Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley: Book Review

When I heard that the genius who created the Scott Pilgrim series was writing a stand-alone graphic novel, I was really excited. Pilgrim was an enchanting and hilarious series that drew me in further with every page, and personally, I prefer stand-alone works rather than series, so I was hoping this new release would have the same charm and be able to close everything together neatly in one book. I was not let down.

Seconds is a wonderfully relatable tale mixed with the same cheeky comedy and magical elements as Scott Pilgrim, although I think Seconds is a lot more mature as a piece and what it deals with. In this story, Katie wants to leave her old restaurant (“Seconds”) behind and move on to a new restaurant that can be all her own — imagine your own name in lights, where you’re the head chef. The star. But as she’s stuck in her “Seconds” purgatory, where she lives in the upstairs apartment, Katie discovers a mushroom and a notebook that gives her the opportunity to erase a mistake she’s made. But, as anyone would, Katie gets drawn into this power and tries to keep erasing problems to create her perfect life.

This wildly entertaining graphic novel invites the reader to consider which mistakes in their own life they might erase… and what else it would subsequently change. Would it be worth it? Unlike Pilgrim, Seconds deals with more than just a crazed love plot and learning the lesson of self-respect (although it isn’t lacking in love triangles). Katie has to decide between new friends, an old love, new dreams, and old employees.

The characters in this book are well-rounded – an issue I find I come across in a lot of comics or graphic novels. I normally feel like I don’t get a good enough grasp on their personalities because the action takes over. Not in this case. I found myself falling in love with these characters. Katie, her ex Max, employee/friend Hazel, and Lis — that pesky house spirit living in her room.

Seconds is probably my new favourite graphic novel. It deals with more grown-up, real-to-life themes than a lot of other graphic novels I’ve come across that deal with fantasy and action, and O’Malley accomplishes this with the same sprinkle of charm and humour he has done with every book he’s published.

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman: Book Review

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When I received my copy of The Country of Ice Cream Star in the mail, I was really excited to own it. I heard great things from other reviewers, and had quite high expectations for the book. From what I understood, it was a future, dystopian epic where the world is run by children, because no one lives much longer. The main character’s brother gets sick, and she goes off in search of a cure for this illness.

To be blatantly honest, if it weren’t for the summaries I’d read, I would have no idea what this book was about. And to be fair, if I had given it more of a chance, there’s a possibility I could have understood more. But Newman created an entire dialect – a new language for her characters. And sometimes it works. I’ve read Blood Red Road and Trainspotting recently, so I didn’t think written dialect was going to be too much of a trouble for me. I got quite a few chapters in, and still had no clue what I was reading.

Like I said earlier, there’s a possibility I didn’t put everything I could into giving it more of a chance. Maybe I needed to read more of it to understand it better — and maybe one day I will. But the book is about 600 pages long, and I’m the kind of person who refuses to force myself through a book that I don’t like and end up wasting my time, when I could be reading better things.

I gave the book 2 stars on Goodreads, because I do appreciate the language Newman created. As a writer, I’m impressed by the idea behind the entire thing. It just wasn’t for me.

Jersey Boys: A Film Review

This movie release was kind of a huge deal for me. For those who don’t know, as I assume many of you don’t, I used to be very obsessed with this musical. I try not to advertise that. I got sick of being known as “that girl obsessed with Jersey Boys”. Well. As much as I regret seeing the show so many times (it was over 40, by the way), I was still really excited to go back to that place and see this film adaptation.

For my mom’s birthday, I took our family to see the film. She was just as obsessed with the musical as I was, maybe more. And we were really stoked to get a chance to see our Toronto Nick Massi, Michael Lomenda, back in his role but this time on the big screen. So we got in our seats and got ready to re-experience Jersey Boys.


Me, my sister and mom at the Jersey Boys movie!

Positives: I was really impressed with the acting. Besides the fact that I knew what to expect from Lomenda as Nick Massi, I was really excited by the realism brought to the other three of the Four Seasons by their respective actors. They captured the characters I’d fallen in love with a few years ago on the stage, and for that I was extremely grateful. I also enjoyed the singing talent and how true to the live musical it stayed; I’d say 85% of the lines were directly from the musical, and the even most of the choreography was the same!

They added a few scenes with Frankie’s daughter, Francine, which I thought also added a lot more emotional weight for when some drama goes down with them later on. Overall, I thought the film kept the period aura of the 60s and 70s – possibly better than what I got from watching the musical live.

