because it's Beyonce.

   Overall the trailer looks fine. I like the cast, the dialogues seem good, the cinematography feels YA and the music is good. I will definitely watch it, that's not a question, simply because I loved the book and I want to see how they managed to translate it into movie form. But looking at it from just a movie viewer perspective I think the trailer lacks a certain something that would truly grab your attention and make it stand out. Maybe it's because it's another YA book-to-movie adaptation, maybe it is because we already had The Fault in Our Stars starring kids with illnesses, in that case cancer, as main characters, or maybe it's neither of those but something completely different.
   I am looking forward to seeing more snippets and trailers, and in May the full movie. Hopefully it will be just as good as the book. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet them at me, @Alice_Reeds.

Cheers!

Triple Review #2

Mittwoch, 11. Januar 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies Louise Gornall
Published: January 3rd 2017 by Clarion Books
Number of Pages: 320 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.
   Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up. (goodreads.com)



* Thank you to Clarion Books for providing me with an eARC 
in exchange for my honest review *

   Under Rose-Tainted Skies is the first book centered around a character with agoraphobia, paired with OCD, that I have ever read and it was quite the experience. There is quite the difference between knowing what agoraphobia means definition and psychology wise, and experiencing it through the eyes of a character who lives with this mental illness.
   I really enjoyed reading about Norah, her life and the struggles she faced on a daily basis because of her mental illnesses. Her voice and narration came across very honest and real, fitting for someone her age, and definitely brought across how hard it is to be a teenager and not being able to do all the things other teenagers are able to do. But even when stepping out of her own front door seemed like the most daunting thing in the world, Norah wasn't giving up, she still wanted to live a life, even if said life was limited to what she could do inside the house and what her mental illness allowed her to do.
   Luke was also an interesting character and I enjoyed his interactions with Norah, the way he tried to make her feel like she is just a girl defined by her personality and not her illness. But, at the same time, I did struggle a bit to see the romance between the two. It was well written, but sometimes I found myself wishing that instead of going in a romantic direction, they would've just formed a deeper friendship and shown the importance of that instead of love.
   Another thing that I saw a few other people mention with which I agree to some extent was that this book felt strangely reminiscent of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which also centered around a girl unable to leave the house and who feel in love with her cute new neighbor, even if these two books deal with vastly different subject matters when it comes to mental illness and illness.
   Either way I really enjoyed reading Under Rose-Tainted Skies and almost read it in a single day once I could really sit down and dive into it properly.
I give Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall 4 out of 5 stars!

* * *


A List of Cages Robin Roe
Published: January 10th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
Number of Pages: 320 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.
   Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives. (goodreads.com)

* Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for providing me with an eARC 
in exchange for my honest review *

   A List of Cages was truly a remarkable yet very emotional read depicting a beautiful and meaningful friendship as well as dealing with very important and critical topics such as: ADHD, the effects of abuse on a child, how hard it is to recognize and escape said abuse, the meaning of family and foster care.
   Originally I was drawn to this book due to its stunning cover and beautiful title, but ultimately the plot surprised me by gripping me from page one and not letting me go until a long time after I was done reading. This definitely isn't an easy book you can just read and be done with, but rather one that will make you think and possibly even change your view on a lot of things.
   I loved both narrators, Adam and Julian. I loved how different their voices and narrations were, how vastly different their lives were and how wonderfully they slotted together as friends. Seeing Adam care so much about Julian and wanting to help him was amazing, as well as experiencing what it means to have ADHD through his narration was great. Julian on the other hand was a tragic character trapped in a life I wouldn't wish upon any child. He goes through horrible, horrible things and it's truly heartbreaking to read about.
   A List of Cages is a truly important book I think anyone should read, even if it might not necessarily seem like your cup of tea. It has beautiful writing, a realistic, raw and honest plot, and features great characters that will stay with you even after you're done reading. I cannot recommend this book enough, honestly!
I give A List of Cages by Robin Roe 5 out of 5 stars!

