30 December, 2013

Taste of Darkness Blog Tour - Interview with Maria V. Snyder

Welcome to the Taste of Darkness Blog Tour! Thanks to Maria V. Snyder and Rockstar Book Tours for letting us kick off the festivities. Read on for a short Q&A by Alethea and more info about the book.

There are more posts on the way so check the schedule each weekday for the next two weeks, and remember to enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the post--the book giveaway is open internationally!

Taste of Darkness Blog Tour: Dec 30, 2013 to Jan 10, 2014

About the book:

She's fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?
Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he's gone forever. 
But there's a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry's healing powers are needed now more than ever. Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully... For the future of her world depends on her decision.

About the author:

Maria V. Snyder changed from being a meteorologist to a novelist in 1995, when she began writing to keep her sanity while raising two children. Since then, she has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers, and teaches fiction-writing classes at the local college and area libraries. The classes give her the wonderful opportunity to encourage fellow writers, and to keep improving her craft.

Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She is also pursuing a master's degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University.

Readers are welcome to contact Maria at the following email address: maria@mariavsnyder.com.

Buy the book:

Connect with Maria:

Q&A with Maria V. Snyder:

RNSL: Is there anything you will miss about the Healer trilogy, now that the story is wrapped up? A character, maybe, or a setting you would like to write more about?

MVS: It takes me a while to miss the story and characters. After writing about Avry, Kerrick, and the gang for the last 3 years, I get to a point where enough is enough :) However, I’m sure in a year or two I’d want to explore Flea’s powers more and check in with Avry and Kerrick. A reader suggested I write a short story where Avry meets Kerrick’s Great Aunt Yasmin–that would be fun. The problem is always the same–not enough time to write all the things I’d like.

RNSL: How do you think your storytelling/writing process has changed over the years? Or has it stayed mostly the same?

MVS: I’m more organized and better at writing consistently (every night) vs. in bursts. I’m not sure if my storytelling has changed as far as content, but I’m still a pantser and discover my story as I go. I’m more conscious of weak writing, like passive voice, weak verbs, filtering so I think my new novels are grammatically stronger. I must admit, finding new ways to say “her heart pounded” is getting harder with each book :)

RNSL: Your fans (including me!) love that you learn new things and incorporate them into your books, everything from martial arts to glass-blowing. Was there anything you learned this year, or maybe a skill/craft you worked on mastering?

MVS: For my last two books, STORM WATCHER and TASTE OF DARKNESS, I did more book/internet research. For Storm Watcher, I learned a lot about search and rescue dogs and how to train a dog to earn Tracking Dog titles from the American Kennel Club. If I write a companion book to Storm Watcher, I plan to shadow a search and rescue worker in the field. For Taste of Darkness, I researched immune systems, vaccines, and how a body fights viruses. I also had a couple of interesting conversations with my doctors about cannibalism–like “does a virus stay active after the body dies?” Probably why my family doctor transferred to another practice ;)

RNSL: If you could travel back in time and had one piece of advice to give your past self, you know, Maria before she got her first acceptance letter, what would it be? (Without messing with the space/time continuum, of course!) It could be about anything, not just writing.)

MVS: I’d tell her to spend more time with her kids! My son is in his first year of college and I’m really missing my sweet little boy who smiled and gave me hugs. The past 18 years has flown by and while I love writing and promoting my books, I would have slowed down and not traveled as much.

RNSL: A new year is about to begin! What do you hope it will bring, and what books of yours can we look forward to in 2014?

MVS: I hope it will be a healthy year for everyone. It’s funny how I said I wouldn’t travel as much if I went back in time and yet this year, I’m planning trips to Iowa and Florida. Officially, all I have coming out is an essay I wrote with my daughter, Jenna in the anthology Divergent Thinking about the Divergent series. That book of essays is coming out the same time as the movie in March. However, my new Study book with Yelena and Valek is tentatively scheduled for January 2015, which usually means the book is available at the end of December. The second of the new Study books is due out 9 months after the first, so 2015 could be a busy year for me.

