Wednesday, August 29, 2012

end-of-summer booklove.

Listening To: Dreamer by The Tallest Man on Earth
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 first book I read was Nikki Loftin's debut, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

And GAAAH!!!

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.

The next book on The Leaning Tower of TBR was another story I've been excited about; a debut novel from Dan Krokos called False Memory

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. Peter.

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 to drink too many milkshakes/not wear makeup/not leave my house to be sucked into a glorious book vortex for a few days. I can't do this much longer though because I'm about to set out on a new adventure. Details forthcoming later this week.

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. 


  1. NATALIE! I'm rereading Paperdoll. The last time was forever ago and I was trying to figure out how to spend my Kindle money and bought it on Amazon, and it was SUCH the right choice. I don't know why I didn't connect with it like this before? Definitely a God thing
    And these books are definitely going on my to read list on Goodreads. I'm taking Young Adult Lit when school starts which is basically like a book club in school. So basically I need all the book recommendations I can get :) So excited :)

    1. So first of all, thank you so much for this sweet compliment. I think certain books connect more with me during certain seasons too. I totally get that; so glad it's encouraging you! Thanks for letting me know! :) And OH MY WORD you actually have the option to take Young Adult Lit?! That's the most amazing thing ever. Is this a high school or college course? I'm jealous either way. Let me know what you read and love!! :)

  2. I love Anderson's! They do such great promotions for authors. Now I'm feeling nostalgic and wishing Naperville was a 15 minute drive away instead of 7 1/2 hours.

    I just finished reading Vaclav & Lena, rather haunting. I started The Sweet Life in Paris, a foodie memoir, and plan on reading Divergent next. Also have book 2 of the Eragon series on deck, along with a billion others. Oh! And I read The Fault in our Stars earlier this month and it blew me away.

    1. I don't know if I can do Vaclav and Lena, only b/c I'm afraid it will make me too sad. Was it heavy? I know her writing is gorgeous, but I'm not sure I want to tackle a story like that right now. I have a billion books on deck too. It's amazing that I ever get anything read :) Did you like Sweet life in Paris? I've been eying that one for a while.

  3. The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy sounds really good...I'll have to read it if I can get my hands on a copy (I just checked and our library doesn't have it). I saw it in B&N the other day but was distracted and forgot to peek at it.

    I'm rereading Shannon Hale's Princess Academy right now. I bought Palace of Stone (that was the reason I was distracted in B&N :), but it's been a couple of years since I read PA. So of course I *have* to reread it before I read the sequel. :) After that, I'm going to try to get a couple of my own-but-unread books knocked out before The Casual Vacancy (!) next month. Can't wait!


    1. Let me know what you think of Shannon Hale's newbie!! I think it's so fab that she did a ... sequel or prequel? ... even after all this time. Her talent is insane. And, yes, WAH, Casual Vacancy soon. It sounds so completely different from HP. I couldn't be more excited (even if the cover doesn't rock my world). :)

  4. Well East is on the way from Amazon. You totally made me want to read it. I love Coraline so that book looks good. Did you like Coraline the movie though? Cuz I didn't. But that GK Chesterson quote. Yes. I actually painted it on a canvas that's hanging in my bedroom. And I am totally for girl power. Ever since I went to see Mulan in theaters. :)

    1. EEEEEK - I hope you like EAST! :) Coraline the Movie was bizarre. I liked it okay but I LOVED the book. When I recommend it to people, I tell them not to compare the two. The movie felt like an interpretation of the book, which is exactly how I want movies to feel. But the book has that typical, elegant, whimsical prose that makes me love Neil so much. It's such a sparkling little read. Also, I want to see this canvas!! I love that quote. Adn Mulan is fab. Too often, especially when the situation in no way calls for it, I say, "Let's get down to business. To defeat ... the huns." :)

  5. Well, my day is officially made. Thank you so much for the lovely review! You should totally call Tim Burton for me, okay? :) Tell your mom I'm glad she liked it, too! xoxox

    1. What's up with Tim Burton not taking my calls?! :) Thank YOU so much for writing such a gorgeous book. I cannot wait to see what you do next! I'm recommending it to lots and lots of people. It's truly fantastic. :)

  6. False Memory sounds similar to Starters by Lissa Price. I read it in May and it was WONDERFUL and there just HAS to be a sequel but I haven't heard anything about it yet. Both of these are now on my TBR list.

    I'm taking a lit class called "The Novels in English" and we're reading everything from Moll Flanders to Lolita and Thirteen Moons. It's going to be pretty tough but I'm super excited. I'm also taking Children's Lit. Not as excited about that one, but the YA books I get to read it are pretty awesome so I won't complain too much. Ha.

    Hope you are feeling better by now!

  7. I may not always comment, but I do always read! Love your posts. :D