* * *

Throwing My Life Away by Liz Czukas
Published: December 20th 2016 by Liz Czukas
Number of Pages: 316 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   7 photographs, 2 weeks, an entire life to get back. No problem, right?
   After her stepfather accidentally throws away her high school mementos, sentimental Mariska is pretty sure the world is over. That is, until she comes up with a plan. She's going to recreate her past, with a little help from her friends.
   It's not easy to rally everyone into helping, especially Caine, who couldn't be less sentimental about anything if he were a park bench. But from a guerilla kite festival to convincing her ex-boyfriend to recreate her lost prom picture, Mariska is willing to do what it takes.
   With a little nudging from Caine, Mariska starts to realize she can't actually get her past back. And maybe that's okay. Because while she's so focused on the past, she's missing out on the present, where her friends are busy having the summer of their lives. And where funny, quiet Caine might just be the future she never knew she wanted. (goodreads.com)

* Thank you to Liz Czukas for providing me with an eARC 
in exchange for my honest review *

   If I had to review this book using a single word I would choose "fun". This was the first book by Liz Czukas I've ever read, through I've had her previous books on my TBR for what seems like ages, so I was excited when Liz emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing this one.
   I really enjoyed Mariska's narration and her sentimentality and how important memories and her lost photographs were to her. As someone who rarely takes pictures with friends, I couldn't relate 100%, but it was interesting to read about Mariska and her friends trying to recreate the previously mentioned lost photographs nonetheless.
   Speaking about friends, I really liked them a lot and their friendships really came across very realistic and teen-like which I greatly appreciate. 
   Reading this book after a bunch of heavy-topic ones was definitely a very welcome change since it was relatively light and fluffy. It definitely made me want to check out Liz other books more, now that I know that I like her writing style and such. Hopefully I will get around to that soon!
I give Throwing My Life Away by Liz Czukas 4 out of 5 stars.

Ask the Author: Merrie Destefano (Lost Girls) + Giveaway

Montag, 19. Dezember 2016

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Expected Publication: January 3rd 2017 by Entangled: Teen
Number of Pages: 360 Pages
Series: No

   Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.
   She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.
   Black to cover the blood.
   And she can fight.
   Tell no one.
   She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.
   But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…
   The only rule is: There are no rules. (goodreads.com)

Interview with Merrie Destefano

   1 – Describe Lost Girls with a haiku.
   Here's my rather lame attempt at a haiku. Haha.
   Good girls make mistakes
   Secrets hurt, but save the day—
   Bad girls aren’t all bad.

   2 – In a genre like mystery/thriller, how hard is it to stand out? And in what way do you think Lost Girls does stand out and offer something that should make people want to read it even more?
   I think it’s hard to stand out in any genre, because the reader expects certain to happen. So you have to make sure you deliver those things. I think the best way to make your story stand out is to offer the reader even more than they’re expecting. So if you can weave in a romance or another subplot, that gives you the opportunity to make your story stronger. For example: the romance storyline can be at a high point when the mystery storyline is more subdued, giving the book a natural rhythm or ebb and flow. The goal of every writer is to create a book that the reader can’t put down, so having at least two storylines makes this easier to do.

   3 – What was the most challenging about writing Lost Girls and which scene was the most fun to write?
   The hardest part about writing a mystery is finding that balance where you keep a secret from the reader just long enough to hold their interest, but not so long that they get bored. The scenes I loved to write the most were the love scenes with Dylan and Rachel. Those were so sweet! The hardest ones to write were the fighting scenes. They were very technical and I had to do a lot of research for each scene, making sure I got the moves right.

   4 – What do you like most and least about your main character, Rachel?
   I like that she was stronger than she thought. I don’t mean physical strength, I mean courage and spirit and the ability to do things because they were the right things to do. I didn’t like that she hurt Molly or her family, but that was essential for the story. It wouldn’t have worked if I had spared the people she loved from being hurt. That’s how love is. If you really care about someone, then their bad decisions/actions will affect you.

   5 - In retrospective, is there anything that you’d change about the story or are you happy with the way it turned out in the end?
   Actually, no, I wouldn’t change anything. I enjoyed writing this book, I loved the characters, I loved all the twists and turns and reveals and, without saying too much, the ending makes me cry every time I read it because I love it that much.

   6 - How do you feel about the fact that in only a few more weeks (January 3rd) hundreds of readers will be able to hold and read Lost Girls?
   “Eeeek!” I’m excited, I’m nervous, I feel like I won’t be ready in time and, on top of that, I worry about how my hair will look. LOL. Because I’m always worried about how horrible my hair might look at a signing or event! Seriously, I’m thrilled about the upcoming release of Lost Girls. I’m on pins and needles, and I really hope readers will like it. I hope they’ll see some of the deeper themes in the book, but most of all I just hope they have a good time when they read it.