Watch the trailer:

We're certainly looking forward to more great stories from Maria! Kimberly (at The Windy Pages) and I will be posting reviews soon, and soon Thuy is going to be posting some great bookcover-inspired manicures on Nite Lite Reviews :) Here's a quick sneak peek:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One

12/30/2013 - Read Now Sleep Later- Interview
12/31/2013 - Tynga's Reviews- Guest Post
1/1/2014 - Fiktshun- Guest Post
1/2/2014 - Bibliophilia, Please- Interview
1/3/2014 - Snowdrop Dreams of Books- Review

Week Two

1/6/2014 - Parajunkee- Guest Post
1/7/2014 - Moonlight Gleam Reviews- Review
1/8/2014 - The Cover Contessa- Interview
1/9/2014 - Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post
1/10/2014 - Mundie Moms- Interview

28 December, 2013

Deep Betrayal - Review

Deep Betrayal (Lies Beneath, Book 2) by Anne Greenwood Brown
Publication Date: 12 March 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN 10/13: 0385742037 | 9780385742030

Category: YA Fantasy
Keywords: Mermaids
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Source: NetGalley

Kimberly's Review:

Time is ticking. This sequel picks up where Lies Beneath left off, about one month after LIly leaves her home and her family. She eagerly awaits Calder, but he doesn't show and as the days pass, she wonders if it's all in her head. But one day on television, a startling discovery shakes her and all of a sudden Calder is there. The story isn't over. Revenge is on everyone's mind. And mermaids don't care how many people they have to hurt to get to the one they want.

I really liked Lies Beneath, the darkness and edgy murky tale of killer mermaids. So I was excited to read this sequel that promised another darkly chilling plot. Sadly, I don't think it lived up to my expectations.

Lily is the focus of this story and she got on my nerves pretty quickly. She's self absorbed and rash, doesn't see the big picture and thinks she's always right. You know the type- young and reckless. Which normally I don't mind, but between pining away for Calder, then being mad he's spending all this time with her dad, she's not a strong character and the fact that she's the lead character made the book a very slow read for me.

Calder at least seems the same from book one, though a lot of their scenes together feel very forced. I didn't feel their magical connection in this book. The plot moves very slow and I can't say that anything big really happens until the end. The first part of the book is a lot of Lily missing Calder, being insecure and realizing it might have been a mistake to tell her father their secrets. Scenes felt forced and fake to me. The most interesting character is Jack, the crazy teenager whose heart is broken after his love has abandoned him. He brings some much needed motion to the plot and tension to the cluster of characters. To be honest, the ending is actually pretty great and probably saved the book for me from a much lower rating.

Sadly, Deep Betrayal didn't sweep me away and I'm not sure if I will continue with the rest of the series.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

You can find out more about the author at annegreenwoodbrown.com and follow her on Twitter @AnneGBrown

Read more reviews by Kimberly at thewindypages.com and follow her on Twitter @thewindypages

18 December, 2013

Pawn - Review

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, Book 1) by Aimee Carter
Publication date: 26 November 2013 by Harlequin Teen
ISBN 10/13: 0373210558 | 9780373210558

Category: Young Adult Dystopia
Keywords: Switched, Masks, Government, Strategy
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Audiobook
Source: Netgalley

Kimberly's review:

Kitty Doe is an orphan in this harsh world. She lives in a house with other kids, all under age until they take their test. This test will define how important they are to society, and how long their life will last. When Kitty comes away with a III, she knows her life will change forever. She is being sent to a far away city, away from her boyfriend Benjy and will probably never see anyone here again. But before anything can happen, Kitty is kidnapped and Masked, to look like Lila Hart, the daughter of one the most important families in the government. The real Lila is dead, and Kitty must impersonate Lila to survive. But at what cost?

I had high hopes for Pawn as I loved Carter's series The Goddess Test. Maybe I'm just tired of dystopian series. Or maybe there are so many out there that nothing really shocks me anymore. Sadly, this book didn't live up to my expectations.

