Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I like big books and I cannot lie. (part one)

Listening To: Dreamer by The Tallest Man on Earth
Actual Text from The Rogue Accountant: "I think Sloth from Goonies is in the office next to me."

Good morning beauties and beastlies!

I was up before the sun this morning, writing like my fingers were on fire (as the ever-brilliant Kathi Applet says to do) and I got all delirious crazy confident and thought I'd accumulated some pretty awesome pages. I scrolled back to the top of my document and said, "Okay! Biscuit! Listen to this and tell me what you think!"

I read the passage aloud.

And then I hollered, "Right?!"

And I looked back at my dog and this was her response:


So I decided to take a break and finish write about a few books I'm excited to read in 2012. And then the post got so stinking long ... that I broke it into two posts. (By the way, the fact that I took a break from writing to ... write ... is not lost on me.)

I hope to write about some of my favorite reads in 2011 ... before 2011 is a far distant memory. But I thought it might also be fun to give you a quick list of books I'm psyched to snatch up this year. (And, admittedly, because we're all booknerds up in here, I would love to hear about the books on your wish list so I can add them to mine!) Obviously, this list will grow as the year progresses. This is just a starting point. (These posts will only contains books from the universe of KidLittery.) Think of this as the first layer of my 2012 Booklist. If my booklist was a pie, this would be the foundation. The flaky pastry. Nay, the Oreo crust! (Have I mentioned that I haven't slept much?)

Also, this is a humdinger of a Part One so maybe go get some java and come back.

Also! Please read this very important notice: the novels I'm talking about today are Young Adult novels (my Middle Grade post is coming on Friday). Young Adult novels have more mature content than middle grade. If your parents are very strict about what you read, be sure you read more about these books before you read them. That's my wimpy way of saying: please don't send me mean emails. One of my most favorite things about this blog is that there are so many different (read: wonderful) people who are reading. We live in different corners of the world. There are different faith backgrounds, different nationalities, and manner of college football loyalties represented on here. There is quite a range of ages up in here as well. I love our younger readers dearly. That said, there's no way I can know for certain if a book is okay for you specifically to read. These are books I'm interested in ... but I'm a bonafide grownup. Ish. Sort of. So use your best judgement here and, if these books aren't for you, or if your parents say ix-nay (BTW: I think your parents are awesome, regardless of what they say) simply move on to something else. There are thousands of beautiful stories out there waiting to win you over.

Now! Are you caffeinated? Comfy?

Here goes:

Books I want to Read Like Whoa in 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It's a fact: I've never met a John Green book I don't like. Looking for Alaska is my favorite but I sometimes wonder if that's simply because it was my intro to John Green. His books have a literary quality that's so accessible, so full of smart humor. And as somebody who (*does a victory dance that much resembles the hokey pokey*) survived her teenage years, and someone who worked with students for many years after that, I think John Green captures the spirit of adolescence so perfectly. He takes the sarcasm and the smart-funny and the hilarity and the heartbreak and the fierce loyalty to friends and the falling in love and the rejection and the boundless, endless, passion teenfolk haven't learned to harness yet (please don't ever harness it) and he throws it into a blender. And it blends into a smoothie of awesome. Or something. I might have overworked that metaphor a bit. *puts blender away* But his books are beautiful.

My only hesitation in reading this book, and you're allowed to make fun of me for this, is that the people in the novel have some serious medical issues ... and one of the issues touches on something very personal. I don't know if I can read the novel without my imagination constantly wandering some place I don't need to let it wander. So I might wait a bit before I read it. But. That doesn't negate the incredibleness of this novel. I have a feeling this one will make you weep, but it will be a good cry. Embrace the tears! Hazel is going to be the best girl in a JG novel so far. I can feel it. (I'm such a fan of the way he writes the girls in his books, aren't you? They're heroes in his stories. They get funny lines and they get to be flawed and smart and cute - but not cute in an "I'm dumb and oblivious ... *giggle-giggle*" way. Even secondary characters aren't props in his books.) The book is out now and I've seen several signed copies in the bookstore. I've even seen pictures of signed copies containing little Yettis! (Which will only make sense if you watch his vlogs.) I hear he messed some of the sigs up, and left a link in those books for an apology clip on YouTube ... how fun would it be to find one of those?! More fun than finding four leaf clovers and Waldos! I gift his books quite often and I'm pretty sure every person I've ever given one to calls, or emails, to tell me how much they're loving it. And how hard they're laughing. Listen to him read the first chapter, and prepare to be wowed. (PS - I lurve that cover.) (PSS - I harbor a not-so-secret hope that Hank Green will also write some YA someday. Vlogbrothers, FTW.) What's your favorite John Green book? (If you've never read John Green's work, but want to, you should scoot on over to Katie's blog. She's a proud/adorable nerdfighter who would could recommend the perfect starter novel. Also, Katie helped create this gorgeous blog. I keep clicking through just to stare at the pretty header.)

