Friday, August 22, 2014

Recap: Gayle Forman & Jamie Blackley Signing in Toronto!

Last Friday, August 15, I was able to attend Gayle Forman's book signing in Toronto promoting the movie If I Stay, which is based on her heartbreaking novel of the same name. The event took place in the evening at Indigo Yonge & Eglinton and Gayle was also joined by actor Jamie Blackley, who plays Adam in the film!

The event kicked off shortly after 7pm to loud applause and cheers when Gayle Forman and Jamie Blackley made their appearance on stage. Chandra from Indigo Teen moderated the event and asked the pair questions about themselves and If I Stay. I recorded the event, so here's a transcript of the Q&A portion before the book signing began:

Indigo Teen: One of the things I found when I was reading about the movie was that you had played guitar before but hadn't been in a band and then you recorded the songs? 

Jamie: Yeah, I mean I've played the guitar since I was about 12, but kind of never seriously. I had some lessons back home in London and then we did a bunch of band rehearsals when we got to Vancouver [where If I Stay was filmed].

Indigo Teen: If you had a musical patron saint... I know Gayle talks about it in the back of book about hers, but do you have one?

Jamie: Probably Ian Curtis from Joy Division.

Indigo Teen: That's an excellent choice. And Gayle, do you want to share your musical patron saint?

Gayle: Jonathon Richman. The Modern Lovers. Go look it up. Listen to some old songs. 

Indigo Teen: What was it like filming the movie? What drew you to the character? Was it the story? What made you sort of go, "I really want to be in this movie!"

Jamie: I was out of work for a very long time back home and then I got sent

Indigo Teen: [jokes] So you were desperate...

Jamie: Well, no. You got to let me finish the story. [audience laughs] I got sent the script and ignored it, thinking there's no point and I'm not going to get it anyway. And then, eventually, I did do it and I met Chloe, and it just felt like it would be really fun to do with a really cool bunch of people.

Indigo Teen: Gayle, how involved have you been with everything?

Gayle: I'm somewhat involved. I was executive producer, which could mean absolutely nothing, but in this case, because R.J. Cutler, the director, is really open to collaboration—he had his own amazing vision— I would get drafts of the script and he would call me with questions, like "What should Mia's house look like?", and I would send him pictures or ideas. I was also on set for a couple of weeks, and yeah, it was an experience.

Indigo Teen: We always hear when books are adapted that authors won't be choosing casts, that they don't have any control over anything, so I think it's sometimes a little comforting to hear that the director called you [with questions]. I know when it's your favourite book, you want it to be done right, and authors and actors, of course, want the story to be the best it can be. Was there anything particularly challenging?

Jamie: Making the love story real and palpable, I guess, and making sure people leave the theater with the same feeling they had when they finished the book.

Indigo Teen: On that note, how many boxes of tissues should we be bringing to the theater?

Gayle: I mean, do you cry at TV commercials? That time of the month? [audience laughs] It depends on your threshold. It depends on a lot of things... But definitely no eye makeup. When I watched the movie for the first time next to the director, I had to stuff my whole fist into my mouth to muffle the sobs.

Indigo Teen: So we should take a friend to hold their hand and lean on their shoulder, that kind of thing. Is there anything you'd like to say to those who came and waited to meet you?

Jamie: Thanks for waiting. Yeah, it's really nice of you.

Gayle: And I want to say thanks for waiting today, but also thanks for waiting these six years, because I know a lot you have been fans for a really long time, and you guys, believe it or not, you made this movie happen. They look at how many readers there are reading that book, and so, you can be happy to know this movie has happened because of you.

Indigo Teen: Alright, best fans, you're going to ask questions now. 

Fan Question: Was there any difficult qualities to portray on the screeen about Adam?

Jamie: I don't know about a characteristic, but maybe, the stuff in the ICU is probably quite difficult. It's not nice being in hospitals anyways. Yeah, that was difficult.

Fan Question: Was it hard to do an American accent?

Gayle: Can you answer that question in an American accent for us?

Jamie: Absolutely not, I can't.

Gayle: C'mon... [audience laughs] I've been trying to get him to switch accents.

Jamie: It's not something I really have to think about anymore. I used to have to think about it all the time but, I mean, it's an accent I hear all the time back home. Now I just kind of practice it in my room...

Indigo Teen: Gayle, actually, has an excellent British accent...

Gayle: We'll have to switch accents. We'll do a Freaky Friday moment when you guys are coming up and we're signing... 

Fan Question: My question is for Gayle. What inspired you to write the story?

