November 10, 2015

Book Review | A Whole New World

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Aladdin has always been one of my favorite Disney movies. There is even an old home movie of me at age 2 or 3 standing in front of the TV singing the entirety of “A Whole New World” (and nailing almost all the words). Something about the land of Agrabah has held a special place in my heart of the years, so I was beyond excited when I learned about this book.

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell is the first book in the Twisted Tale trilogy, stories which are inspired by classic Disney movies. This particular novel poses the question: What would happen if Jafar got the lamp?

The novel starts off pretty close to how the animated film starts. The dialogue is pretty much all lifted from the film, but we get to learn a bit more about Agrabah  and what it is like for Aladdin to be growing up in this environment. We then meet Jasmine, Aladdin is arrested and “rescued” by Jafar who takes him to the Cave of Wonders. And this is where the Twisted Tale kicks off. As Aladdin tries to escape the collapsing Cave of Wonders he asks Jafar for help getting out. Jafar asks for him to give him the lamp, which Aladdin does, before Jafar kicks Aladdin and he falls and is trapped in the cave. We all know that in the movie Abu the monkey stole the lamp back from Jafar, but in this version, Jafar is victorious in getting his hands on it and is quick to take over the kingdom.

I thought this would kind of like that Twisted musical that Starkid has on YouTube (which is hilarious and I recommend checking it out, unless you don’t like swearing or things that might ruin your childhood, in which case you might not like it).  Unfortunately a lot of the humor and characters were flat.

The Genie is not funny. I know a huge part of his humor comes from his character being voiced by Robin Williams, but you would have thought that the author would have carried over some of his humor, especially in this darker situation with Jafar being in charge. That seems more in character for him. Sadly, he was just a sad blue guy who popped into Jasmine’s parts of the story on occasion.

Aladdin and Jasmine were relatively the same as their iconic movie counterparts, although it felt like they needed a little extra something. There were just a few scenes where they felt flat, but for the most part they were good.

One thing I will say about this book is that it offered a look into Aladdin’s life as a “street rat.” I found the different layers of the poor people in Agrabah to be interesting. There was like a whole class system of thieves, with Aladdin at the top of the system (stealing only what was necessary to get by) and those who kill and steal for sport/as a career at the very bottom. We have a lot moments where this system is explored and how Jasmine discovers this later on when they are trying to defeat Jafar.

Overall, I would give this book about a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it was just okay. There are two more books in this series for Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, two of my other favorite Disney movies so I am holding out hope that those are good.

Have any of you read this book or the others in the Twisted Tale series? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

October 13, 2015

Quotes

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I’ve always collected things. Chocolate Frog cards, coins with the states printed on the back, souvenir cups from the movie theater, and quotes.

It’s amazing how a single strand of words can speak to you on a visceral level.

I used to carry around a notebook in my purse that had my favorite quotes in it, adding on whenever I found a new one. Eventually the notebook filled up, and I wanted another place to display my collection of words. There was a space above my desk in my dorm room that seemed really bare so I decided to fill it with quotes that were funny, thoughtful, and inspirational.

There are so many of those sentences and paragraphs that I can relate to, but there is one I’ve found recently that seems to really encapsulate me and my passion for writing:

 

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”

- Issac Asimov

 

I can relate to this so much. I feel like I was born to write, to share stories, to make something out of words. When I have writer’s block, or I don’t feel like I have time to write, I feel like I am drowning, and it’s the worst feeling ever.

Are there any other writers out there who feel that same way? Let me know.

Also, do you have a favorite quote? Feel free to share

Thanks for reading!

September 9, 2015

Revisiting Old Ideas

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It’s funny as a writer when you look back at when you first start a story and how it’s gone a different route than you were expecting.

Take one I am working on right now. It was the first novel I ever actually started writing. I’ve always wanted to be an author, always dabbled here and there with different story ideas, but at the age of 16, this one actually stuck.

The original story was going to be sappy, cliché, your typical young adult contemporary that would be considered a light, guilty pleasure read, nothing groundbreaking.

Now here I am, 21, already finished with a different novel and making great headway with a second, and this idea decides to appear once again, only it has taken a new turn.

The characters for the most part are the same, with the exception of two characters whose names have been changed. The setting is the same, the situations are more or less the same. But it’s a totally different story, a totally different angle. Because what I thought was important (in life and in a novel) are not the same now as they were 5 years ago.

It’s been fun to revisit this old idea, picking out what scenes to carry over and which to say good-bye to. And although some of the descriptions and dialogue are really cringy to read, it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come with my writing.

Remember to look back at your old works. Who knows? They might have just needed a little more time to think about where they were going.

August 6, 2015

Summer Beach Reads 2015

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Hey y’all! I just posted a new video to my YouTube channel!