   7 – What do you think about the cover? Is it anything like you imagined it being?
   I love the cover so much! I can’t believe the artist was able to get so much across with what, at first glance, looks like a simple image—a girl sitting down. But the more you look at it, the more you see. Her position looks defensive, withdrawn, pensive and frightened, all at once. The superimposed image of the hand—whoa. To me that says, there’s another girl inside me, trying to get out. I love covers that tell just enough of the story to make you want to know more. I think this one does just that.

   8 – Do you have a writing routine or do you write whenever creativity strikes?
   I used to think that I needed to write every day, mainly because so many professional writers give that advice. I don’t even try to do that anymore. I work as a magazine editor, so there are times when my schedule is completely full. I also used to give up weekends and evenings to write, but it turned me into a weird hermit and I was missing too much of what life is really supposed to be about—other people. So I wait until I have a great idea before I start a new book. When I’m writing, I try to write between 1,000 to 1,500 words per day, and I take Sundays off. With that schedule, I can usually get the first draft of a book done in about three months. So, if I include the editing cycle, I can usually get about one and a half books done per year.

   9 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?

   First, yay! I’m really glad you want to write! My advice for you: start by reading a lot. Read books in different genres than you what you want to write. (This stretches you and gives you a more brilliant palette to work with.) Then write. Try your best to finish writing a full-length book before giving up. There’s something about that first book. It can take years to write and it can be so hard to finish, but it’s essential to write it. It may never get published, but it will teach you. Your writing skills will get better with each book you write, so never think you’re a failure because you’re not published. The correct way to look at it is: you’re not published YET. Writing is hard for beginners, but it’s also hard for someone who’s published ten books. It’s a bit like peeling back your skin and writing with blood. When you’re doing it right, it hurts. It’s also very cathartic. I can’t tell you how many times I had a hard day at work, but my time spent working on a story was magnificent. It can be a healing process. Even though you’re writing to entertain a reader, you are most likely battling your own inner demons while you’re typing.

   10 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
   Great question and I usually vacillate between two answers on this one. I either want to be invisible, because there are just too many times when I’d like to run errands and not be seen. It’s the introvert in me. The other answer, which I love just as much, is I’d like to be able to fly. Funny, right? I either want to hide or I want to go everywhere. But honestly, if I could have only one superpower, I'd love to have the power to heal. There are just too many people suffering with illnesses, both physical and mental, and it breaks my heart. If I could touch someone and make them better, it would be the absolute best thing in the world.

GIVEAWAY

   Answer the following question in the comments below (please also leave a twitter handle or email so I can contact you in case you've won) for a chance to win a signed copy of Lost Girl (open internationally). The giveaway runs until December 30th 2016! Good luck!

   If there is one memory you wouldn’t want to forget, what is it?

About the Author

   Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.


Website // Blog // Tumblr // Twitter // 

Born To Make History - Review: Yuri!!! On Ice (Anime)

Montag, 21. November 2016

Yuri On Ice
Original Title: ユーリ!!! on ICE
Genre: Sport
Aired: Oct 6, 2016 to Dec 22, 2016
Duration: approx. 23 Minutes
Season: 1
Main Characters: Yuri Katsuki
Victor Nikiforov
Yuri Plisetsky

   The show's story revolves around Yuuri Katsuki, who carried all of Japan's hopes on his shoulders to win at the Grand Prix Finale ice skating competition but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. With those mixed feelings swirling inside him, he confines himself inside his parents' house. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Viktor Nikiforov appears before him, and along with him is Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Viktor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Grand Prix series. (myanimelist.net)

Review based on episodes 1-7.


   Ever since I was a little girl (this makes me sound way older than I am, wow) I've loved figure skating. Each time it was on TV, I would sit with my mom on the sofa and watch it, all of it, all day because I was just so in love with it. All these years I waited for a movie, TV show or anime to come out and be centered around this beautiful sport that is figure skating. One day in one of my author friends' manuscript this anime was mentioned called Yuri!!! On Ice. I was immediately intrigued and asked if that's a real thing. It was and is, though back then it wasn't airing yet.
   I remembered this show when episodes 1-4 were out already and I fell in love after watching the first couple of minutes of episode 1. Since then I've been impossibly obsessed with this show and I hope, after reading this review, you will check it out, too, because it's so worth it.