Negatives: The bones I have to pick with the movie are mostly personal, to be honest. The one technical critique I have is that the stage musical was very funny and witty, and I felt like, while a lot of the funny lines are kept in, the timing is off and the acting isn’t enough. What made the jokes funny in the play was the over-acting (or theatrical acting) and the timing of the entire musical that is never thrown off. In the movie, they didn’t over-act. They under-acted. And still allowed a pause for the audience to laugh, where I actually cringed. It happened a lot. I wasn’t laughing at all.

That being said, the entire time, I felt something lacking. Without feeling like I needed to clap after every song, as with the live musical, the silence in the movie theatre gave me time to think about the show as a whole. The energy wasn’t there. I wasn’t sitting in a theatre filled with people up on their feet dancing to “Oh, What a Night”. I was sitting in a quiet theatre with maybe 15 other people, chuckling at some of the 60s references. I wasn’t as hyped as when seeing a musical live – I was subdued. And in this moment of calmness, I realized something probably very important: Jersey Boys is really not my thing.

I don’t like the mobster story. I don’t like the asshole characters. I don’t like the sexism, the lying, the struggle for these characters to make it big to get out of their neighbourhood. And I know it’s a true story. Maybe I’ve grown, or changed from who I was when I liked this show, which is likely – but I feel like if the characters were dragged into the mob, they have a lot of issues to deal with, and they deserve every hardship they ran into. I was just extremely bored with the story and angry at the characters for various reasons – especially with Tommy.

Overall, I rate Jersey Boys 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a great adaptation – it truly was. The actors portraying the Four Seasons were very good actors. They made appropriate scene additions/subtractions that worked with the story’s change from a play to a film.

It worked. It really did. Just not for me.

How to Watch The Fault in Our Stars in a Public Theatre

I’ve gone to see this movie three times in the theatres – once on opening night, which I already blogged about, and twice since then, bringing my family and my boyfriend.

I already addressed the fact that the first time was almost unbearable, not because of the TFIOS feels, but because of the fact that more than half of the audience didn’t know how to be in a public showing of a movie. Screaming every time Ansel Elgort comes on the screen is unacceptable. The second time I went, the audience was older and I didn’t have this problem, so when I took my boyfriend for my third time, I was surprised to see that screaming girls was still an issue weeks after the movie has come out.

So I’ve come up with this list of dos and don’ts for sitting in a movie theatre in public, and what is acceptable behaviour. Because a lot of people don’t seem to get it.

DO: Be quiet. There are a hundred other people in the room trying to enjoy the movie.

DON’T: Scream and shout every time your favourite actor is on the screen. It makes it hard for anyone else to hear what’s happening, and it ruins emotional moments.

DO: Bring tissues. You’ll need them.

DON’T: Sit in the front row and be obnoxious with your camera phone as you take pictures of your tears the entire movie.

DO: Be respectful of the fact that not everyone has read the book before coming to the theatre.

DON’T: Gasp every time a famous moment in the book is now being shown on screen. (i.e. Venn diagrams, “some infinities are bigger than…”, “Okay”, etc.)

DO: Feel free to show your appreciation vocally. If something’s funny, laugh. If you’re sad, you can cry. When the film is over, go ahead and clap.

DON’T: “AWWWWWWW” every time Gus does something romantic for Hazel. You’ll be doing it the entire movie, and it’ll eventually lose its effectiveness.

I didn’t think I’d have to write this blog post weeks after the film has premièred, but apparently there are still people who don’t know how to control themselves, which ultimately ruined my experience with this film twice. I just want to help out the others like me, who have been upset by the audience of this film as much as me.

The Night Before Our Stars: A TFIOS Film Review

My friends and I were fortunate enough to grab tickets to see The Night Before Our Stars event that seemed to be happening all over Canada and the US.

If you’re a book person and you haven’t heard of John Green’s hit YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, I question where you’ve been for the past two years, as the novel has been at the top of the bestseller list on numerous occasion and holding its title for weeks at a time. Well, this bestselling novel about two star-crossed cancer patients was made into a movie, and Nerdfighters (John Green fans who aspire to decrease world suck) everywhere were freaking out. The Fault in Our Stars invites tears – you have to know that from the synopsis. So much so that John Green and his brother, Hank, put together and sold over 4,000 “TFIOS Preparedness Kits”, including the necessities like sunglasses to hide your tears, and a package of tissues for when the plan of hiding behind your stylish TFIOS sunglasses has proven futile. I was one of the excited 4,000, and I can say from experience that a little pack of tissues was not enough.