I filmed this back in July when my family went to the beach. With school starting back up again soon I’m really missing the sand and the sun and how perfect that weekend was, especially because it meant lots of time for reading. These are some of the books I took with me and that I think are perfect pool/beach books.

What books do you like to read at the beach? Let me know :)

Thanks for reading!

Love always,

Lauren

August 5, 2015

Favorite Book Covers

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I am the type of person who gets really excited when I finish a great book and feel like I need to share its amazing-ness with the world. However, I never really had any close friends who were as enthusiastic about reading as I was when I was growing up. They would listen politely as I talked about this book I thought they would enjoy, only for them to reply with, “Sounds interesting” or “That’s nice” without another thought.

One of my best friends has been a great book buddy. We have the same tastes and would share books and discuss the things we liked in each one back in our high school days.

While I love that bond, I wanted to talk with more people about the novels I was reading, the worlds I was exploring, and hopefully learn of stories that would become new favorites.

Then last April I stumbled across this wonderful little community that I didn’t know existed on the Internet.

That community was BookTube.

Here were people sharing their opinions on books and getting all hyped up over their respective fandoms. And something told me to give it a shot.

I did try to film a video back during Labor Day weekend last year (which was forever ago), but I got so nervous and camera shy that I put it to the side.

I’ve figured, “Okay, it’s a new year, time to give this another shot.”

So while I work on overcoming the camera shyness, here’s a quick little video of some of my favorite covers. I’m curious to know what your favorites are so please share them in the comments either here or in the comments on the video :)

 

 

Love always,
Lauren

August 5, 2015

All the Emotions

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So I recently finished my final edit of my first book (at least until I send it to an actual editor who will tell me whether it sucks or not). I am currently a mess of emotions. Excited. Relieved. And a little worried.

When I started this book, it wasn’t like all the other stories I had started before. This one really pulled me in. It was like the characters were real and that I was actually with them, following them around, hearing all their jokes, experiencing the events of the book with them. Especially with my main character. She spoke to me so clearly that it’s hard to imagine her not being a real person with real problems that needed to be fixed.

I have plenty of other ideas. In fact I’m working on my second book now (not a sequel, but features a few of the characters mentioned in Book One). But I wonder if I will ever feel like that again, have my entire world wrapped up in a character, a setting, a story…or is this a one-time thing?

I really hope not. Because that feeling was amazing. To be swept up in a world, to actually interact with the characters, see the things they were seeing, feel the things they were feeling…it’s addicting.

Are there any other writers out there who feel that way? I know there must be.

If you are writer (whether it be published, fan fiction, or for your own enjoyment) and have felt something similar, please leave a comment below. I would love to talk about it with you.

Have a great week, lovelies!

 

August 3, 2015

Classic Corner | Peter Pan

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Peter Pan was always one of my absolute favorite Disney cartoons growing up. The idea of flying out your window to a land free of responsibilities was so wonderful and though I knew it wasn’t really real, I spent many a night checking my window in the hopes that the boy who never grew up would stop by and whisk me away to see mermaids and fairies.

To be honest, that’s probably the reason I’m so in love with London. Six-year-old Lauren’s logic was that Peter Pan only visited London so our family needed to move there straight away before I grew too old.

peter pan front cover

So with my 21st birthday being this month on the 23rd, I decided to revisit Peter and Wendy and Tinkerbell. I read the original story before when I was younger, and I’ve seen a live recording of the play on a VHS at my Grammy’s house (ah, VHS tapes. Remember those?) so I know that it can be a bit darker, but that doesn’t stop this from being a great story. I mean, it’s a classic.

Along with the original story, I picked up my copy of The Little White Bird that I got last Christmas from my aunt which includes Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which further explain how Peter got to Neverland and formed the Lost Boys.

What’s your take on Peter Pan? Did you ever want to visit Neverland as well? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

(Also, the edition in the picture above is from Barnes and Noble and was only $10. Not a bad price for a pretty hardback.)

July 27, 2015

Band Geek Book Recommendations

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Music is a big part of my life. I started playing clarinet when I was ten years old all the way until my second year of college. You can’t spend nearly a decade of your life doing something without it affecting you, especially when six of those years were dedicated to marching band, the most nerdy and intense activity on the planet.

Music is also what led me to meet my best friends in the entire world. This can be said for any group/organization, of course, whether it be drama or lacrosse or what have you, but with music you are connected by something so unbelievably powerful.

Like all band geeks who are/were ever deeply involved within their band program, whether it be marching or concert only, I used to get very excited about all things band related. Even now I sometimes still do. Old habits are hard to break :)

The biggest thing I got excited for was when I stumbled across several marching band themed novels and poetry books targeted for young adults. As band camp is kicking off around this time, I thought today I would share with you a few of the books that I enjoyed back in my high school marching days.

