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!

Ode To Disappointment, Hard Work and Excitement

Freitag, 4. November 2016

   Welcome dearest reader!
   Usually I don't write posts like this, but I this is important enough for me to still do it. Also, who can say no to seeing something shiny and new.

   This post is about this amazing, intimidating and scary thing called Pitch Wars. For all of you who might be confused as to what that is, let me tell you. Pitch Wars is an annual contest for writers where, if you're story gets picked, you and your mentor work on it for two months. Then in November your story, along with those of everyone else who was chosen, are posted for the agent showcase. (Don't mind me being bad at explaining!)

   I've submitted something of mine to Pitch Wars in the past and I was rejected, which sounds meaner than it is really. My stories were not it, but this year I had faith. I believed in my story, I knew it was good, so once the submission gates were opened, I threw my hat into the mix and hoped for the best.

   Disappointment hit me like a truck the day the mantee list went online because, just like the year before, my name wasn't on it. I was crushed. My story wasn't good enough, I thought. Maybe next year, I told myself.

   But then something truly unexpected happened. An email showed up in my inbox from Judi, one of the mentors I had submitted my story to. In said email she told me she loved my story (!!!!) and that, although I wasn't officially part of Pitch Wars, she still wanted to work with me. I was over the moon, barely able to form sentences and think straight.
   Someone believed in my story and wanted to dedicate her time to working on it, making it the best version of itself it could be. Impossible, unbelievable, crazy, but totally true.

   Over the past two months Judi not only became my mentor but also my friend. We worked on my story, we talked about everything and anything, and discovered that we're quite similar in regards to many things, and were even both born during May (though during different years). Despite not making it into the contest, I still won. Thanks to Judi my manuscript transformed and became better, the story clearer and simply everything I hoped it would be.

   But that isn't where the story ends. Days before Halloween I got an email from Judi, a new one that wasn't part of our epic conversation, and in this email she told me that there were free spots for the agent showcase and that she submitted my story, and it was accepted. I basically had two days to prepare everything for the agent showcase. Scary but I was so excited I didn't even care about any of the stress.
   Thanks to Judi and her amazing work, not only did I turn my story into the best version of itself, but also scored a spot for the showcase simply because Judi believed in my words.

   Tomorrow the YA entries for the agent showcase are going live and I am already loosing my mind, but I wanted to take this moment and just say thank you, Judi. Thank you for your hard work, your time, your faith in me and my boys, and thank you for your friendship. No matter what'll happen once Pitch Wars will be over, no matter if my story will receive a ton of requests or none at all, I've still learned a lot and found a new friend, which is more than I expected or even hoped for.

   Thank you for believing in me and my words!

Review: Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Montag, 31. Oktober 2016

Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Published: October 31st 2016 by Entangled TEEN
Number of pages: 81 Pages (Kindle)
Series: Yes, 1.5 of the Forget Tomorrow Trilogy

   In a world where all seventeen-year-olds receive a memory from their future selves, Logan Russell's vision is exactly as he expects—and exactly not. He sees himself achieving his greatest wish of becoming a gold-star swimmer, but strangely enough, the vision also shows him locking eyes with a girl from his past, Callie Stone, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of love and belonging.
   Logan’s not sure what the memory means, but soon enough, he learns that his old friend Callie is in trouble. She’s received an atypical memory, one where she commits a crime in the future. According to the law, she must be imprisoned, even though she's done nothing wrong. Now, Logan must decide if he'll give up his future as a gold-star swimmer and rescue the literal girl of his dreams. All he'll have to do is defy Fate. (goodreads.com)

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

   I am obsessed with the Forget Tomorrow Trilogy because both books have so far been absolutely amazing and Pintip is an awesome author, so when I heard that there would be a novella from Logan's POV, I was on that!

   Usually I'm not into novellas or prequels, but this one, I just had to have it and read it. I loved Logan in Forget Tomorrow (review) and so getting to read more about him, from his POV, was really interesting. Throughout Before Tomorrow we follow Logan as he receives his Future Memory and how that changes his thoughts and basically everything for him. We get to know his life a little more, the way he thinks and feels, which was fascinating.

   Unlike the other books in the trilogy, this one was in 3rd person. I'm not a fan of 3rd person at all so that threw me of a little at first, but I managed to look past it enough to still really enjoy the story and see the world I already loved through another set of eyes.

   All in all, I really enjoyed Before Tomorrow a lot. If you're a fan of Pintip and the Forget Tomorrow trilogy, definitely check it out, especially because you can read it for free for a limited time so use the opportunity while you still can!
I give Before Tomorrow 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Review: Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Samstag, 22. Oktober 2016

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
Published: October 18th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 659 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: Yes, #2 in the Illuminae Files Trilogy

   Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
   The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
   When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
   But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope. (goodreads.com)

"It may comfort you to know that your death, 
while astonishingly violent, 
will likely be mercifully swift."