Gayle: It was a lot of things. Part of it was sort of a true story. A personal tragedy, where friends of ours were killed in an accident a lot like that and one of them was a child. He lived longer, and so, I always was kind of tormented by him alone and this image of him alone on a helicopter being evacuated. I wondered if he knew what happened to his family and did he choose to go with them? And that was like seven years before I wrote the book, and one morning, I kind of woke up and there was this character in my head and she was a seventeen-year-old cello player, which was news to me because I had like nothing to do with the cello at that time. I'm not a musician and wasn't a fan of classical music, but she was a cellist. And I just knew when I woke up that she was going to answer that question as it pertained to her, so I sat down and started writing.

Indigo Teen: [Jamie], you were in The Fifth Estate and we know you're in If I Stay. Do you have any plans for the future you could let us know about?

Jamie: I've just finished Woody Allen's next film and then I don't know what's next after that.

Indigo Teen: Maybe a band?

Jamie: Never a band. Can't do it. Can't write music.

Fan Question: Jamie, I want to know how it felt to work with Chloe Grace Moretz?

Jamie: I was so nervous at first. I was really scared. I was so starstruck. But once I got over that, she's just a normal girl and it was really fun. She's so easy to work with and we had a really great time. It was really nice.

Indigo Teen: Do you have someone you dream to work with, like a dream director or dream cast?

Jamie: Everyone!

Indigo Teen: Gayle, is there someone you dream about collaborating with? It sounds like you had a really time with the director, but is there anyone else you'd like to work with?

Gayle: I'm not really in that world. You never know until you know. Had you given me the name R.J. Cutler before, I never would have guessed because, first of all, he comes from a documentary background and when I looked him up, I saw that his big documentaries were The War Room, which is a fantastic documentary about the Clinton campaign which I loved, a documentary called The September Issue about Vogue magazine, and one about Dick Cheney. And my first thought was, "Wow, anyone could face down Dick Cheney and Anna Wintour, who's like the very scary editor of American Vogue, the man's got, you know, balls." So, I was really intrigued and, of course, he also did Nashville, so I understood he knew music, but it was never a name that had been swirling in my head. He was the perfect person to make the film.   

Indigo Teen: Did it feel like everything right came together? 

Gayle: It totally did. I know that some fans know there have been some false starts, but it felt like it was all meant to be so that we could have this director and this cast. They're so perfect.

Fan Question: Jamie, do you have a favourite line from the movie?

Jamie: I say the same one every time... What is it again? Me and Chloe both say it. Does everyone know it? "Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you." And I think that's true. That's why I love it. You know, choices mold who you are as a person.

Fan Question: I was just wondering if the scenes where Chloe is there but not there, if that was really difficult not to react to her emotions and how dramatically she's acting?

Jamie: Yeah, it was so weird, because I was looking at her double line on the bit but I'd know she was there out of the corner of her mind and I kind of didn't know where to look. It was just confusing, because visually, I just didn't know where to look.

Fan Question: There are a lot of different messages that people can take away from the story and I wanted to know, as you were writing, what you were thinking of?

Gayle: I wasn't thinking of any message. If I had, it would have been like an after school special and would have been terrible. Did you guys have that? I'm dating myself... My favourite books and my favourite movies are the ones where you kind of feel like a slightly different person when you finish than you did when you started, where you have an emotional experience or an intellectual experience, and it just makes you see the world a little bit differently. And then your take away from that is completely individual, but just something happens, like a little earthquake. That's what I hope. I did have a lot of emotional experiences while writing the book.

Indigo Teen: A little earthquake, that's a great way to put it. What's the best book you guys have read recently? I know maybe you didn't have a lot of time to read while filming. Or maybe the best band you've seen, if you want to go that way?

Gayle: So for YA, have you guys read E. Lockhart's We Were Liars? Amazing. Jandy Nelson has a book coming out called I'll Give You the Sun. Also fantastic. You should read that. Those were two fantastic books. Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy is one of my favourite three books, like, ever.

Jamie: Best bands to see live? The 1975. Game Over. 

Indigo Teen: One last question from the audience. It has to be the best question...

Fan Question: I just wanted to know from both of you if you're enjoying Toronto so far and if you'd like to come back  in the future? 

Jamie: Definitely. We haven't really seen a lot of Toronto, but yeah, I'd love to see more of it.

Gayle: I'll be coming back in November.

Indigo Teen: Thank you so much for coming. Everybody, big round of applause for them! 

After the Q&A was finished, each person waited for their group number to be announced to help make sure the line for getting books signed was moving efficiently. While I waited for my turn, internally, I was freaking out because my mind was completely drawing a blank thinking of what to possibly say to Gayle and Jamie. They were both really kind and friendly, and I'm pretty sure I mumbled something about hoping they would do some Canadian things while visiting Toronto...