Because the release of The Fault in Our Stars was such a big deal among nerdfighters, they created an event for the midnight release (which was actually an 8:30-the-night-before-release) called The Night Before Our Stars. This amazing event opportunity allowed fans of the book to come together and cry over the story together, but it also came with a signed poster and TFIOS bracelet for each fan, as well as a live streamed Q&A with the cast, and creators of the film, as well as author, John Green.

So needless to say, I was really excited to be going to this event. I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I read and fell in love with Paper Towns. The event in general is just really inspiring for me to see happen, as a writer myself who would love to be able to influence this many people.

My friends and I were the first people in line. Crazy. Five and a half hours in line is nothing for us – I’ve waited in longer lines for shorter events. And this one was worth the wait.

The film itself was extremely faithful to the book. I think every line of dialogue was taken straight from the novel. The actors captured their characters’ essence with charm and realism, and there was not a dry eye in the theatre when the lights went up. If you’re a fan of the novel, I think it’s almost necessary that you go and watch the film just to experience the story in a way that will hit it home and really tug at your heartstrings. I don’t ever cry at anything that isn’t my immediate real life, and I was sobbing. Sobbing.

That being said, I wasn’t impressed with the audience. My friends and I were the oldest people in the theatre besides parents accompanying their teen daughters. I’m 22, for the record. So there were a lot of high schoolers there. And I’m not hating on the teens. A lot of them were really cool and shut up and watched the movie. But there were also a large number of them who couldn’t control themselves and squealed every single time Ansel Elgort (Augustus Waters) came on the screen. It ended up ruining a lot of the emotional moments in the film for me. These same Ansel fans left the theatre during the Q&A when his part was over, which I thought was rude (even if it wasn’t a live show – you paid $20 to be here, why not stay until the end). So if you’re maybe one of the more “mature” fans of the book and not just a fan of the actors, you should probably wait a week or so before venturing into the theatres so you can have yourself a good experience. Because mine was slightly spoiled by these girls’ inability to control their hormones.

But hey, I’m no party pooper. My friends and I had a wonderfully silly time and met a handful of nice nerdfighters which made those moments quite awesome!

Like recreating the movie poster.

All in all, it was a great night and I would do it again in a heartbeat. As both a reader and a writer, I feel really moved to see so many people of all ages come together over one story. A story that has made them feel some sort of emotional attachment and want to connect to other people who felt the same way. The fact that books have the power to do this to a person, and make them want to re-live the same painful story, means a ton to me and what I believe is my “purpose” in life, so to speak. And if you feel this way, too, you’ll love getting the chance to see The Fault in Our Stars – whether it be on the silver screen, or if you’re waiting for the DVD. It is so faithful to the book and it makes you feel like the John Green fan community, or even just the book community, is able to stand its ground. We, as people, are moving mountains with our words. And I love that with all my heart.

I’m sorry. This movie just made me have so many feelings.

Writing Projects!

I’ve teased you all on my Facebook and Twitter pages enough. I think it’s time to finally give you all a little more detail as to what I’ve been writing!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing two YA novels, a sort of autobiography, and a play to be performed at an upcoming Ugly Button benefit show. Ugly Button Productions is the small theatre company for which I am currently the president raising funds!

For those of you who know about Ugly Button, you know my style is extremely varied. I like writing all kinds of styles and genres; this is true of both plays and novels. I don’t care what the genre of the piece is, I don’t even care if it’s going to be written in prose or maybe I’ll get experimental. I write because I like to express an idea I have that I think other people will be able to relate to, or that others will find intriguing.

The first play I wrote for Ugly Button was an insight as to how people with depression can justify their suicidal thoughts. But not all of my work is so upsetting — I swear! (Though it is my belief, like JD in Heathers, that only the crazy things are the ones that make any kind of impact. So these depressing or upsetting topics are ones that actually have to be discussed). You’ll see lots of varied styles going on here.

So here’s the premise of these upcoming projects!