Kitty is in an impossible situation and while I wanted to like her and root for her, I felt like there was something missing from her character. Nothing really stood out about her.

Kitty loves Benjy, her boyfriend. And we're told his quite a lot, especially early on in the book when she ripped away from him to be Masked. But I didn't see or feel Kitty's love for Benjy. There's a lot of tell, but little show. Benjy is not a present figure in the beginning of the book and we're going by Kitty's memories alone. Honestly, Benjy doesn't seem all that wonderful in those memories either. There was nothing that stands out about him or makes me want to root for him or them as a couple. He seems sort of bland. So I am not totally invested in her deep desire to find him and run away together. Even Lila's old fiance lacks charm and emotion. I'm thinking that there is supposed to be some kind of love triangle going on here, but honestly, I don't know any of these characters enough to really care who Kitty winds up with in the end.

The Hart family on the other hand, are ruthless, evil and openly backstabbing each other. I didn't feel like there was a lot of depth to any of them or complicated emotional motivation. I like evil villains, don't get me wrong. But I want them to be layered, morally gray and blurred. I want them to be just enough evil that you have to look twice. No one in the Hart family is like that. I'm pretty sure they could all wear top hats, evil mustaches and tie damsels to train tracks.

That said, the plot is pretty interesting. No one is safe from danger and there are some cool twists that kept it interesting. But I didn't really care about the characters, so everything felt detached. It's an interesting world, especially the part about Elsewhere, and a deep sense of danger and death looms heavily over the story.

Overall, Pawn left me dissatisfied. But for fans who can't get enough of dystopian YA literature, I think they'll find promise in the beginning to this new series.

Find out more about the author at aimeecarter.com and follow her on Twitter @aimee_carter.

You can find more reviews by Kimberly at thewindypages.com and follow her on Twitter @thewindypages.

13 December, 2013

Kindle Deals

Hey, everyone! Just a quick roundup of some good Kindle book sales happening right now. I don't know how long all of these will last, so get them while they're hot. Clicking on the title below will take you to the Amazon Kindle buying page for the book. We are Amazon affiliates but if you'd rather not click on our link, just look the book up on Amazon. These books may also be on sale on other ebook formats, so check those out if you don't own a Kindle.

$1.99 and under

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole $0.99
Erasing Time by CJ Hill $0.99
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness $1.99
Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison $1.99
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Heiber $1.99
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon $1.99
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris $1.99
The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise $1.99
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand $1.99
Crash by Nicole Williams $1.99
The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten $1.99

$2.99 and under

Legend by Marie Lu $2.49 - Love this series!
Enclave by Ann Aguirre - $2.99
Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi $2.99 - Great book!
Crewel by Gennifer Albin $2.99
Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout $2.99
Scarlet by AC Gaugen $2.99
Also Known As by Robin Benway $2.99
Lauren Conrad Beauty by Lauren Conrad $2.99
Unravel Me by Tehereh Mafi $2.99
School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani $2.99
Cursed by Jennifer Armentrout $2.99

$3.99 and under

Storm by Brigid Kemmerer $3.82
Divergent by Veronica Roth $3.99
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green $3.99 - I still need to read this but great price.
The Host by Stephanie Meyer $3.99
Angelfall by Susan Ee $3.99
The World After by Susan Ee $3.99
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller $3.99

$4.00 and up

Burned by Ellen Hopkins $4.37
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas $4.39 - Love this one!
City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare $4.73
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson $4.99
Everneath by Brodi Ashton $4.99
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater $5.34
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey $5.49
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzann Collins $14.99

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

09 December, 2013

Poison Princess - Review

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
Publication date: 2 Nov 2012 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 10/13: 1442436646 | 9781442436640

Click to find more 5 star reviews

Category: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Keywords: Tarot, Apocalypse, War
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook
Source: ARC

Kimberly's Review:

Stay Up All Night.
And that's just what I did.