Thanks so much to Gayle Forman and Jamie Blackley for visiting Toronto and meeting some of your Canadian fans! Also, thanks to Penguin Canada, Indigo Yonge & Eglinton, and Chapters/Indigo to organizing and hosting the event! If I Stay is out in theaters on August 22 (today!!) and I absolutely can't wait to watch it soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: Through to You
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 288
Source: Bought

Overall: 3.5 Stars

Opposites attract—and then complicate—in this romantic, relatable novel from the author of Two-way Street and Sometimes It Happens.

It starts with a scribbled note in class: I like your sparkle. Harper had casually threaded a piece of blue and silver tinsel through her ponytail in honor of school spirit day. And that carefree, corny gesture is what grabs Penn Mattingly’s eye. Penn—resident heartbreaker of the senior class. Reliably unreliable. Trouble with a capital “T.” And okay, smolderingly sexy.

Harper’s surprised by Penn’s attention—and so is Penn. The last thing he needs is a girlfriend. Or even a friend-with-benefits. The note is not supposed to lead to anything.

Oh, but it does. They hang out. They have fun. They talk. They make out. And after a while, it seems like they just click. But Penn and Harper have very different ideas about what relationships look like, in no small part because of their very different family backgrounds. Of course they could talk about these differences—if Penn knew how to talk about feelings.

Harper and Penn understand their attraction is illogical, yet something keeps pulling them together. It’s like a crazy roller coaster—exhilarating, terrifying, and amazing all at once. And neither knows how to stop the ride… 
My Thoughts: 
After years of reading Lauren Barnholdt's novels, I'm always hit with a rush of familiarity when I turn the first few pages. It's rather like greeting an old friend, and Lauren Barnholdt's latest YA book is no exception. Through to You has all the classic traits of a Lauren Barnholdt novel: an over-dramatic heroine, a love interest who doesn't mind breaking the rules, and a high school setting that adds further complications, especially when the two protagonists come from different backgrounds.

When Penn Mattingly leaves a scribbled note on Harper's desk with a single sentence—I like your sparkle.— it sets in motion an unlikely relationship. Honestly, if the book had only been told from Harper's perspective, I wouldn't necessarily understand Penn's appeal because he didn't stand out as a particularly great boyfriend. Sure, Penn is attractive, a good kisser, and certainly has his charming moments, but he was also quick to shut out Harper when she tried to be more personally involved with him. He could really be a jerk at times and Harper didn't deserve it.

It was the alternating chapters revealing Penn's side of the story that convinced me to give him a second chance. While Harper seemed to have her life in order with a steady job at her mother's dance studio and a goal to someday become a professional choreographer, Penn's future was very uncertain and he took it out on others to avoid the issue. A serious shoulder injury could ruin his plans to play baseball and he's tired of his family pretending everything is fine at home when it really isn't. 

Through to You will appeal to Lauren Barnholdt and YA contemporary romance fans alike. While the ending seemed a little rushed, the book is an addictive and fast-paced read, offering a few hours of entertainment on a summer afternoon. Harper and Penn's relationship may be bumpy at times, but you can't help rooting for them to be together in the end.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Title: Ugly Love
Author: Colleen Hoover
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 336
Source: Bought

Overall: 4 Stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with a new heart-wrenching love story.

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn't think it's love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly. 

My Thoughts:  
Colleen Hoover's Ugly Love hits you with the emotional intensity of a wrecking ball. I don't think there was anything I could have done to mentally prepare myself for this novel and all the overwhelming feelings it left me. Colleen Hoover continues her streak of writing memorable romances that completely tear your heart apart before slowly piecing the parts back together again. 

What seemed like a simple sexual arrangement at first between Tate Collins and Miles Archer becomes very complicated all too soon. Miles warns Tate from the very beginning not to talk about the past and not to expect a future, but she can't help falling in love with Miles the more time she spends around him. Tate secretly hopes he will one day change his mind, especially in those rare moments when Miles lets his guard down, but her actions also leave her very vulnerable and give him the power to incredibly hurt her. 

The book alternates between the present, told from Tate's perspective, and the past, told from Miles's point of view. Normally, I don't mind this kind of narration, but these chapters are written in such different tones that it was sometimes difficult to put myself in the right frame of mind immediately. Tate's chapters are all-consuming and intense as she continues to fall for a man who is emotionally unavailable, but the Miles we get to know in the past is practically another man, one who was happier and optimistic. I absolutely dreaded learning what kind of life-changing, traumatic event could so alter and haunt a man.

The chemistry between Tate and Miles practically sparks right off the page, but there's also always an underlying tension that leaves you wary of being completely burned if you get too close. There were times when I was so focused on the story that I forgot to breathe. You'll be hard-pressed to find another New Adult contemporary romance like Colleen Hoover's Ugly Love

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Monster in His Eyes by J.M. Darhower

Title: Monster in His Eyes (Monster in His Eyes #1)
Author: J.M. Darhower
Release Date: April 27, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 350
Source: Bought

Overall: 5 Stars

Ignazio Vitale is not a good man.