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. This story has to do with Colby and Bev, two best friends who've made a pact to tour Europe with their band after high school graduation. The plan falls apart when Bev decides to go to college instead, leaving her best friend behind. Now all they have left is one wild, wonderful summer to live out their dream. (Instead of Europe, their backdrop becomes the Pacific Northwest.)

I'm so excited for this read 1.) because I love music, and I love it when authors know how to weave music into a novel. 2.) because it takes place in the Pacific Northwest, where I left my heart (and, incidentally, a brand new Moleskine journal daaaaangiiiiit) over the summer and 3.) - and this is the most important - because Nina LaCour wrote it. I read her first novel Hold Still with no inkling of how she wrote. (I read it because Julie Strauss-Gabel edited it.) (Fact: it is an especially nerdy attribute when you admit to following the work of certain editors. Not just authors. But editors.) My very articulate reaction to Nina's writing was: wow. And wowzers. And whooooa, nelly. Nina's prose blows me away. She is an incredible writer. And I think the most incredible part of it is that she still stays rooted in her character. Sometimes, it seems like very talented authors get tangled in their prose. They lose control of story and all the characters start talking exactly the same way. You savvy? But Nina never loses control of the story. There's some restraint in her writing; and it makes the story even better. Her craft is so technically on point ... but I got so lost in the story that I didn't stop much to appreciate it as much as I should have. Hold Still was one of my surprise favorite novels of 2010. I thought it would be a story about a grieving process, and it is, but it's way more of a healing story, about a girl who finds her way back from a devastating loss with the help of her family, her friends, and the process of creating. That novel was a stunner.  (PS - Hold Still also contains illustrations by Mia Nolting, and they compliment the story in such a wonderful way.) (Also, I do sincerely adore The Disenchantments cover. That's how face-covers should be done.)

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie. So, I am slightly biased because Sarah is my friend. But she's also a crazy-talented writer and I'm so excited for her debut that I can't hardly keep from leaping out of my chair, doing a roundhouse kick, and making jazz hands. I'll post the official blurb from Goodreads, because this plot is rather intricate (but not confusing!) and I don't want to mess it up. From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one. 

You might have seen this read blurbed as a "literary YA My Sister's Keeper".  Mmmhmm. It's hot stuff. I'm extra excited because I know this is the first of many, many beautiful books Sarah's going to release out into the wild. (PS - that's another gorgeous example of face done right.) Here's the book. Here's Sarah's twitter.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. So, a few years ago, I was having a conversation with this girl and she mentioned that she was a total outcast when she was in high school. She then qualified this statement by saying that she was the kind of girl who dyed her hair crazy colors and read obscure poetry.

And I couldn't help but chuckle (later on) because I thought - ah. She was a loner in a cool way. Listening to The White Stripes when they were still unknown. Reading dark poetry and writing even darker poetry and so on and such. Fact: I didn't dye my hair crazy colors in high school. I didn't read Sylvia Plath. I wasn't that cool. I did, however, play ping pong with my friends on Friday nights, anticipate Saturday breakfast with my grandparents all week long, wear lots of plaid shirts and watch Star Wars almost every weekend (in Middle School I watched it almost every day). For reasons I cannot make excuses for, I also parted my bangs down the middle. Like Dwight Schrute. There's no justification for that, but in every high school picture of me I've seen, my eye goes immediately to that horrible center part. It's like a curtain divided to show the vast stage of my forehead. My point is this: I was more of a classical kind of dork. But! I had a sweet bunch of friends and we were all uncool and plaid-ified together, so I was fine.

These days, I do not part my bangs down the middle. But plaid shirts are totally hot right now (score!) and Star Wars is still one of my favorite movies of all time. (Whenever I pass a car on the interstate, I yell, "Punch it Chewy!")

