Melody
Today I am thrilled to be part of Holly Schindler's Playing Hurt Blog Tour and if you could recall, I read and reviewed her debut novel A Blue So Dark awhile back and totally enjoyed it. I am currently reading her latest release, Playing Hurt, and I have got a feeling that this book would be another great emotional read. Without further ado, here is my interview with Holly:

1. Your debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, featured the heroine’s mother having schizophrenia. What made you decide to write on this issue and what kind of research did you have to do for this subject?

In A BLUE SO DARK, fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

More than I wanted to write about mental illness, what I really wanted to write about was creativity. I’ve just always been fascinated by how some people have minds that are wired to do something creative, and others aren’t—at ALL. Where does creativity spring from? What’s the source?

In some ways, a hallucination doesn’t really seem all that different from an artist’s “ah-ha!” moment—that vision of what a finished artistic product would look like. Both are products of the imagination, things only one person can see…Sometimes, you have to wonder where the line is between a creative genius and a person who suffers from a mental illness…That gray area between the two is really fascinating…

As far as research for the project, I really just immersed myself in reading—I even went through everything in the YA non-fiction section of my local library, so I could find out how schizophrenia had been presented factually to the YA readership. Once I’d read, I put it all away. I wanted my characters to drive the book—I didn’t want it to be a factual description of a mental illness.

2. Onto some general topics: Which do you think is more important when writing a story? Great characters, or a great plot?

This question’s really asking whether I prefer literary (character-driven) or genre (plot-driven) fiction…I’m an old lit major, so I really do prefer the literary. If I’m intrigued by the characters—and by “intrigued,” I mean if they seem real to me…I don’t even have to necessarily like them—I’ll be propelled forward. I’ll continue to read even if the events of the book are relatively quiet.

(As an example of how I love and appreciate character-driven work: I really enjoyed watching the recent MILDRED PIERCE miniseries.)

3. Why do you write YA novels? What are the challenges of writing them? Also, have you ever thought of writing novels for adults?

When I first took the plunge into writing full-time, trying to snag my first book deal, I was ONLY writing novels for adults. To help pay some bills, I started teaching piano and guitar lessons out of my house. Interacting with teen and tween students one-on-one actually inspired me to try my hand at YA. (I thought those lessons were just going to help give me extra cash…I didn’t know they’d give me a new career direction!)

I think one of the challenges of YA is just breaking in. Some of the best authors out there are writing YA—it’s really hard to get that toe in the door (as it is with any genre, really)…

My first middle grade is in development as well, and is set to be released by Dial in 2012…and I’m in the midst of working on an adult novel right now!

4. What does it take to be a successful author?

Persistence. Patience. More persistence. Being an author means finding yourself faced with one struggle after another. First, it’s getting your story down on paper. Then finding an agent. Finding an editor. Completing revisions for your publishing house. Establishing a readership. Growing your readership. Writing’s not like winning the lottery. Writing’s more like climbing a mountain, one step followed by another…

5. Do you have any favorite books and who are your favorite authors?

Right now, I’m on this local color kick. I love anything with a real sense of atmosphere, of place—that goes for my current favorite songs (“Turning Home” by David Nail or “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown), and the books I’m now gravitating toward. Elin Hilderbrand has such a fantastic sense of place in her work. Her setting (Nantucket) is truly a character in and of itself.

6. Could you tell us a little more about your latest release, PLAYING HURT?

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

7. Last but not least, do you have any experiences on your writing process which you’d like to share with your readers?

I filmed a tip on drafting that my readers have found helpful…and I’ll be posting more writing tips soon…Follow along at hollyschindler.blogspot.com or subscribe to my YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/hollyschindler




Holly on Twitter: @holly_schindler

She also blogs with other fellow YA authors at YA Outside the Lines: http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/ and have just started a group blog for middle grade authors at Smack Dab in the Middle: http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/

Melody
ISBN-13: 9780451232687
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Published: March 2011
336 pgs
Source: Personal Library




There's this famous saying that we can't judge a book by its cover, still I feel it is essential to have an eye-catching cover especially when the author is new and/or that we've not heard of the book. Falling Under is such a case for me.

The story opens with an intriguing scene of a seventeen-year-old Theia Alderson witnessing a burning man falling from the sky. Wishing it was a dream, she tries to banish the image out of her mind but it seems like the young man wouldn't want her to forget it as the next thing Theia knows, he appears in her school as a new student known as Haden Black. And since then, Theia began to dream more of this mysterious new guy in various places that always seems so strange and frightening to her. In her dreams, he is often dressed like he belonged in another era, and there are other times that there are a few grotesque figures dancing around them.