 

Band Geek Love – Josie Bloss

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This is the very first YA marching book I ever saw. The title reached off the shelf and dragged me in.

Band Geek Love follows Ellie Snow, a senior who is the section leader of her band’s trumpet section. She is also a soloist for the upcoming season. Band is Ellie’s whole life; nothing can distract her from it. That is until a sophomore named Connor transfers to their school and joins Ellie’s section. Ellie fights her growing feelings for Connor to avoid any bad breakups and awkwardness in the section, but is it worth it if the price is denying herself a shot at love?

The sequel, Band Geeked Out, continues Ellie’s story and shows her struggles with deciding if she should go to the university close to home and study music, or go off and explore new things.

 

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek – Erin Dionne

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Elsie Wyatt was born to be a French horn player, just like her father and her grandfather. Wanting to one day be as great a player as her father, Elsie wants to attend a prestigious summer music camp, but in order to qualify she must broadened her musical repitore and join her school’s marching band. Elsie’s journey is not easy; she struggles with making friends, learning to play a mellophone, and not tripping over her feet, but as the season goes on she learns to have a bit of fun, and begins to wonder she should focus on being another family legacy or simply be Elise.

 

 

 

 

majorcrushMajor Crush – Jennifer Echols
Ex-majorette and pageant princess Virginia Sauter gets rid of the glitter and auditions to be drum major of her high school marching band. She wins the slot, but has to share with Drew, a boy whose family has held the drum major position for generations. The two do not see eye-to-eye about anything, but as they start to spend more and more time together, they realize that maybe they share more than just the title of drum major.

A friend lent this to me a few years ago. I planned to read it as a joke because it sounded super cheesy and hilarious, but it turned out to actually be pretty good once you get past the description.

*This particular book is no longer in print, but you can get it as an eBook.

 

The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren – Wendy Toliver
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Roxy desperately wishes she could get the cute guys in school to notice her, but being a band geek isn’t exactly the most alluring thing in high school. On her sixteenth birthday, Roxy’s grandmother reveals a secret: she is a siren. With a few notes on her flute, Roxy is able to snag dates with any guy she sets her sights on. But there are two rules if she wants to remain a siren: don’t tell anyone the secret and don’t fall in love. Keeping the secret is simple, but can Roxy really stop herself from falling in love?

 

 

 

Band Nerd series – DJ Corchin and Dan Dougherty

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Get ready for 152 pages of marching band stereotypes and general geeky goodness summed up in rhyme. DJ Corchin paints a great portrait of what it’s like to be in the band, whether you are in it now or were a member twenty years ago. Any band nerd will love it.

A third book was released in October 2014 entitled Band Nerds Confessions and Confusion, which no doubt contains even more silly anecdotes and quotes of general geekiness.

 

Three more band related books that I personally have not read, but do have on my eReader are Major Pain, Confessions of a Teenage Band Geek, and The Line series, all by Courtney Brandt. I don’t know too much about them apart from Confessions and The Line being about a girl on the drum line. I really want to start these soon as they appear to be quite quick reads that I could knock out in a day or two.

I hope my fellow band geeks enjoy this little list! Even if you were never in band, you should think about picking up one of these, if only to give you a look into what exactly makes band kids so amazing and wonderfully geeky ;)

July 25, 2015

Book Review | The Beast Within

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Hey there Literature Lovers! Today I’m reviewing The Beast Within.

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The Beast Within by Serena Valentino is a re-imagining of the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. It focuses on the Beast when he gets cursed and his transformation. In this particular story, the Prince doesn’t turn into his beastly form right away after the curse is placed upon him. Instead we see how he slowly evolves into the character we all know. We also get more of an opportunity to see him interact with the servants in the castle, as well as the people from the village.

This re-imagining touches on one of the plot holes from the 1991 animated movie: why the heck does no one in Belle’s village know about the castle? It’s not that far away, and surely they would have remembered that they used to have a prince, or at least the king and queen who had lived there? Why don’t they remember? Due to the curse and the prince’s slow transformation, we see the effects of the curse gradually take hold of the villagers, including Gaston, who was the Beast’s best friend when they were younger. We also have a moment where Beast sees Belle at a ball, but only the back of her head and only really notices her when she arrives at the palace to save her father because he was teasing Gaston for having a crush on her.

I don’t know how canon this particular story is in the Disney universe, but Disney Hyperion published it so it has to mean something, right? Or it could be a cash grab. The world may never know.

Overall I really enjoyed this story and I am looking forward to seeing what other “villians” will get their backstory told next.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read The Beast Within? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!