So. When I started reading about droids and a handsome prince and an empire and a girl named Cinder ... in the same book ... my nerdy senses started to tingle. This book excites me so much that it makes me want to part my bangs in the middle and start singing Spice Girls songs. Cinder is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella that makes the geeky, plaid-wearing, Star Wars watching part of my heart do somersaults. Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future

A futuristic fairy-tale with a gorgeous, half-robotic, mechanic in the lead? I'm into that. (In the immortal words of Posh Spice, it makes me wanna "zigga-zaeg-ah!") The first five chapters are free on Kindle, if you want to try it out.

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.

This is another book with an intricate plot that I don't want to mess up with my caffeine-induced description. So I'll let the Amazonians help me out with the details. Meet River and Meena:

Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner’s son. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts and, as their camaraderie deepens, discovering common ground in their disparate experiences. With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them, creating a friendship that inspires bravery and defeats cultural misconceptions. Narrated in two voices, each voice distinctly articulated by a separate gifted author, this chronicle of two lives powerfully conveys the great value of being and having a friend and the joys of opening our lives to others who live beneath the same sun.
You know what's crazy? It's already making my heart flutter and I've never even opened it. The book sounds beautiful but, admittedly, the summary isn't what initially what drew me to this novel; I will read this novel because of the combustibly awesome pairing of talent. I love the way Silas House writes. And even though this doesn't factor into the writing; I love his advocacy for my mountains. (I'm especially interested in this story because, obviously, mountain top removal will be a thread in this book, and mountain top removal is a very tragic process, one that devastates communities, that he actively campaigns against.) That won't be the heart of this novel, I don't think. I think the heart of this novel is that two people from very different backgrounds are going to realize how much they have in common (probably way more than the differences that separate them - which is a very profound thing to learn, and I hope I never, ever stop learning it).

On a personal note, I also love that he's such a champion for new and upcoming writers. About a billion years ago, I entered one of my short stories in a swanky contest. After submitting my story, I discovered that Silas House was the judge. And I immediately wished I hadn't entered at all.

Because 1.) he was the judge and every English major at my college (including myself) was enamored by his work. He's a big deal now, especially admired and respected in Southern literary circles, but back then, he was just getting started. And we all went to one of his readings because our professors were all name-dropping him 24/7. Hearing him read back then sort of felt like when you watch some indie band you know is about to go big. And so, a very short time after that, I couldn't believe that HE was reading MY measly story.

Which brings me to 2.) I've always been riddled with self doubt to the point of self sabotage. There's always a major wave of sickness (never confidence) that comes with doing something kinda brave and scary. Especially *gulp* sharing my work with other people. Especially if that work is fiction. The only peace of mind I had about sending my story off was knowing that he wouldn't actually see my name (they removed the names for the judging part). It's not like he would have remembered my name anyway, but it's easier to be anonymous sometimes, isn't it? And yet. Lightning struck twice and pigs flew and etc., and my story won.

It would have been enough just to know that he thought my story was worth a first place nod (I still hold tightly to that experience when I'm traveling the Oregon Trail of Writing Woes). But then! He actually took the time to say hello to me at the conference that I was attending. And he told me how much he enjoyed reading my work and encouraged me to keep writing. I will never, ever forget it. It's not just that I won't forget what he said, but the fact that he took the time to speak to me at all. He's a big deal. I will never, ever be a big deal. But he talked to me like I mattered a little bit and that meant the world to me. My favorite Silas House novel is still Clay's Quilt, which is pretty much a love letter to the modern Appalachia I know, (and love). It's a beautiful story.  I'm also smitten with The Coal Tattoo, which includes some of those same characters. I've never read an author who can write music into a scene like he does. (Please excuse these moments I get all big-sisterly. But, younger readers: there are, obviously, some adult themes in his novels for adults, and Appalachian lit, regardless of the author, is usually dark. So those books might not be your thing just yet. Same Sun Here is YA and he has another YA novel called Eli the Good.) Neela Valswami is an accomplished, wonderful writer as well. Their styles combined will collide like a perfect storm. (In her memoir she penned this perfect line: "This place; that place. You have to stand someplace. I pledge allegiance to the in-between.") She also teaches in the MFA program at Spalding. It would be worth every penny just to be able to  sit in one of her classes.