Despite the dreams and everything, Theia couldn't stay away from him just like the way he is with her. As much as Theia is intrigued by him, she is clueless when it comes to boys and relationship as her father controls her life ever since her mother passing when she was a child. Like a caged bird, Theia's life revolves around nothing but playing violin most of the times. It is only through her two best friends that Theia finds some happiness and her sanity. Meeting Haden not only rocks her world but will alter her life thereafter as he belongs in another realm and he wants them to be together no matter what the cost is.

Falling Under is an interesting YA paranormal but it reminds me a little of Twilight in the beginning of the story where the heroine meets the new guy in school. That said, Falling Under is nothing like the popular vampire saga as the premise and the world building is so different. For starters, there isn't a love triangle here. And, I didn't know what Haden is until towards the middle of the book and though it has my curiosity piqued, it also left me a little frustrated not knowing what he was from the beginning.

The characterisations are fine in my opinion, however there are times I wish the characters for Theia and Haden are more developed just like the way Theia is with her two best friends. As much as I could feel the attraction between the hero and the heroine, somehow deep in my heart I questioned about their love because it felt a bit rushed to me and that one party is willing to sacrifice for another given the time span they knew each other. But then again, chemistry is a funny thing isn't it. As of writing this, I am still not sure how I should feel about this book; I just felt something is lacking and yet I couldn't explain what it is. Still, I would like to read Gwen Hayes' books in the near future.
Melody
This will be the last of my Orchid series. I hope you've enjoyed this series; starting next week I'll be posting some of the pictures my husband took when he was in Austin, Texas and St. Paul, Minnesota during his business trip in March.

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!
Melody

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

I just started reading Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler after finishing reading Falling Under by Gwen Hayes today (review forthcoming). I enjoyed reading Holly's previous novel, A Blue So Dark, so I can't wait to find out what is in store with her latest book. I will be posting my interview with Holly this coming Friday (April 29th) so I hope you will check it out!


I stare at myself, wishing I could have paused my life here. Wishing I could have dangled in the air forever, and never had to endure the excruciating pain that followed.




(Pg 17, Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler)

Melody

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. This month's Mailbox Monday is hosted by Passages to the Past.

Here's what I received last week:

1) Wither by Lauren DeStefano (bought from The Book Depository)

What books came into your house last week?

Melody
We watched Rio on Monday evening since my husband said he wanted to spend some quality time with us after being away in Austin, Texas and St. Paul, Minnesota for almost a month for his business trip and needless to say, we all missed him. He showed me some of the pictures he took while he was there and I have to say I was awed by some of the places he visited. I will share them on my Wordless Wednesday posts once he has the time to download them all (yes, he's still trying to recover from jet lag).

So onto the movie. If you have seen the trailer, you’d know that the main focus of this animation is about the birds. There is a baby male macaw lived in a jungle near the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and he has not learned how to fly yet. One day while watching his friends and neighbours singing and entertaining themselves, the smugglers came and caught some of them. Unfortunately, this baby macaw is one of them and they are being smuggled to Minnesota (can you see the coincidence? LOL). During the journey, the box that carried the baby macaw dropped off from the truck and a girl named Linda (Leslie Mann) found him. She named him Blu and decided to look after him.

Years passed and Linda became a bookstore owner. Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), which is now an adult macaw, still has not learned how to fly. Later a scientist from Brazil came to look for Linda, telling her that Blu is the last male of his species, and he wants to take him to Rio so that Blu can mate with a female in order to preserve the species. Linda refused to do so initially, but she agreed in the end for the good cause.

When Blu meets Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the female macaw, he is smitten by her beauty but the latter thinks of nothing but to escape from their prison. While she is thinking of ways to escape, the place is raided with the help of the smuggler’s cockatoo, Nigel, which posed as a sick bird and once again, Blu is forced to flee. However, bad luck continues to befall on Blu and this time around, he and Jewel are caught and chained together. There is a short history of why Nigel helps the smuggler but I’m not going there.

Blu and Jewel then managed to escape, but they couldn’t travel far since Blu doesn’t know how to fly. They met a family of toucans in a jungle and the father toucan brought them to a friend named Luiz (which is a bulldog) for he believes he could remove the chain that binds them together. Meanwhile, Linda and the scientist are frantically looking for the pair of macaws and they would do anything to find them, including sneaking into a Brazilian carnival and posed as dancers after learning from Fernando, a poor boy who is feeling remorse for helping the smugglers to smuggle the macaws.

The above scenarios are just parts of the film and there are far more exciting adventures in which I’d rather not spoil for you. I also enjoyed seeing how Blu’s and Jewel’s feelings towards each other changes (the same goes to Linda and the scientist) as the story progresses. On top of that, the musicals totally rock and I felt myself tapping my feet away whenever a Brazilian number is being played (the carnival scene is the most spectacular). What can I say? We had a great time watching this animation; it was so cute and hilarious. I’d go for the 3D effects if it doesn’t make me feeling giddy (I must be getting old!).
Melody
Melody
Based on Swedish film Let the Right One in and the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let Me In tells a story of a relationship between a 12-year-old boy and a vampire girl set in a New Mexico town during the early 80s. I had no prior knowledge of the story having not read the book first so you can well imagine the anticipation I have had for this film.