Eve has visions that she can't understand, and doesn't want to. After being shut away last summer in a mental institution, she is happy to return to school and normal life: her best friend, Mel and her boyfriend Bran. She's popular, pretty and well liked. In rolls Jackson. From the wrong side of town, he looks upon Eve as a pretty rich spoiled brat. Of course they don't get along. Of course he's ridiculously hot.

Leading up to the days of the Apocalypse, we glimpse a look at Eve's life. And once The Flash happens, it all changes. For one, most people have been wiped out, leaving the world without water, without food. And in rides Jackson, warning Eve and her mom, that an army is headed their way, and that they don't want to be in the path when they get there. On the run in a hostile world, Eve must find her Grandmother, and Jackson is sworn to get her there. But not even he knows Eve's true nature. War is brewing between twenty-two kids who have special powers, and there will only be one survivor.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I adored this book. At first, it's a teen book about high school and boys. Then, the Flash and it becomes a Apocalypse book with paranormal elements, boiling chemistry and a fight for life. It is my first Kresley Cole book and won't be my last. I went out the next day to buy book two, Endless Knight, so I wouldn't have to stop reading!

Jackson is one of my favorite characters. He's rough around the edges, typical alpha male. He's complicated, coming from a poor and abusive background and really doesn't say or do the right thing most of the time. Flawed hero worship here I come. Oh and did I mention Jackson speaks French? Sprinkled in the book are French words and phrases, elevating him to hot guy with an accent and speaks a second language. Be. Still. My. Heart.

Eve was getting on my nerves at the beginning, but she quickly grew on me. Her character arc is slow but feels organic, coming into her own powers at her own pace. Long gone is the bratty cheerleader. I really liked how normal she seemed. She's a typical teenager, thinking about losing her virginity to her stable yet clueless boyfriend, Bran. And like any teenager I know, she's worried about it. She's not sure, changes her mind, changes it back. I liked how real that made her, that this was a big decision for her. Their chemistry is off the charts and as this is written by Cole, famous paranormal romance writer, I expected no less.

I was surprised by how much heat was in this YA novel, and pleasantly happy that the emotional and sexual chemistry was so strong. It always seems weird to me when books play that down. Don't you remember 17? Raging hormones, people.

Overall, the book is an exceptionally fun wild ride. It's very creative, the twenty two kids being Major Arcana cards--Tower, Devil, Empress, Death, etc. It made for some really interesting scenes between the characters, and especially Jackson, who is not a Major Arcana.

I can't say good enough things about this book. I am currently reading book two. I can't get enough. Oh, and I have gone back and re-read my favorite parts.

Yeah. I got it bad for ole Jack.

Find out more about the author at www.thearcanachronicles.com and follow her on Twitter @kresleycole.

You can find more of Kimberly's reviews at www.thewindypages.com and follow her on Twitter @thewindypages.

03 December, 2013

#Nerdlution begins now

For more info about #nerdlution, visit christopherlehman.wordpress.com

I will admit, I'm pretty shabby at keeping up with challenges, but I'm great at signing up for them! Here's hoping I can form a habit by engaging in these activities every day for 50 days.

Today I did way more than 30 minutes of cleaning. I reorganized some hall closets, which of course made messes in other areas, which I also had to clean up. I did 3 out of 4 closets, and a shelf. It too all day, though.

Marceline checked out my handiwork in the bathroom.

I read The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski for 30 minutes--really good so far! I can't wait for bedtime so I can read some more. For writing, I'm counting the 30 minutes I spent writing this post. Haha! 

I am still knitting away at my Chevron Tee project... it does not help that my other cat, John Carter, has a yarn addiction and is not afraid to yank the whole project right out of my hands while I'm working on it :(

John Carter sitting in my mother-in-law's Christmas gift bag. What a jerk.

Lastly, I did my 27 minutes of yoga (I only have 27 minutes of a routine memorized, and I do them while listening to episodes of Endeavour). I actually did the same 4 times last week, which is a record for me, so hey. Head start on forming a habit!