If you love reading Young Adult novels (regardless of your age), then I'm sure you know about my friend Sarah's blog. Sarah, The Green Bean Teen Queen, is a savvy librarian and she's crazy-passionate about literature for and about kids and young adults. She frequently posts great reviews of upcoming books (and giveaways). And she also occasionally tries to convince me that I should read more novels in verse, which I have a long-standing bias against, but I'm coming around (more on that Friday).

Any new Young Adult novels on your radar this year? Movies you're excited for? Are you still convinced that Peeta is the right Peeta for the job? Because I'm not. But I promise I'll go into the theater with an open mind. Happy reading! 


  1. Oh dear Natalie, I think you just compiled my birthday wish-list for me. :) I especially want to read Same Sun Here now because two years ago I left my heart in India and am now at a college where the Appalachian Culture is something very dear to all of us.

    Just downloaded the first 5 chapters of Cinder...although I'm scared to read it and not be able to get the rest of the book as fast as I would like.

    Also, I do NOT like Josh Hutcherson or Jennifer Lawrence for Hunger Games. At first I was like "oh yeah, they're gonna do great!" But the more I watch the trailer and look at new pics the more I don't like it. Maybe it's just because Katniss is a character I hate to love, and I know that Lawrence is going to portray her differently than how I feel about her right now. I think I imagine Peeta to be more like Ponyboy from the Outsiders than what I see in the trailers as more wimpy and sensitive. I don't know.

    Thanks for being so honest in your posts. Happy writing! :)

  2. I love big books too. And at the current moment am trying to find time to read Wonderstruck, The Girl Who Was On Fire, and the reread Hunger Games so I can be a picky, snobbish fan at the premiere:)

  3. I have all the books you mentioned on my list. TFiOS broke my heart and changed my life. It's my favorite John Green book, maybe favorite book, period. You'll love it, I promise.

    And All These Lives? My excitement has no end. Sarah makes me smile, and I cannot wait to see what she has in this novel.

    ps. thank you thank you thank you for the shoutout! xo

  4. I read The Fault in Our Stars a few weeks ago and I loved it. A bunch of the other books you mentioned look really interesting, too, so I'll have to check them out! :)

  5. I always love it when you post, but I especially love it when you do bookish posts. :)

    I always hear about John Green on Katie's blog, but I have never read any of his books. Guess I need to remedy that!

    As for YA this year, so far I'm excited for A Million Sons (the sequel to Across the Universe, which I really liked) and All These Lives. And as for younger reader books, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of "Oddfellow's Orphanage," by Emily Martin (one of my most favorite Etsy artists). And the picture book "Extra Yarn" looks really cute. :)


  6. I feel like the minority here in a big way, but I think Josh is going to be a FANTASTIC Peeta. I was really, really unsure about him, and then I started watching interviews with him and I realized that not only can he do angst (Bride to Terabithia, anyone), he also has that edge of charm that Peeta somehow pulls out in interviews. It's kind of a nerdy charm, but it just makes you adore him. I really really think he's going to do an incredible job.

  7. Allie, did you like The Night Circus? Let me know what you think about these! And in case I haven't said it before, I think your college campus is absolutely gorgeous. Love that you're surrounded by mountains and good books :) Definitely a perfect fit for you!!

    LF, WONDERSTRUCK! I still haven't read that one either. I don't know why, because I adore Brian Selznick. I don't know if I've heard of The Girl Who Was On Fire. I need to google that!

    Katie, I'm going to (wo)man up and read TFiOS soon. I can't not read his books. They're like literary Oreos. If they're in close proximity to me, I must read them. But there really is something in this book that hits really close to home ... that's my only reason for hesitating. My ONLY reason. If it weren't for that, I would have already devoured it. Still trying to figure out how to handle it. But my word, that man's talent is insane. He's one of my favorite writers. And he seems like a genuinely wonderful person.

    Kendall, when people talk about TFiOS - it's always love. That makes me so happy. I really need to check it out pronto. I've heard I need a box of Kleenex when I read it ...

    Kristin, Oddfellow's Orphenedge looks so whimsical and weirdly wonderful. I love The Black Apple's art, too! :) I can't wait to see what she's doing with that series (and most of all I can't wait for your review - I love to read about how you connect with art).