   Plot
   Yuri!!! On Ice, as the title suggests, is about a 23 year old Japanese figure skater called Yuri Katsuki who, despite being insanely good at figure skating, messed up during the Grand Prix Finale and came in last. This shatters him enough that he begins to consider retiring. He goes home, let's his figure slip but the fire still burns within him. Everything really starts to pick up once Victor Nikiforov, the most famous and best figure skater in the world and Yuri's idol, shows up at his house and decides that he will coach him.
   The story follows Yuri's journey as he tries to fight his way to the Grand Prix Finale with the hopes of making it this time with Victor by his side. Along the way we meet really interesting side characters, about which I will talk more later, and watch as Yuri begins to have more confidence in himself while discovering many things he'd never known and felt before.
   I am in love with the plot. The story is told in a absolutely beautiful manner with a brilliant pace that's neither too fast nor too slow showing all the right and important moments we need to see to experience all of the character development. Something that I didn't even realize until someone pointed it out on tumblr was how much time passes between the episodes. As example, between episode 4 and 5, I think, something like 5 months pass. Thanks to that all the relationships building between the characters feel very natural and it adds really well to the plot.

   Characters
   Let me start of my saying that I LOVE the characters in Yuri!!! On Ice (maybe with the exception of one and I'm sure you all know whom I mean because honestly...). I really appreciate the fact that even the side characters, especially the other skaters, all seem like people and not just one dimensional shells appearing for five minutes only to further the plot. They actually add something to the episodes and to the overall plot and arc of this story, which is amazing.

   Yuri Katsuki - Yuri is our wonderful main character and I love him to bits. He is insanely good at figure skating -- the first time we see him actually skate he 'casually' copies Victor Nikiforov's Free Skate choreography and nails it despite being out of shape -- and is just overall a wonderful and flawed character. Something that makes Yuri relatable is the fact that he deals severely with anxiety, which was also one of the reasons why he failed at the Grand Prix Finale, and it comes up more than once. It's definitely an important part of his character and I love the fact that it wasn't forgotten along the way. Yuri struggles with his confidence even though he's come so far in his career and people keep telling him that he's amazing.
   Another part of Yuri that I think is important is the fact that he easily gains weight, which is something we rarely see talked about especially in sports anime or shows/movies in general. As figure skater you obviously have to maintain a certain physique which is harder than one would think, especially when you're dealing with failing and the uncertainty of what the future might bring.
   The moment Victor enters Yuri's life we see him, at first, struggle with Victor's behavior toward him, how flirty and in-your-face he is, especially in the beginning. Yuri has never had a relationship and he feels like people trying to get closer to him just want to claw their way into his feelings and expose his weaknesses and he can't deal with that/hates it. Being afraid to open up is something many people deal with so seeing someone like Yuri deal with it is amazing and really interesting. Slowly as the episodes progress we see him change and seeing that change happen just adds so much more to his character.

   Victor Nikiforov - Victor is the number one in the figure skating world. He won the world championship for five consecutive times and is at the peak of his career, even though people are wondering if he might soon retire since he is already 27 (that's old in the figure skating world). Everyone loves him and he has mastered the art of pleasing the crowd, though his motto is to always find ways to surprise the audience. Unlike Yuri he choreographs all his skates himself and has the music for it specially made so it tells exactly the story he wants it to. But despite all his successes Victor is slowly reaching a point where nothing he does really surprises anyone anymore because everyone simple expects only the best of the best from him. This really eats at him.
   Victor is a really interesting character in the sense that, as viewer, we don't really know much about him. We know of his successes, we know he's from Russia, and that he a poodle named Makkachin. But when it comes to his family and past, nothing. That makes Victor quite the mystery, but it definitely adds a lot to just how intriguing of a his character is. On the outside he seems all smiles and winks and good moods, but I think there is a lot more to him than that. Even though he's quite forgetful and always seems so positive, he's very much a thinker type character, as in that he actually considered every decision he makes before making it. That in itself very much adds to the question of why he decides to pack his things and fly out to Japan to coach Yuri.
   As much as Yuri learns from Victor, I think it also works the other way around. For the first time, most likely, in his life Victor is supposed to just be himself when asked what role he is supposed to have in Yuri's life. As their journey progresses we slowly discover that Victor is caring and protective and that he is really trying his best to be the coach and person Yuri needs/wants. Slowly this mask he seems to be wearing falls away to reveal the real Victor and I cannot wait to discover more of him and hopefully of his past. It's remarkable how, even though everybody constantly goes on about how self-centered he is, Victor is actively trying to help Yuri, he really listens to what he tells him and tries his best to learn from it. But more on their relationship later.