The film opens with a police detective questioning a disfigured man in a hospital room in which he is believed to be a suspect of a murder case which took place lately. The story then fast forwarded to two weeks earlier where we see 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) being lonely and unhappy as he is neglected by his divorcing parents. On top of that, he is constantly being bullied in school which added to his misery.

One evening, while sitting alone in the courtyard, he meets a girl called Abby (Chloë Moretz). Abby is his new neighbour and despite she had claimed that she and Owen couldn't be friends, their friendship blossoms the more they see each other at night in the courtyard. Aside from that, the story also proceeds to show a various of murder cases first performed by the suspect and later to show Abby kills should we know that she is a vampire (this is not a spoiler). Meanwhile, Owen and Abby got really close and this has set off Owen's emotions especially after knowing that she is a vampire.

I'd say that aside from being a horror story, Let Me In is also a terrific psychological story which is both haunting and touching in ways. The feelings and emotions between Owen and Abby are beautifully captured in the film, and what I think of their relationship is both frightening yet truly genuine at the same time. Although I felt that the entire film doesn't have that kind of eerie feel which many horror films are trying to create, still the setting and the atmosphere and knowing what Abby is capable of doing to anyone are suffice to make your hairs stand. And finally a side note, don't watch this with your younger children due to the bloody and some violent scenes.
Melody

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

Haden was out of my league, I knew that. If I was going to begin the kind of games boys and girls play in high school, I should have started with a nice boy who didn't make me feel like Little Red Riding Hood alone with a Big Bad Wolf.


(Pg 57, Falling Under by Gwen Hayes)

Melody

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. This month's Mailbox Monday is hosted by Passages to the Past.

Here's what I received last week:

1) Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon (bought from The Book Depository)


What books came into your house last week?

Melody
Melody
ISBN-13: 9780425224205
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Published: October 2008
320 pgs
Source: Personal Library



I came across Julie James’ second book, Practice Makes Perfect, last year and loved it (my review here). At that time, I thought that was Julie’s debut novel, not knowing that Just the Sexiest Man Alive is actually the one. Anyway, given the fact that I haven’t been reading a contemporary romance for a while, I decided that Just the Sexiest Man Alive would be my next read.

Taylor Donovan, the heroine of the book, is a brilliant lawyer and she is very much confident that the current sexual harassment case she’s undertaking would be a winner. She took pride in her job, thus when her superior assigns her to coach Jason Andrews, People’s Sexist Man Alive, for his role in his next blockbuster legal thriller, she isn’t too thrilled herself. She thought she has better cases to work on instead of helping him to prep for the courtroom drama for his movie; and it doesn’t faze her even if Jason happens to be the hottest Hollywood heartthrob and not to mention a very good-looking man too.

When Taylor and Jason first met each other, sparks fly but it wasn’t the love-at-first-sight kind given that Jason has left a bad impression on her when he didn’t show up for their first meeting. Jason, on the other hand, finds her intriguing for he has never met any woman like her especially when she didn’t appear to be smitten by his charms, unlike the other women he met and dated. As they began to work together and seeing more of each other, they see something in each other in which they have never seen before but then is it too much to ask for love and commitment from a famous celebrity?

I’ve to say Just the Sexiest Man Alive was an entertaining read and while I very much enjoyed reading Practice Makes Perfect, I find this novel paled in comparison with the former though Julie James maintains her witty prose which I find a delight to read. However, I was not so impressed with the hero as I find him immature at times, and some of his behaviour just irked me though I knew they are intentional implemented by the author. Taylor, on the other hand, impressed me a lot and I simply liked her principles and the way she handles things. All in all, Just the Sexiest Man Alive was just an OK read to me. There are a few clichéd moments but suffice it to say they are enough to capture my attention.
Melody

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:


  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

  • Please avoid spoilers!

She had just gone on a great first date with a handsome inernational movie star, and she thought something was missing. But she couldn't deny it, something had indeed been lacking in their date.

Because not a single kiss with Scott Casey had held a candle to her one almost-kiss with Jason.



(Pg 177-8, Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James)

Melody

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. This month's Mailbox Monday is hosted by Passages to the Past.

Here's what I received from a publisher last week:

1) Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale



What books came into your house last week?

Melody
ISBN-13: 9780451232144
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Published: February 2011
432 pgs
Source: Publisher



When the publisher contacted me awhile back and asked if I want to review Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald, I jumped at the chance because this novel is the sequel of Veil of Roses and I enjoyed that book so much!