   Ever since I finished reading Illuminae (find my review here) last year, I waited with anticipation and great expectations for Gemina. As with all sequels, the second book fear was real, but Gemina exceeded all my hopes and expectations in amazing ways with brilliant and unexpected twists and turns.

   Just like Illuminae, Gemina is told through files, instant messages, video transcripts and alike, which is still the coolest book format I've ever encountered. We also meet another crucial character from Illuminae again who turns out to be an even worse person than we've so far thought. The hate is real and only turns realer. That part is told through a court room transcript which in itself was really interesting.

   In Gemina we follow Hanna and Nik. Hanna is the daughter of the Heimdall's captain, rich, spoiled but still a total badass with a black belt and loads of tactical knowledge which most definitely comes in handy through the story. I really liked her, even though she seemed a bit naive and very spoiled throughout the first few pages, but my opinion of her quick changed. She was a really interesting character and I couldn't wait to see what her role in the story would end up being. I didn't quite expect her to be that much of a badass, but I loved every second of it.
   On the other hand we have Nik who belongs to the House of Knives, a Russian criminal cartel on board of the Heimdall station, as well as New Petersburg. Since characters like him belong to my favorites, I knew I'd like him the moment we first meet him. Throughout the story I only fell more in love with him and found myself rooting for him. When a very emotional moment came up, that I won't spoil, I was on the verge of tears, not going to lie. He was a great and really interesting character, especially thanks to all the details about the cartel and the tattoos he and the others had.

   Another thing that blew my mind in Gemina was the whole aspect of the wormhole within the Heimdall station which was later on explained in a more scientific way, along with other hardcore science, which honestly was one of my favorite parts of the story. I love sci-fi books that have a solid dose of science in them, even if most of it is way too complicated for me to understand. Gemina definitely did that part right and in a marvelously interesting way.

   In the second half of the story we also meet our beloved characters from Illuminae again. Their role in the story isn't necessarily the biggest one in terms of page count, but it's still very much crucial and done in an amazing way. I was curious how Jay and Amie would tie them into the story and I am more than happy with the way they've done it.

   Also we need to take a moment and truly appreciate Marie Lu's (author of the Legend trilogy as well as The Young Elites trilogy) illustrations for Gemina. She isn't only a incredible author, no, she's also amazing at drawing. I was really curious to see all of it after I first heard about it, and boy did I love it!

   Just like Illuminae, Gemina has a lot of aces up its sleeve in form of amazing plot twists that you most definitely won't see coming and aliens that creeped the hell out of me, especially the way they were "created". Now that was awful in more ways than one. But their role in the story was fascinating, even though, as I mentioned before, they were really creepy. But, at the end of the day, the Phobos virus people in Illuminae were still scarier than the aliens, but that was to be expected, I mean that virus was off the charts.

   Gemina is am amazing action packed sequel with unexpected twists and turns, smart moves and tactical planning, and even some crazy science. I didn't think it could one up Illuminae, but somehow it managed to do it anyways. I cannot wait until we'll finally get the finale next year, especially after that ending. I am excited!
I give Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman 5 out of 5 stars!

Blog Tour: Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn (Review)

Freitag, 7. Oktober 2016


Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn
Released: October 4th 2016 by Entangled TEEN
Number of Pages: 400 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: Yes, #2 in the Forget Tomorrow Trilogy

   The sequel to the NYT Bestselling and RITA™ Award-winning novel, Forget Tomorrow, is a twisting, turning roller-coaster ride—the perfect sci-fi futuristic read.
   Sixteen-year-old Jessa Stone is the most valuable citizen in Eden City. Her psychic abilities could lead to significant scientific discoveries, if only she’d let TechRA study her. But ten years ago, the scientists kidnapped and experimented on her, leading to severe ramifications for her sister, Callie. She’d much rather break into their labs and sabotage their research—starting with Tanner Callahan, budding scientist and the boy she loathes most at school.
   The past isn’t what she assumed, though—and neither is Tanner. He’s not the arrogant jerk she thought he was. And his research opens the door to the possibility that Jessa can rectify a fatal mistake made ten years earlier. She’ll do anything to change the past and save her sister—even if it means teaming up with the enemy she swore to defeat.