Well, day one is over -- on to the next challenge day.

Join the Nerdlution here!

30 November, 2013

This Holiday, I Pledge to Give Books

Thanks to Thuy over at Nite Lite Book Reviews for blogging about the Chronicle Give Books campaign. For every #GiveBooks tweet, pin, and online signature, they will be donating a book to a child in need through First Book. The goal is to donate 10,000 books by December 15. I've been tweeting #GiveBooks as much as possible and hope you'll help spread the word, too. 

You can tweet the following:

This holiday, I pledge to GiveBooks! Take the @ChronicleBooks @FirstBook pledge at http://ow.ly/ptMuP or RT to be counted! #GiveBooks

Click here to take the pledge, and please spread the word! 
and stay tuned for more posts as we recommend our favorite gifts for the season.

29 November, 2013

Champion - Review

Champion by Marie Lu
Publication date: 5 Nov 2013 by Putnam Juvenile
ISBN 10/13: 0399256776 | 9780399256776

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Dystopia
Format: Hardcover, Audiobook
Keywords: Freedom, Choice, Dystopia, Love, War
Source: Bought

Kimberly's review:

June and Day struggle to find their places in their new roles. They haven't spoken to each other since their last goodbye. But all of that will change when new threats swarm around their homes, engulfing them in a war that is now on their doorstep. Tensions mount as June and Day try to keep what is important to them safe, but sacrifice knows no bounds and June and Day may give up more than they ever thought possible.

I have been at the edge of my seat since Prodigy left off. June and Day continue to do what they feel is right and each sets off on their own path, sadly away from each other. That is until the war becomes inevitable. Old familiar faces emerge from the past, and all of the secondary characters have a role to play. Day is handsome, brave and striking in his severe determination to save his brother and do what's right. I love his heroism, even when he's almost ready to collapse. June is still smart, conflicted and can be seen as cold. But in this book, I saw more of a girl, more emotion, more feeling, more struggles, especially with her feelings towards her brother's killer.

Champion is fast paced, pulls you in and breaks your heart. I loved every second of it. June and Day cement themselves into favorite characters for me. Lu does a great job keeping everyone guessing the plot, throwing twists in there that tighten the noose around their necks, catching the reader's breath and begging for one more chapter.

I did re-read certain parts of the book again and again, especially the ending, after I had finished it. It. Just. Stays. With. You.

Overall, a solid, exciting ending to a favorite series.

Find out more about the author at marielu.org and follow her on Twitter @marie_lu.

Find more reviews by Kimberly at The Windy Pages and follow her @thewindypages.

27 November, 2013

Afterparty - First Three Chapters & Giveaway (Intl, ends Dec 3)

I hope you're all having a Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post to tell you all about my friend Ann Redisch Stampler's upcoming book, Afterparty.

Check below for info about the book, the first three chapters, and a signed ARC giveaway!

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
Publication date: 7 January 2014 by Simon Pulse
ISBN 10/13: 1442423242 | 9781442423244

About Afterparty

A toxic friendship takes a dangerous turn in this riveting novel from the author of Where It Began.

Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother—whose name her dad won’t even say out loud. That’s why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her…and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she’s everything Emma isn’t.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It’s more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, a bash where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop...

About the Author
Ann Stampler was the mild mannered author of literary picture books when she broke out, tore off her tasteful string of pearls, and started writing edgy, contemporary young adult novels set in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and writer’s-helper rescue dog – without whose compelling distraction she would have no doubt penned dozens of novels by now.