  1. The Play. This new play that I’ve been brainstorming for over the last few weeks is going to be a little bit of an experimental piece. No real plot. Just fragments. But these satirical fragments are going to add up and hopefully make a really cool point about how our society views the media and what the media is almost too blatantly saying straight to our faces. I’m really excited about this one.
  2. The Autobiography. This piece worries me so much that I have to keep putting it down and going back to it weeks later. It’s the real life story of how I went from being very dependent on relationships to growing into an independent woman… in a relationship. And how dangerous it is to get too wrapped up in the idea of having a “boyfriend”, when the person may not be right for you. Or if the person is lying to you to get what they want. I think this will likely be aimed at a younger audience (teens, young adults), because I really feel like my story will actually help a lot of people. Because it is 100% true, and I’m sure a lot of people go through these kinds of issues in their own lives. I guess it’s also an underdog story, and how I got totally screwed over and ended up getting something way better out of it — and I mean life in general, not just the guy.
  3. YA Novel #1. This novel was the first one I actually got the idea for and started to piece together. I got inspired when I started watching Awesome Games Done Quick. Without getting too much into it, AGDQ is an event run by video game speed runners who get together and live stream them playing through games super fast for donations, which they give to different charities. It’s really inspirational on a human level, but also for my writing of this story. In this  book I’m writing, these characters run a similar event when one of the gamers finds out his brother has cancer. It’s all about moral relativism, and how there isn’t “one right way” of doing anything. This book also invites conversation about using fantasy as a way to escape reality. It’s also hugely steeped in geek references and fandom culture, which is something I can relate to myself.
  4. YA Novel #2. The most recent novel I’m working on is about romanticizing. Not romance itself, but the idea of taking something and idealizing it. For example, if a person isn’t perfect, but you look at them as though they are. You view a life of wrongs as something poetic instead of something that needs to be fixed. This book takes place in a setting I’ve wanted to use for a while — and that’s this one beach I used to visit in my adolescent years with my family in cottage country. The protagonist is sent to visit her family there and ends up meeting a group of teenagers who allow her to romanticize their group. She feels like she’s in some sort of movie. Until finally she, and the rest of this group, is forced to see things how they really are and take off the Romantic goggles.

Well, those are the projects I’ve got going at a steady pace. I’ll be posting them on Authonomy.com when they start getting finished chapter by chapter, so I’ll keep you posted as to when new chapters are out. Hopefully I can even save enough money to get one of those novels self-published!

Let me know which of these ideas you think is the most interesting, or which ones you think you’d most want to read!

John Dies at the End by David Wong: Book Review

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I saw John Dies at the End sitting on a shelf in my favourite bookstore, looking very lonely and left out. I think this was before people knew there existed a movie. But there it sat, and I was instantly drawn in by the cleverness of the title. It tells you how it ends, now that’s something new and saying quite a bit about storytelling, or the purpose of stories. Well since the title makes you think about these sorts of issues (why spoilers may not make a difference to the overall story and its message), I don’t really care about one of the spoilers I’m going to drop later in this review. But if you’re the sort of person who cares about this kind of thing a little too much, you should stop reading now.

Like, right now.

Here’s the spoiler. John doesn’t even die at the end. He dies in the middle. The misleading nature of the title didn’t even phase me, I was much too excited by the sheer wittiness and hilarity of John Dies at the End. Depending on the kind of person you are, this book could be considered a horror, a sci fi, or a comedy. I like to fancy it a little of all three, with a hint of satire.

Essentially the plot is as follows: David Wong and his friend, John, go to a party. John gets involved with a drug dealer and gets hold of something that really messes him up. A bunch of messed up stuff goes down. You are philosophically changed.

The film doesn’t capture the philosophy of John Dies at the End quite as much as the novel, so if you’re wondering what you should spend your time on, I wholeheartedly vote the novel. The dialogue is witty and absolutely hilarious. The characters are intriguing and I cared for them quite a bit. And the weirdness of the world will have you wanting to know more from beginning to end.

To be honest, I feel like this book merits a re-read. By the time I hit the conclusion, I was so confused, but the easy-going and funny nature of the book made me not dread having to go through the novel one more time to try to better understand the complicated ideas behind it. If you at all like science fiction or horror, I really recommend this book to you. And if you don’t, I recommend it anyway.

Sh*t, I have too many books || Wrap up!

Okay, so I know that this read-a-thon ended a couple of days ago (May 18-26), but here is my reading progress for last week’s read-a-thon!

Monday: 95 pages of Traitor’s Blade by Sebastian de Castell, 130 pages of The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Tuesday: 150 pages of Traitor’s Bladefinished, 130 pages of The Writer’s Idea Bookfinished, 89 pages of Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Wednesday: 90 pages of Zombiefinished

Thursday: 34 pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 50 pages of Behind the Scenes by Meg Tilly

Friday: 7 pages of Behind the Scenes

Saturday: 200 pages of Behind the Scenes - finished

Sunday: 30 pages of Rebel Heart by Moira Young.

