Praying for: you wonderful people in NOLA and the Gulf Coast.
Fun note: If you live in or near Chicago, you should most definitely check this out.
Hey friends! How's your week going? Classes okay so far? Do you realize it's nearly fall and that means it is almost boot weather?!
I've been down with a cold for exactly one week now. Whenever I have a cold of this magnitude, I get a sudden urge to do all of the following:
1.) Drink milkshakes.
2.) Snuggle with my dog.
3.) Watch every season of Alias.
4.) Read LOTS.
The question you might be asking now is ... how is this different from every other day ever?
And ... that's a totally valid question. *shrugs shoulders*
As it happens, I finished reading a couple of books that were wonderful and I thought you might want to check them out too.
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy.
Sinister Sweetness is scary-awesome. I've been waiting to read this book for a while, because I had a feeling that it would so be my thing, and it so was. I actually finished the book in a day, because I was afraid that, if I didn't, my dreams might be seriously jacked up. (Before you make fun of me: Yes, this is, technically, a Middle Grade read. But I still scare easily. So there.*)
Sinister Sweetness has been described as a retelling of Hansel & Gretel. And it is that; but it's definitely it's own thing too. If you loved Coraline, Roald Dahl's The Witches, or creepy-amazing books like Goosebumps (admittedly, creepy-amazing is an element I love), then you'll adore Splendid. Adore. The writing is positively delicious. And much like Mr. Dahl (of whom I am a forever-fan), Nikki Loftin manages to take a story that is, at turns, whimsical and scary and delightful and make it so endearing. I love when authors take very real issues - like grief, longing, regret, and rejection - and help me see them through the kaleidoscope of fantasy and magical realism. This book is delightful. (I should note that the creepy-factor is truly apparent here. Very sensitive readers might be freaked out by some of the elements in the book - so maybe read it for yourself first before you read it to your little brothers and sisters. If they're into Roald Dahl, Neil Gaimon, or Goosebumps, they'll probably be fine with it.)
One of my favorite quotes from GK Chesterson is this:
"Fairy Tales are more than true;
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
That's one of my favorite themes in all of children's literature. You are braver than you think you are. There are true monsters in Sinister Sweetness, but there's also a plucky, sensitive, smart little heroine who faces them. It's really a perfect Halloween read. After I read it in a day, I gave it to my mom. And Mom loved it too. We both want Tim Burton to snatch this book up and make a fab movie.
And I pretty much finished it as soon as I started reading it. You seriously don't even realize how fast you are reading this thing until you are done and then WHOA. False Memory is a total Belle-book. By which I mean: Similar to Belle, of Beauty and the Beast fame, I tried to walk and read simultaneously so I'd know what happened next.
While I loved the storyline, the action sequences, the sci-fi elements, and the complex (but genuine) relationships between the characters, my favorite thing about False Memory is the main character, Miranda North. This story is told from Miranda's perspective and she is, most assuredly, the hero of her story. And my gut instinct is that you're going to cheer for her major. If I had to compare this novel to something, just off the cuff in conversation ... I might say it's sort of like a Teen Girl Bourne Identity. Maybe.
Tangent: are you an Alias fan? Every other week or so, I reminisce about how much I loved Alias. (Fact: It might be False Memory, and not my head cold, that's got me all crazy-for-Alias again...) What I loved most about Alias was the character of Sydney Bristow (played by the lovely Jennifer Garner), whom I believe to be one of the coolest female characters on television ever. Sydney was effortlessly fierce, tough and intelligent. I think most women are this way; but not all of us get to do roundhouse kicks and parachute out of airplanes on a daily basis.
(Tangent 1.5: Sometimes, when I work out, I totally pretend I'm Sydney Bristow training to fight the baddies.) (... is this TMI?)
That said, what I really love about characters like Sydney Bristow, and Miranda North, is that they have a strong physical presence and awareness that they're unapologetic about. But. Their physical rock-star-ness never becomes a copout for developing their inner-strength (as cheesy as that may sound).
I love seeing this new crop of literary/cinematic girl-heroes who have a physical presence: Katniss and Princess Merida and Miranda North (...and maybe Rachel Hunt? I haven't read this one yet, but I get a vibe that she's this way). I read a great article recently (if I find it, I'll link it) questioning whether or not Katniss was possibly the leader in this new swarm of girl-characters who know how to wield a bow and arrow. (I would think that maybe Katsa or some of Tamora Pierce's girls that got the ball rolling?) Characters like this have been around forever, but it seems like they're getting a bit more attention now, right?
(Don't misunderstand - I don't need that kind of physicality in every female character that I read. Hazel Grace Lancaster is every bit as tough and fierce as Katniss Everdeen; I'm just making some general characterization observations up in here.)
It's kinda fun to see girls getting some fight time, right? I think so. I'm especially encouraged because there's no subliminal message in these stories that say athleticism, in and of itself, = strength. These characters still make huge mistakes and have regrets and put their trust into the wrong people. They still have to solve problems. And they're still vulnerable; which is always what endears me to a character.
Speaking of vulnerabilities. There's a bit of a love triangle emerging in False Memory, and it's wonderful. I don't always like love triangles. In fact, sometimes, the love triangulars make me less inclined to root for the character. Sometimes, it happens. I get that. But I guess in real life, and in fiction, I'm always kind of irked when guys and girls lead each other on just because ... they don't want to make a choice? Or just because they have the power to do that? And yet. The love triangle in False Memory is great, and so necessary to the plot (it's hard to talk about the plot without spoiling anything -- but the plot twists and turns in delightful ways). Both guys are so well written. Of course, I'm not going to voice my opinion on who I think Miranda should pick.
So False Memory is a book I've been shaking in people's faces all week, because, one, I think Miranda North is awesome. (I have a head-cold so I've been saying it like, "Buh-randa's so cool!") But I also love the rest of the characters and the journey they take and oh my gosh the action sequences. If this were a CW show, I'd never miss it.
Clearly, I've used my summer cold as an excuse
Care to share a little bit about what you're reading? Maybe even share a favorite line (or four)? I would love to hear how you're doing!
Hope you're having a swanky week :)
* Writing about how easily I get scared reminded me of a time in high school when, some how, a friend convinced me to go see Hannibal. I didn't know what Hannibal was about. So we got there, and I'm sitting between two friends (both guys) and I start to get totally creeped out. Sweet Guy Friend leans over and whispers, "Put your head on my shoulder until this scene is over." And then he wraps his arm around my shoulder and covers my ear so I can't hear the gross sloshing sounds. Upon seeing this display of kindness, Un-sweet Guy friend leaned over, moved my other friend's hand, and whispered into my ear, "He's eating braaaaains!!" And he laughed manically. Friends.
** PS - The Alias blooper reels are exceptional.