Follow her on Twitter @annstampler | Facebook

The Writing Life blog | Novel in the Oven blog

Add the book on Goodreads | Follow the author on Goodreads | Pinterest

Check out the first three chapters here:

Enter below to win a signed ARC of Afterparty -- open internationally, ends Dec 3, 2013

a Rafflecopter giveaway

21 November, 2013

Getting the Words Out (1)

I use Grammarly's plagiarism check because I love theater, but I hate blogger drama.
Sponsored Post

Over the years,  I've felt like I consistently get worse and worse at writing reviews. Part of it is fear, much of it irrational. What if no one agrees with my opinions; worse yet, what if no one bothers to read it? These can be paralyzing thoughts for writers of any kind. Another contributor to this paralysis is disorganization. I mean, I'd like to write a review, but have you seen the pile of books I have yet to read, let alone the pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink, just begging to be washed?

Yet another factor is the sinking feeling that it's all been said before, that all you're really doing is stringing clichés together until they form something that appears to fill up a screen. Let's face it, a five-sentence paragraph looks gratifyingly long on a smartphone; if you manage to make it to five paragraphs, you're pretty much golden! Then you look back and realize that while you managed to fill a page, you managed to do it without much sense, without saying what you truly meant to say. Yet another cycle of self-doubt triggers and you end up back at first draft stage.

In an effort to help myself out of this no-review rut, I've come up with this short set of rules to help me combat fear, disorganization, forgetfulness, and general negativity. I'm sharing them with you in case you, too, need a little help to get the words out of your head and into public view.

1. Write with a goal in mind. This isn't just the word count or paragraph quota; I'm going to write out my goals for each review, like so:

  • tell everyone I really enjoyed the book, or not 
  • respond to story elements
  • share some images, like the cover and author photo 
  • address any problems others might have with believability, super-powers, insta-love, and other reader pet peeves

2. Take notes as I read. I keep meaning to do this, but I'm really going to this time--I even put a little notebook in my purse, with a pen tied to it, so I have no excuse. It will be interesting to see if I can form this habit. I will be noting major story elements: 

  • plot
  • setting
  • characters
  • tone
  • theme
  • conflict

as well as noting my reactions to the story.

3. Freewrite first, edit later. Part of my problem is that I'm more comfortable editing than writing. I'm just going to write until the end, then stop--before going back and correcting errors or rewriting.

4. Let go of my expectations. Why worry who's going to read it and what they will think? No one will read it or think anything of it unless I write it in the first place. It's one thing if I'm writing for The LA Times (I'm not) and another if I'm writing more for my friends and others who look to me for book recommendations. I need to stop judging myself, too. I recently went to a press junket with some mommy bloggers (who are fabulous, by the way!), and I remember thinking, Wow--that's how grown-ups do it. I've been doing it wrong this whole time; might as well give up!

I think I've been holding myself to a really high, really unrealistic standard, and that's pressure I don't need to put on myself. I just need to be fair, expressive, and honest when I write, and that will be good enough. I don't need to spend 3 hours fine-tuning something that's only 1,000 words long; instead, I could use that time to make a dent in the old to-be-read pile.

I hope this new review regimen will help me out of the no-review blues. Let me know if it helps you, too! I plan to blog once a month about writing and communication, so if you have any burning topics you would like me to write about, please leave a comment.

14 November, 2013

The Book Thief opens Nov 15 (Intl Giveaway ends Nov 30)

EDIT: While November 15 is the official release day in the US, some theaters will not get the film until November 27. I believe it's because it's considered a small art-house film, and an opening in a theatre that will be engulfed by Catching Fire viewers next week is probably a bad idea. Be patient! Movie listings typically update around Tue-Wed so check your local box office weekly. 

In theaters November 15

Based on the beloved bestselling book, THE BOOK THIEF tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany.

Starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch

Directed by Brian Percival

Produced by Karen Rosenfelt, Ken Blancato

Screenplay by Michael Petroni, based upon the novel by Markus Zusak

If you live outside the US, make sure you scroll all the way down and fill out the Rafflecopter widget to win a paperback copy of The Book Thief!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | #TheBookThief

I recently had the privilege of meeting the author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, as well as the director, Brian Percival (Downton Abbey), who brought it to the big screen. Since the book was published in Australia in 2005 (2006 in the US), it has been on the New York Times Best Seller list on and off for 7 years, has garnered numerous awards, and has sold over 9 million copies in thirty languages all over the world. The film adaptation opens in wide release in the United States on November 15, 2013.