   Yuri Plisetsky - He is the youngest of our cast. While Yuri and Victor are in their 20s, Yuri Plisetsky is merely 15 year old and just getting into the senior division. Also, just like in the show, to make it easier to distinguish which Yuri I'm talking about, I'll refer to Yuri Plisetsky as Yurio. Yurio used to train with Victor under their coach Yakov but when Victor decided to leave for Japan, Yurio is pissed. The reason being that Victor was supposed to choreograph his senior debut. Yurio comes across insanely angry and confidant when he talks to Victor and Yuri, which really nicely showcases the fact that he really is just a teen. He is used to being the best among the juniors so of course that only added so many more layers of confidence and cockiness to his character. He's quite the interesting contrast to our other Yuri.
   I love Yurio because of his insane drive and willingness to do whatever it takes to make it to the top, and beat Yuri along the way. Something I have to remind myself every once in a while is just how young Yurio is compared to most of the other skaters and the fact that he is willing to do everything, even if it might break him, to show that he is just as good as everyone else, even if he has to compete against skaters who are more than 10 years older than him. I think there is a lot to his character which he have so far not seen yet (as of episode 7) so I am truly curious to find out more about him, and could someone please just give that boy a hug? He might hate it but he looks like he could actually need it.

   As for the side characters, specifically the other skaters, there are quite a few things that I feel are definitely worth mentioning.
  • Representation in terms of Diversity: Yuri!!! On Ice does an amazing job with having a really diverse cast, which makes sense since it's all about Yuri participating in an international competition. But, what really makes this an important point to mention is how well the representation of these different characters is handled. For example as representing skater for the USA we have Leo de la Iglesia, a Mexican-American boy who doesn't come across as stereotype driven side character. He has his own goals that he wants to achieve and a personality that fits him greatly. Furthermore we have skaters from countries such as China, Italy, Switzerland, or Thailand. The latter is an interesting one especially since, in the real world, there are no Thai figure skaters. Phichit Chulanont is amazing at skating and his personality is just so fun, ambitious and lovely that you can't help but root for him. He is also quite fond of social media, specifically Instagram, which definitely makes him that tad bit more real and relatable.
  • Three dimensional characters: As I previously mentioned, Yuri!!! On Ice actually gives us an insight into all the skaters, their dreams and goals. Everyone has his own personality and quirks that make them interesting. One example that immediately comes to my mind would be Georgi Popovic from Russia, a fellow rink mate of Victor and Yurio's, who has a truly emotional backstory. Both his short program and free skate are centered around his heartbreak caused by his girlfriend breaking up with him and moving on to a different guy. Even though he seems blinded by his love and obsessed with the girl, it's still interesting to watch and hear about. It shows how much love and care the creators of this show put into every detail of it. (More on that point later)
  • Relationships between skaters: This is another thing I think is very important because, contrary to what I always thought of athletes, this anime skillfully shows us how everyone seems to cheer on everyone else despite being rivals. The younger skaters look up to the older ones and see them as motivation to keep going and get better. Everyone seems genuinely happy when the person currently performing lands a quad or does well in general. I think that's a really important part of the show and it's also just really amazing to see.
   Love Wins! - Say goodbye to queerbaiting
   (MILD SPOILERS)
   Let's talk about Yuri and Victor, just like I mentioned above that I would. While Yuri!!! On Ice is most importantly a sports anime, their relationship is still a very integral part of the story arc and of Yuri's journey to the Grand Prix Finale. What better way to underline that than by making "Love" the theme for this Grand Prix. Growing up Yuri idolized Victor because he was everything Yuri wanted to be and reach. His room was plastered with his posters and he even got a poodle simply because Victor also has one (said poodle was then also named Victor). So, understandably, when Victor shows up at Yuri's after he saw the recording of Yuri skating his routine, Yuri is floored.
   An integral part of their relationship, that I love that they actually thought of adding, is the process of Yuri slowly deconstructing the idea of Victor on the pedestal, someone he can't reach and who is miles above him almost like a god. Slowly Yuri realizes that Victor is just as human as everybody else and that he, just like everybody else, also has flaws. This is very important in the context of their relationship both as people and as coach and student.
   Both Yuri and Victor are quite guarded when it comes to their true feelings, even though Victor might not come across that way at first, so it's beautiful to see how they slowly, small steps one at a time, begin to open up to each other. At first it seemed like it was only Yuri who needed to open up since Victor seemed like he was eager to share things about himself, but upon further analysis and rewatching the episodes, it's clear that they both slowly learn how to be honest and open with each other. As I mentioned previously, probably, Yuri is the first person that simply wants Victor to be Victor and not Victor the figure skating god or sexy flirt, which I think is something Victor most definitely isn't used to. So, generally, both Yuri and Victor are helping each other to express and find sides of each other that they might've not known of before or simply forgotten along the way. Victor isn't a flawless god and Yuri isn't actually as weak as he thinks he is.
   If we're already at the topic of flaws, I adore how Victor really tries to learn more about Yuri, about the things that make him anxious and the ways in which he could help him. There is one scene, that might very well be the contester to my favorite one so far, which very nicely shows that Victor has very few experiences with how to deal with someone who is just as anxious as Yuri and how to handle it as coach. In said scene Victor majorly fucks up while trying to help Yuri and his overwhelming anxiety before his free skate. As much as it hurt my heart to watch it, it was an insanely important moment and was handled in the best way possible. It showed how actual human relationships work and that, despite it being used way too often in movies or books, kissing your problems away isn't an actual option. No, instead they handle it like adults. Yuri finally let's his emotions drive him and actually tells Victor that he fucked up, why and what he really wants from him. I am so happy that the creators of this show did this because it is so important and shows that their relationship is definitely genuine and healthy. Thank you.
   Going back to the very title of this segment - when I first started to watch Yuri!!! On Ice I was afraid that this show would just be another sports anime with queerbaiting like others before it, like Free! for example. But I was very pleasantly surprised that oh boy, this isn't queerbaiting at all. Yuri!!! On Ice did what so many sports anime before it didn't do. It actually created a genuine, healthy and naturally evolving and forming relationship between two male characters, main ones even, and with it broke so many walls I still can't believe that it's true. It's canon, just saying.
   I cannot wait to see what will happen next and what ways the creators will find to surprise us even more than they've done so far.