    Christina, I love that you're 100% Peeta. You're right - he's an incredible actor. I want to walk out of the theater wondering why the heck I couldn't see the connection. And Peeta is sweet and nerdy and etc. Maybe I just wasn't imagining Peeta right from the start.

  8. Aw, thanks for the shout-out, Natalie! *jazz hand high five*
    And we're totally on the same pages in terms of books we're drooling over. I've already pre-ordered my copy of The Disenchantments (ADORED Hold Still), and I just finished The Fault in Our Stars (it is so, so good and heartwrenching and clever and I am still thinking about it a week later.) Anyway, I could talk John Green books forever, but Looking For Alaska is also my favorite and, like you, I suspect that's only because it was my inaugural JG book.

    1. I'm going to break down and read it. I can't NOT read one of his books, so it's only a matter of time. I'm only prolonging the awesome. :) Also awesome? YOUR BOOK. I can't wait to freak out over it.

  9. I just started reading the Hunger Games tonight! Flip it is good and then I looked up the trailer for the film and Peeta is not how I imagined him to be but Im sure Josh will portray him just fine (fingers crossed).

    Also congrats on winning that short story contest even if it was a billion years ago ;)
    I really like your fiction not that Ive read much but the short story you put on your blog not long ago , Ashes, Ashes, Ashes (or somthing of a similar title..??) I reallly liked!
    Would love to read more of it!
    Bless u
    Ps Oh i really wanna see Sherlock Holmes 2!

    1. Thank you so much for that sweet compliment! I can't believe you remember "Ashes" :) Fiction has always been the not-so-secret dream. I hope I'm getting just a little bit closer to having more stuff I can share. About HG: I think Josh is a great actor. So I am putting my heart in his hands and waiting for him to remind me of what I liked about Peeta. I really did adore that character in the book. Let me know what you think about Sherlock!

  10. I just ordered The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab and The Circle Maker. :) I am so excited to read them both, that I paid extra for one day shipping (!!). I am also going to get Divergent by VEronica Roth, because Annie recommended it to me! :) And it already looks great. I may have to check out Cinder as well! That looks awesome.

    I'm still trying to finish Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson. I just love Henry! And I just finished up two fantastic books. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier (reminds me of Hugo, Peter Pan, and Narnia all in one) and The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. Both were fantastic adventure books and I loved them!

    I;m not sure about Peeta either. I'm praying that he really grasps Peeta's character. Hopefully he is't too angsty teen 'I'm in love with a girl who may or may not love me'. Or maybe that's the point?

    1. HENRY is wonderful. There's a passage at the beginning of 100 Cupboards that I love, love, love. I don't have it, and I'm too lazy to get up right now (ha :), but it's the one where he's looking at the stars and the trees are scratching against the house. It's like I got sucked into the pages and I was there. ND Wilson is an incredible writer. Do you have his non-fiction? I have the book (Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl) but I haven't read it yet. I need to do that though.

      I liked Peter Nimble too! You are right - such a cool adventure book. I need to check out that Maile Meloy book. I adore that cover. What's it like? Similar to Nimble? Did you read Wildwood ( ... she and Colin Meloy are sibs, right?)

      Your Peeta thoughts made me chuckle. :) I didn't picture him angsty in the book either. Maybe he totally was, but I never felt that way. I get chillbumps when I see that preview!

  11. These all look amazing! Every time I pick up a YA book I always think, "What are you doing, Maria. You are 25." But I always end up loving them...

    You may have already read these, but the next books on my list are I Am the Messenger my Markus Zusak and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Have you read them? Thoughts? Do I need a steady supply of kleenex?
    - Also, what are your thoughts on the Kindle? I caved and got one last month and I love it way more than I originally thought I would.

  12. I'm so there with you! Middle Grade novels are actually my most favorite read ... which is awesome considering their target audience is someone LESS than half my age :) I haven't read that Zusak novel o rLife of Pi. Will you let me know what you think of them? The Book Thief is one of my favorite novels, so you'd think I'd have MESSENGER by now. I need to remedy that!

    As far as Kindle ... I seriously love it. I understand the affection people have for print books. I still have that too. But it didn't make the experience any less magical for me. I love the lower price point, the ease of it. I'm a big, big fan of Kindle. Did you get the Kindle Fire?! Is it awesome?