The screenplay, penned by Michael Petroni (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) had been in existence for some time. Percival told us how he came to be involved with The Book Thief:

I was in the right place at the right time. I read the screenplay, and I’d never ever read anything like it. I wasn’t--shamefully--I wasn’t aware of the book. I stayed up really late. I was shooting something else, and I stayed up really late one night and then finished at 1:30 in the morning and just e-mailed off to Los Angeles and said, “You know, if I don’t do anything else in my life, I’ve got to make this film.”

Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger

Part of the hold-up was the casting of Liesel, the titular Book Thief. Over 1,000 audition tapes were considered before they settled on newcomer Sophie Nélisse. Zusak had seen her in the film Monsieur Lazhar, and mentioned her as a possible candidate. Percival talked about watching her audition:

It was on an iPhone or something. Really--it was really basic... I remember getting it downloaded and seeing it, and it was like she was in her backyard in Montreal somewhere and there was just something about this kid that was like, “Wow, she had this spirit.”  Funny, you know, she reminded me of a very young Madonna, because there was this--you know, she jumps out of the screen at you as a twelve year old.

Rudy (Nico Liersch) and Mama (Emily Watson) listen to Liesel's story

Asked whether the intent of the period piece was to make younger people aware of Nazi Germany, Zusak spoke about the intent of the project from his point of view as the book's author. He remarked upon how the book came to life when he let go of his trepidations about how the audience would accept it, and just wrote what he wanted to write about. Zusak quipped:

I thought this would be my least successful book because I imagined people... I imagined maybe someone liking it and then trying to convince one of their friends to read it, and the friend says, “What’s it about?” And, you know, what do you do?  You’ve got to say, “Well, it’s set in Nazi Germany.  It’s narrated by Death. Everybody dies, and it’s 580 pages long.  You’ll love it.”

Liesel reads to Max (Ben Schnetzer)

Percival first talked about how he approached Sophie with the research she had to do for her role. 

I gave her a list of things to read and things to watch from that era so that she knew about it because I find that, particularly teenagers, you don’t really tell them what to do.  It’s best that they find out for themselves.  You can suggest things, but don’t say, “Do this.  Do that.”  Forget it, you’re on a losing streak straight away.

The Book Thief breaks in

While banking on the modern teen's tendency to investigate things they may find unfamiliar, Percival also talked about the tone and focus of the film:

If I’d made a Holocaust movie, which was never the intention, probably a generation of kids would not go and see it, because they’d say, well, what Markus says about the book... But if they’re drawn to a story about positivity and human nature and the human spirit and watch that and take something away from it and learn something... then I sort of feel like I’ve done my job in bringing that to a wider audience.

In the film, Percival contrasts so many elements to bring about emotional responses: Liesel singing an anti-Semitic song in an angelic choir and bombs falling to beautiful music (the music is scored by John Williams, in a rare break from scoring Steven Spielberg's films). He also spoke about how they filmed the book-burning scene, where the town square is festooned in swastikas and the townspeople fervently sing "Deutschlandlied", both elements banned in Germany since 1946. There were about 450 extras, and an almost all-German crew, with tears running down their faces:

I asked them to sing it with as much belief and pride as they could, if that makes sense. It’s a horrible thing to ask, but for me to convey a reality that’s what we had to do, because that’s what the people did at the time... That was really quite touching, quite an emotional moment because... these people had been born in the ‘70s.  Well, how can you hold them responsible for something?  But, they felt that guilt for what their nation had been responsible for.

I hope The Book Thief will move you whether you watch it or read it, as it has myself and so many others.

You can find out more about it at the official website: www.thebookthiefmovie.com
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07 November, 2013

The Book Thief - Limited Release Nov 8 (US Giveaway ends Nov 14)

So I've been agonizing over how to begin posting about The Book Thief movie, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, and I've come to the realization that I just need to spit it right out. Are you ready for it?