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

   I was beyond excited to get my hands on Remember Yesterday because I absolutely loved Forget Tomorrow last year (review here). Luckily I not only received an eARC but was also invited to be part of the blog tour for it, which was just double amazing.
   When it comes to sequels I'm always a bit worried that they might turn out to be nothing more than fillers building up to the finale and nothing more. Remember Yesterday definitely didn't feel like a filler but like a worthy sequel to Forget Tomorrow.

   Unlike the first book, this one is told my Callie's sister, Jessa. At first I wasn't quite sure what I thought of that, but I knew that that was the only option for the sequel to work and happen. Quickly I started to really like Jessa and enjoyed her narration and voice, which sounded definitely different then Callie's in the first book.
   The plot was filled with twists and turns, exciting revelations and lots of moments that amazed me, made me swoon and move to the edge of my seat. It offered a lot of things we didn't have in the previous book, which I can't name of course because spoilers, but if you worry that the plot might somehow repeat itself, there is no need for it. Remember Yesterday is completely different then Forget Tomorrow.
   Also, the ending? Still didn't recover. 

   The love interest in this one was interesting and very different then the one in the previous novel. Tanner was an interesting character with a truly sad backstory which I enjoyed getting to know piece by piece. Though I'll admit I'm really not fond of the name Tanner. Seeing the way he acted toward Jessa change throughout the novel was interesting, especially as certain things were revealed and he understood different moments from his past he didn't understand before.

   I honestly cannot wait to see how the trilogy will end, what will happen with Chairwoman Dresden and if Jessa and the others will be able to figure out how to defeat her. Also, I really enjoyed the look into technologies we heard about in the previous novel but never explored in detail.
   Another thing that stuck out to me was how certain parts from the sequel played into the previous book and tied the plot together even more. Anyone who's read both will know what I'm talking about. It really showed, again, how much thought Pintip put into planning out these books and how much love to detail went into them.

   All in all I think Remember Yesterday is more than a worthy sequel to Forget Tomorrow offering many twists and turns, exciting revelations and swoon worthy moments. I cannot wait to read the final book in the trilogy, though it'll be sad to say goodbye to the characters and the story. Also, I cannot wait to see what the title will be for the third and final book because I've been loving the titles and covers so far! I cannot recommend these two books enough, so if sci-fi is your jam, definitely give them a try. Forget Tomorrow didn't win an award for nothing after all.
I give Remember Yesterday 5 out of 5 stars.

* * *

Buy Remember Yesterday here:
Amazon US // Barnes & Noble // iBooks // Kobo // Amazon UK // Amazon CA

   Giveaway
   One (1) winner will receive a limited, annotated hardcover of Forget Tomorrow

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author

   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 Journel.
   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 and the forthcoming Remember Yesterday.
   She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.


Review: The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire + Dan and Phil's Story of TATINOF (No Spoilers)

Donnerstag, 6. Oktober 2016

   The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire
   Released: October 5th 2016 via YouTube Red
   Length: 96 Minutes
   PG-13
   Stage Show Recording

   Dan and Phil present their hit international stage show "The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire"! A performance inspired by the best of their videos, live and interactive with a real audience—along with some surprises you’ll never see coming.
   When Phil microwaves his laptop, he and Dan are warped into a universe where the internet is destroyed and everything from their online world has become real! As they work out how to entertain the real-life audience, a mysterious figure decides to teach them an important lesson. (youtube.com)

   After touring through the UK and US, Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) and Phil Lester (AmazingPhil) announced that their LA show at the Dolby Theatre will be filmed and released as YouTube Red Original Movie. Understandably their fans, especially those in places that didn't host any shows and thus couldn't go and see it, were very excited.
   Unlike other YouTuber tours and shows, Dan and Phil created an entire stage show with a proper script, music, props and audience participation (very consensual as Dan mentions in the actual show) bringing their YouTube Channels and personalities onto big stages.

   Diving into the stage show, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure, I've seen a few spoilers over the past months but I didn't know anything about the plot or how any of it actually looks like, which was honestly the best way to go into this show. As avid viewer of both Dan and Phil, I got all the inside jokes and could enjoy every aspect of the show easily which definitely enhanced my viewing experience.
   If you go in as very casual viewer, or a parent who's being forced into watching it with their kid, I don't think you'll enjoy the show just as much simply because of all the references to their videos and  the things Dan and Phil have done over the years. Please be warned.

   As fan of the two, I enjoyed the show tremendously. I couldn't stop smiling and laughing and it basically left me feeling very happy and positive. A message the two want to bring across with the show is that being weird or different is okay, that you can reach your goals and fulfill your dreams if you believe in yourself. I definitely got that from it.
   Looking at it from a more subjective perspective I still think it's a very cool stage show with an amazingly decorated stage and two very funny guys jumping around on said stage trying to entertain the audience. Speaking of which, you could really see how much joy the show was giving them which was just another layer of amazing really.
All in all I give The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire 5 out of 5 stars, 
subjectively and not just because I'm a fan.