So all in all, I read 1,005 pages! That’s double what I read for Bout of Books the week prior, so I’m really happy with that number.  I also finished four books during that week, so that’s really impressive for me as well. But just because the read-a-thons are over doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down my reading any time soon.

I’m still currently reading:

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
  • Rebel Heart – Moira Young
  • The Treatment – Suzanne Young

Hope everyone else has been having a good reading month so far!

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills: Book Review

I’ve reviewed this book before, but I’m bringing it back. It was one of my favourite reads and I think more people should pick it up.

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I have to admit, I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye and once it was in my hands, the title intrigued me. And once the title had me interested, the summary on the back of the book was what sealed the deal and made me buy it. If there’s one reason I read, it’s to learn new perspectives and understand things that are new to me, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children offered me just that.

The YA novel tells the story of Gabe. But the thing about Gabe is that he was born into his family as Elizabeth. Gabe knows who he is, and is just in the process of getting other people to know and accept his identity, when his favourite neighbour offers him the chance of a lifetime – to be the host of his own radio show. The show, entitled “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children”, may run very late at night, but Gabe is just happy to play some of his favourite music and get people to become fans – loving him before they have a chance to judge him.

As I said, this book gave me such an insight to what it’s like to be born in the wrong body. Because as much as a person may “understand” how it feels to be judged and looked at in disgust or fear, or how it feels to live with this gender confusion, I believe that if you don’t actually live in this situation, you can’t really understand what this feels like. And since I’m not a transgender person, I can’t say that I have much experience being transgender – so Gabe really helped me to step into his shoes and see what it may be like to experience such harsh judgement and hate.

I really liked that I even happened to just stumble upon a book about a transgender teen, when it seems that a lot of books in the LGBT category are simply about being gay or lesbian. So it was nice to get a fresh perspective in a genre that I find so interesting.

Besides the main topic of sexuality and identity, I really enjoyed the writing and integration of song titles or lyrics. It really helped to keep the book about Gabe’s radio show and keep the plot in this charming setting while dealing with the issues at hand.

This book had me on Team Gabe from the very beginning, and if you like this kind of book, I highly suggest you read it. And if you don’t like this kind of book, maybe it’s most important that you are the one who gives this book a read.

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastian de Castell: Book Review

I got a copy of Traitor’s Blade as an ARC (advanced readers copy), which was very exciting. I really had no idea what to expect from this novel besides the fact that it was a fantasy and looked quite political. Well, I did get all of that, but I also got a lot more. Traitor’s Blade tells the tale of Falcio Val Mond and his fellow Greatcoats, Kest and Brasti, as they travel around this fantastical world trying to save an orphaned girl, and defend not only their King, but their title, as the Greatcoats have been slandered and become nothing more than “tatter coats”.

Upon first impressions, I loved Traitor’s Blade. I was immediately drawn into de Castell’s Medieval world within the first page and a half. To be quite honest, I found it hard to pull away from Falcio’s quick-witted and often humorous narrative. Had it not been for other priorities, I would have likely read this novel in one sitting. My favourite part of the book was definitely the writing itself. de Castell created some fantastic, real characters that kept me wanting to read more. The wittiness of the dialogue had me thinking that this fantasy was something of an interesting cross — a Game of Thrones world starring none other than Pirates of the Caribbean‘s own Jack Sparrow! I’m not typically a girl who enjoys reading lengthy fight scenes, but these ones captivated me and had me hanging on. And the ending was quite climactic, although I was hoping for a different outcome.

Besides the writing, I did like how the politics in this world was somewhat comparable to ours – everything a little bit shady, people fighting for power, unsure of where everyone else truly stands. I did like that it wasn’t saturated with the politics, but when it was a topic of discussion, I did like how it was comparable to the real world. Everything in this novel seemed to be done in a good balance: funny internal narrative, witty and dramatic dialogue, epic sword fights, and stunning moments of uncovering the truth. I also appreciated that the chapters were short enough to keep my attention without leaving out important information.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads because there were some magic elements in this world, and I feel as though there wasn’t enough of it in the book for my taste; it felt as though there was hardly any magic at all, and it could have been completely left out without making a difference to the plot. I also found that major plot points or events would be mentioned in a sentence and moved past quite quicky, so I had to re-read some bits when I found myself lost.

Overall, I really enjoyed this fast-paced fantasy, and I highly recommend it to anyone else who prefers this style or genre of literature!