   Music
   The music in Yuri!!! On Ice is amazing. When it comes to the Opening and Ending/Credits, I usually skip them with most anime because they are usually not that good or interesting, but with Yuri!!! On Ice I never skip either. The Opening track is "History Maker" by Dean Fujioka and contains the lyric that I so nicely chose for the title of this review (though I shortened it) - We were born to make history. Up until episode 7 I thought they meant that merely in the context of Yuri and his life, but after episode 7 it's pretty clear that the creators of Yuri!!! On Ice meant way more than just that. This show is making history and I am so happy to be witnessing it as it happens.
   As for the other songs in the soundtrack, there are definitely some that are very much integral to the very plot of the anime, no matter how crazy that sounds. It starts with "Stay Close To Me and Never Let Go" which is the opera style piece that Victor performs to at the very beginning of the show, and the piece that really starts everything. It's in Italian, so many people like me don't understand any of it, so at first I thought that it was simply a nice piece of music but oh boy was I wrong. Turns out the creators of this anime love their details (more on that later).
   Generally the music is stunning and I've listened to the soundtrack for hours already and I'm looking forward to seeing what other pieces we will hear in the upcoming episodes. As someone who loves music, I am insanely pleased with Yuri!!! On Ice so far.

   Style/Animation
   Yuri!!! On Ice is visually stunning and it must be so much work I can't even imagine it. When it comes to different animation styles etc. in anime, I'm the first to admit that my knowledge is very limited since I've not seen that many anime, but if I see something very pleasing I am still able to say as much. There is a lot of love for details in the animations and the style, and I am still amazed that they actually managed to animate the different performances and skates so beautifully. I was worried that that might be an issue, but I was quickly proven otherwise. Than again, if figure skating is an integral part of your show, it makes sense to pour a lot of time and work into it. Of course there are a few instances where the animation isn't AS pretty as other times, but if you have to cram six different choreographies into one episode, it comes as no surprise that you have to prioritize some over others.
   I also really like how each time Yuri performs his short program, "On Love: Eros", we can see subtle differences between the previous time he performed. We can see how he's getting better, how his expression changes and that is truly amazing. No matter how many times we see him perform Eros, it never turns boring!
   Bringing up the opening and ending of Yuri!!! On Ice again, I just wanted to point out how visually intriguing both of them are. In the opening (which you can check out below even though there is a slight difference (it's only a few seconds so it barely matters) between the actual one and this one but it's unfortunately the best I could do) we simply see our three main characters, Yuri, Victor and Yurio, staking with colorful visuals. It's relatively simple but intriguing, especially since the opening changes from episode to episode in terms of how colorful it is, turning more so the further we go. As for the ending/credits, it incorporates a few different thighs, though it mainly stays with sequences of pictures while also including what looks like someone scrolling through their Instagram feed, which reminds me to point out how social media actually plays a role in this anime and Instagram is actually brought up a few times. The pictures are all really interesting and show our different characters in a beautiful manner. As I mentioned before, I never skip the opening or the ending.



  Love to detatils
  As I mentioned in the section about music, something else that struck me as outstanding about Yuri!!! On Ice is the extend of the creator's love to details. While watching, and reading things on tumblr, I quickly realized that everything in this show is done deliberately and nearly everything matters in the grand scheme of things. This starts with the names of the characters, 'Katsuki means 'Victory’ + 'Life/Birth’ and Yuuri means 'Courage’ + 'Benefit’' (source), goes over the music and even includes things happening in the background.