Dreaming in English continues the story of Tamila Soroush, a spirited Iranian young woman who wants to break free of the confine life in her country and finding her dreams in America. In this novel, we finally see her finding her true love - an American man named Ike Hanson; but as in life in general, there are always obstacles and challenges finding their ways into our life. In Tami's case, it is getting the approval of his parents (whom they think she's marrying Ike for a reason), meeting face-to-face with Ike's ex-girlfriend (whom she and Ike thought she'd never return to Tucson) and then comes the biggest obstacle - to gain her U.S. residency through an immigration interview.

I find myself rooting for Tami all the way while reading this novel. She is a likeable character and though she is not an outspoken person (due to the culture and her family tradition), she definitely has dreams and she is not afraid to fight for it given the circumstances.

While Dreaming in English is a fiction of a young woman pursuing her dreams, it is also very much about learning more of Iranian culture through Tami's eyes. Through her point of view, she shares with her readers her lifestyle in America and how much it differs from Iran in which they would never allow the freedom of speech or any other things for that matter. Readers would also read about the joys and challenges of cross-cultural marriage and like any other marriage, this requires trust, effort (and sensitivity) from both parties no matter what race or religion a person is. Reading this book also gives me the satisfaction of learning other cultures and be appreciative of the life I have. Dreaming in English is also very much a story about faith and hope on top of the love and the cultural issue and that we need to have those more than blind luck to fulfil our dreams.
Melody
Here's my fourth post of the (Not So) Wordless Wednesday (iPhone Edition). . . I hope you enjoyed viewing them.


The latest angel poppet added to my collection. There is a switch at the bottom where you can turn on the light. So very cool!

My youngest daughter.

I love these Sanrio characters ever since I was a child. And no, I didn't play this because I knew I'd never be able to get them no matter how hard I try.

Doraemon at a game arcade.

Taken outside from a Japanese restaurant. Loved the setting and the atmosphere there.

Mermaid doll - A birthday gift to my eldest daughter from my 2nd brother-in-law.

Desserts we had the other day (I ordered the hazelnut avocado sundae which is on the far right.)

Japanese candy. Yummy!
Melody
Well I can't really remember when I first signed up on Facebook. It seems like everyone I knew have a facebook account and not wanting to feel left out, I became a member. I wasn't really active then, and at that time I thought it was kinda silly to update my status now and then for I don't think anyone would be interested to know what I'm doing or where I go.

However, that mindset changed after seeing many of my blogger friends updating and voicing their opinions there, and I began to think it is a great platform to play catch up with one another on top of those. But that is not all, I also see myself addicted to one of their games there: Puzzled Hearts (PH). I know there are a lot more games over there but I'm trying hard not to participate in too many as I know once you are in it, it is hard to get out (see how PH has done to me).

Anyway, here is a collage of pictures I collected from PH. The method is actually very simple: You send and receive hearts from your friends. Once you have completed collecting the hearts you want, a love quote will be unlocked and it would prompt you to another stage where you get to collect and solve jigsaw puzzles. Below are some of the pictures I collected after completing the jigsaw puzzles, and don't you think they are lovely?

Top Row (from L to R): Old Castle, Magic Garden and Foggy Forest.

Bottom Row (L to R): Dreamy Fairy, Fairy Tale and Iron Heart.

Melody

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

My understanding of the law is this: if I came to the U.S. on a tourist visa for the sole purpose of getting married in order to stay, that would be illegal. But if I came for a visit and just happened to fall in love - well, then it would be okay. The immigration people would let me stay.

The problem is, I did both.


(Pg 136-7, Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald)

Melody
It's April, and C.B. James' TBR Dare Challenge ended last Friday. When I first participated in this challenge, I was thinking that maybe this would help me to leave a dent of my TBR pile, unfortunately it wasn't the case. For starters, my reading has been going on very slow since the beginning of the year; plus my regular readers will know that my commute time has also been cut short after the relocation of my office and this has somewhat affected my reading since I spent most of the time reading while travelling to and from work. And, lo and behold, another reason being that I've been eyeing at those lovely newly acquisitions and I simply couldn't say no to them after hearing them calling my name, ha (I know, it's entirely my fault and there's no excuse for this). Thus, that leaves me to only finishing two books for this challenge:

Among the two books, I've to say while I enjoyed reading one, the other was a disappointment. Maybe I'm biased (I'm a huge fan of Mo Hayder), but I had had a far more enjoyable reading experience with Gone as compared to Aska Mochizuki's Spinning Tropics. I know it's unfair to compare them since they are of the different genre, I've to say the latter didn't leave up to my expectations. Though it has a chilling factor at some point, it failed to 'wow' me and I was just perplexed over the ending, oh well.

So did you participate in this challenge? If so, how are you doing?