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

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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
Like the movie on Facebook
Follow @BookThiefMovie on Twitter
Tweet and Instagram #TheBookThief

Watch the trailer on YouTube
Check out the soundtrack on iTunes
Enter to win a copy of the book below (Intl, ends 11/30)

If you live outside the US, fill out the Rafflecopter widget below! (US folks, I already ran a giveaway for you and it ends 11/14/2013.)

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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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