   An example when it comes to music would be the piece titled "Yuri On Ice", which is the music for Yuri's free skate. Not only does it contain the obvious title drop but also, looking at the different parts of the music and how they sound and feel, it could almost be seen as something like a music interpretation of Yuri's journey and life, which is honestly so deep I cannot even. I really love it when creators go this extra mile and put this much attention into their work.
   Also, bringing up the opening song again, "History Maker". As I pointed out before it turns out that even this song and it's lyrics are important in the grand scheme of this show since it is making history and it has promised us to do that since the very beginning, we just didn't know to which extent they'd go. It is also worth mentioning that they are not only making history through breaking tropes and standards, but also because their lead couple is not only made up of two adult males, but also interracial since one of them is Russian and the other Japanese. The country choice is, in my opinion, very important and interesting at the same time especially when you look at Russia's opinion of the LGBT community.
   The relationship between Yuri and Victor is another point I'd want to add to this section since the way it slowly builds and progresses, all these small details about them that they notice and show us really highlight how well planned these characters are, how much depth they really have and how much there still is to explore. This is also shown in their dialogues where certain things get brought up from earlier episodes and thus add more meaning to what is being said. This also goes for the piece that started it all, "Stay Close To Me and Never Let Go". In subtle ways that, thanks to the subs people might not even realize, this piece and its meaning follow us through the show and I absolutely love that.
   Another point can be the figure skating in and of itself. There are so many different choreographies in this anime created specifically for it, each different and telling different stories that fit perfectly with whoever is performing them. This also goes for the costumes they wear during their performances. From what I've seen the designers treated the task with so much as as though they were creating and designing actual costumes for actual figure skaters which, again, shows you just ho much work and detail was put into this show from beginning to end.

   General Thoughts
   Since this review is already turning into something of definitely epic proportions (and it only deals with half of the anime since there are still at least 5 episodes to come), I think it's time for some general closing thoughts. Personally I think this show is important for many different reasons outlined in this review, but especially due to the way it not only treats the sport with so much complexity and care, but also due to the genuine and healthy relationship forming throughout it. Yes, the latter is important, but it isn't too in your face so that, even if it might not necessarily be your thing, I think you can still definitely watch and enjoy this anime. It has so much to offer in form of brilliant music, stunning visuals and a sport we rarely get to see, especially when it comes to men.
   I am absolutely in love with Yuri!!! On Ice and it has definitely taken over my life and reminded me of just how much I used to love figure skating. Since I started to watch this anime I've felt the insane need to go and skate myself, but also to pick up a pen and draw again. I rarely feel a really intense need to do so, despite coming from an artist family because my love lies with writing, but this anime made me love it again (as you can clearly see when you check out my Instagram @alicereedsbooks).
   I cannot wait to see where Yuri!!! On Ice will go from here and how it'll end.
I give Yuri!!! On Ice Episodes 1 - 7 5 out of 5 Stars!