This happened. That's me at the back, on the left side, in the navy peacoat, with some lovely bloggers at The Four Seasons in Los Angeles.

Who is that guy?

No, not David Yenoki from Chuffed. The other guy.

It's ok if you're not sure--the young woman in front, who plays the title character in the film, didn't know who he was either when she was first told that she got the lead part in The Book Thief. She admitted, "I didn't know at the beginning, who he was." She later watched Shine, which led her to believe that "apparently, he could act... He was just amazing." Boy, is he ever.

Last week, I was lucky enough to be part of a blogger round-table with newcomer Sophie Nélisse and Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush. The 13-year-old Québécoise plays Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who is sent to live with foster parents in a town called Molching just before the second World War; Rush plays her adoptive father, "Papa" Hans Hubermann (Emily Watson, who plays his wife, Rosa, was not at the press event). Rush and Nélisse had the whole group in stitches for the entire interview. The rapport between the two stars was obvious from the moment they walked in the room, and it's that natural ease and understanding that makes their on-screen relationship work so well. 

"This is a natural, beautiful gift, great emotional sensitivity," said Rush, gesturing to the young girl beside him. He talked about having seen her acting at age ten in the Canadian feature film Monsieur Lazhar. "It's effortless, it's graceful, it's unpredictable... it's got mystery. You sense inner secrets and thoughts," he went on. "I didn't really have to act, I just reacted." Rush was asked whether being a father himself informed his performance, and he agreed that it did. "I haven't told you this, but I was imagining you didn't even look like Sophie," he teased, reminiscing about how his daughter had been at around the same age. Nélisse gave as good as she got, though, joking "He was like my dad... and I just, I never told you, but when I look at you, I don't see your face any more..." Laughter ensued.

Nélisse talked about how much she and Rush would goof around, even during such serious scenes as the one above, where Papa comes home from the war. Rush mentioned a rehearsal during which Papa is making Liesel promise not to say a word to anyone about Max, the young Jewish man they are hiding in their basement. "I’d be going, 'Wow, she just nailed that like you wouldn’t believe.'  And then, she’d go... [he makes a face and here we all erupted into laughs] Very Stanislavski but kind of also part Lucille Ball."

The main character, Liesel, begins the story as an illiterate, but with Papa's help grows to love books. As scarce as everything is in wartime, she begins to "borrow" them whenever she can. When asked if she'd ever stolen anything, Nélisse dissembled a bit, laughing. She had stolen some books for a gift, but later found out to her relief that her mother had been in on the plan and had paid the bookshop. "You know, I was just proud saying that even if they’d arrest me, I could just go, 'Well, I’m sorry. I’m trying to get into character here.' But at the same time I was happy that she paid for them because I don’t steal." Rush in turn confessed, "I took out this big volume of Cole Porter lyrics, every lyric he ever wrote, and I didn’t take it back on the due date. So, I steal Cole Porter lyrics. That’s how maverick I am."

In conjunction with freedom and family, friendship is one of the underlying themes that makes The Book Thief such a compelling movie. Liesel becomes good friends not only with Max, but also with her neighbor, the sweet and always loyal Rudy. When asked about what she learned about friendship in the movie, Nélisse said, "I think you just have friends that won’t change. I have good friends, but the really good ones I have three. And I know those friends won’t change if I ever get famous or if I ever get super popular."

It was a huge honor to be included in this intimate Q&A with the stars, as well as the director and author of The Book Thief. The film has a limited release in the United States on Nov. 8, and opens to a wider audience on Nov. 15. I already have plans to go and see it again on Saturday at Arclight Hollywood, and I'm sure that won't be my last in-theatre viewing.

I'll be doing another post with more about our round table with the director, Brian Percival (Downton Abbey), and the author of the book on which the movie is based, Markus Zusak (I am the Messenger).

Until then, watch the trailer and enter to win a signed paperback copy of The Book Thief as well as a $15 Fandango gift card (US only, ends November 14).

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