I suspect it, the first time I see him, sense the air of danger that surrounds the man. He has a way of commanding attention, of taking control, of knowing what I'm thinking before I even do.

It's alarming and alluring. It's dark and deadly. It's everything I've ever wanted but the last thing I truly need. Obsession.

It doesn't take him long to draw me into his web, charming me into his bed and trapping me in his life, a life I know nothing about until it's too late. He has secrets, secrets I can't fathom, secrets that make it so I can't walk away, no matter how much I beg him to let me go. I see it sometimes in his eyes, a darkness that's both terrifying and thrilling. He's a monster, wrapped up in a pretty package, and what I find when I unmask him changes everything.

I want to hate him.

Sometimes, I do.

But it doesn't stop me from loving him, too.

My Thoughts:  
I really don't know how to describe my love—or rather, obsession— for J.M. Darhower's Monster in His Eyes. It's probably unhealthy the amount of times I've already reread the novel again and again. If you love romantic contemporary novels with a dark edge and a touch of suspense, then Monster in His Eyes will be perfect for you.

A freshman at NYU just hoping to gain some independence from her overprotective mother, Karissa Reed's life is forever changed the moment she meets Ignazio Vitale. Naz is a wealthy, older, and very mysterious man... and underneath the sophisticated suits he wears everyday, there's a barely restrained incivility and raw power just ready to be unleashed. There's an inner darkness and possessiveness in Naz that should frighten Karissa, but she's helpless to escape his charismatic presence and can't help falling for him.

Monster in His Eyes is an addictive and sensual novel. As the secrecy surrounding Naz and his past steadily unravels, tension builds until the novel reaches a breaking point that will make it too late for anyone to turn back. J.M. Darhower drops enough bread crumbs to foreshadow future revelations, but it was still shocking to learn the truth!

If you're a NA or romance fan, J.M. Darhower's Monster in His Eyes is not to be missed. This book will captivate you from beginning to end and leave you wishing the sequel, Torture in Her Soul, was already in your hands. I'm absolutely eager to learn how Naz and Karissa's story will conclude. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Better When He's Bad by Jay Crownover

Title: Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point #1)
Author: Jay Crownover
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 384
Source: Bought

Overall: 4 Stars

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jay Crownover returns with a heart-stopping new series… Welcome to the Point.

There’s a difference between a bad boy and a boy who’s bad . . . meet Shane Baxter.

Sexy, dark, and dangerous, Bax isn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, he is the wrong side of the tracks. A criminal, a thug, and a brawler, he’s the master of bad choices, until one such choice landed him in prison for five years. Now Bax is out and looking for answers, and he doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to hurt to get them. But there’s a new player in the game, and she’s much too innocent, much too soft…and standing directly in his way.

Dovie Pryce knows all about living a hard life and the tough choices that come with it. She’s always tried to be good, tried to help others, and tried not to let the darkness pull her down. But the streets are fighting back, things have gone from bad to worse, and the only person who can help her is the scariest, sexiest, most complicated ex-con The Point has ever produced.

Bax terrifies her, awakening feelings she never thought she’d have for a guy like him. But it doesn’t take Dovie long to realize . . . some boys are just better when they’re bad. 

My Thoughts:  
Dovie Pryce may have had a rough childhood, but she hasn't let her past jade her. Dovie's a good girl, willing to work hard and keep her head down, and hopes to someday get a degree in social work to help kids who grew up in similar circumstances. She may come across as naive and innocent at first glance, but to her credit, Dovie knows just how tough and corrupt a place The Point truly is and she can definitely take care of herself.

There's nothing soft about Shane Baxter—he's a bad boy through and through. After five years spent in prison, Bax is free and hunting for answers about the night he was arrested. His best friend Race set him up to take the fall and now Bax will do anything it takes to find him. His search leads him to Dovie, Race's secret half-sister, but Race has recently gone off the grid and no one can find him. As Dovie helps him to find Race, Bax learns there was much more to Bax's arrest than he ever could have imagined...

I absolutely loved the chemistry between Dovie and Bax! It may not seem like it at first, but the pair are actually quite similar to each other. They both know what it's like to fight to survive when the odds are against them, but they never give up trying. Bax has a fearsome reputation in The Point, but Dovie gets right under his skin and exposes a side of him that is only seldom seen; he's very protective, warm and loyal to those he cares about.

Addictive and suspenseful, Better When He's Bad is a gritty introduction to Jay Crownover's new Welcome to the Point series. While I'm definitely a fan of Jay Crownover's Marked Men series, there's just something about the darker tone of Better When He's Bad that really appeals to me. There still aren't too many New Adult romantic suspense novels available yet, so I find the premise for the Welcome to the Point series to be rather refreshing. I cannot wait to read Race's story in Better When He's Bold!
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