* * *

   Dan and Phil's Story of TATINOF
   Released: October 5th 2016 via YouTube Red
   Length: 61 Minutes
   PG-13
   Behind the Scenes Documentary

   The behind-the-scenes story of Dan and Phil’s adventure on tour! An intimate and epic documentary film chronicling everything from creating their stage show, to life on the road and reflecting back on its legacy. (youtube.com)

   Have you ever wondered how stage shows happen and what happens behind the scenes during tours? Dan and Phil's Story of TATINOF will show you exactly that. Over the course of an hour you get to see who helped Dan and Phil create the show, how parts of it came together, how the look of the stage became what it is in the end, and what actually happens behind the scenes of the stage during the show itself.

    I was really curious to see how Dan and Phil came up with the show, how they as people of the internet who have nothing to do with big stage shows managed to create exactly that. Seeing them learn how to dance or learn tricks was really interesting, as well as seeing their adventures through the USA in their giant tour bus.

   Something that was also quite unique and interesting was seeing their fans talk about the show, express their feelings and see just how excited they were and how happy Dan and Phil, and the show, made them.
   The narration that leads us through the documentary was really well done and entertaining with the typical Dan and Phil humor.

   All in all I think Dan and Phil's Story of TATINOF is really interesting and a fun look behind the scenes. When you decide to watch these two, definitely watch the Stage Show first and then the documentary because spoilers. I had a really good time watching the documentary and I'll definitely watch it, along with the stage show, again soon.
I give Dan and Phil's Story of TATINOF 5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Samstag, 1. Oktober 2016

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Published: October 18th 2007 by Razorbill
Number of Pages: 288 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
   On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
   Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers. (goodreads.com)

   I've had this book on my shelf for at least over a year but, even though I knew I really wanted to read it, I never picked it up. But then as I was browsing through audible, I remembered it, remembered that it's largely based on the narrator listening to tapes, so I thought it's the perfect book to listen to.
   And I was right.

   Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books that I would call important, touching upon a topic people might find uncomfortable, especially when shown in this way. Personally, once I was done reading it, I felt the urge to write an email to my old English teacher to ask her if there is any sort of way she could incorporate this book into her lessons (knowing all too well that that's not possible).
   In Thirteen Reasons Why we follow Clay as he receives a box filled with cassette tapes containing thirteen different stories and reasons explaining why this girl called Hannah decided to commit suicide. This definitely isn't an easy, afternoon read that'll just entertain you. This is the sort of book that will make you stop and think about yourself and the way you treat others, what effect you might have on them even in moments that you'd think are trivial, insignificant.

   I don't think this book is for everyone, despite being nearly unputdownable, because a lot of it depends on you as reader being able to sympathize with Hannah, if her voice and narration style will click with you. Personally, I sympathized very much with her, and sure, some of her reasons might not come across as something that you'd think would have such a grave impact on a person, but I can understand why they affected her the way they did. If you take reach reason as a separate thing, none of them are heavy enough, but you have to remember that, as the story progresses, these reasons are stacked on top of each other creating this much larger, much more complex picture that will make you understand that it's very realistic that all of them together could make someone snap.
   Bullying especially is something that affects people in different ways, just like harassment that might not have that big of an affect on one person but might change someone else's life completely.
   Something that also stuck out to me was the discussion on how boys, in a way, find reasons and explanations for why they are entitled to treating girls a certain way, or talk to them a certain way. That was certainly a very interesting aspect that I think is still very much a big issue today, even more than back when Thirteen Reasons Why came out, adding only more to the list of reasons why I would have loved to read a book like this in English class and discuss it.

   When it comes to Clay, the supposed main character of the story, I really liked the way his story progressed throughout the book, how he was questioning why he got those tapes, how he could've affected Hannah in some more meaningful way. Once it was finally revealed and he understood what happened and what he did, or didn't do, I actually teared up a bit along with him. The one thing that I'd definitely criticize about him is how quickly he changed his mind, which I think would take much longer in a real life setting.
   Also, and this has nothing to do with Clay, did people actually still use cassette tapes in 2007?

   All in all I can very much recommend Thirteen Reasons Why and think it's an important read, especially for young people. I think this book raises many good points and gives a lot of material perfect for discussions and personal reflecting. I really much enjoyed listening to it, so I can recommend the audiobook. The two narrators did an amazing job at bringing Clay and Hannah to life.
I give Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 4 out of 5 stars.