Peevish About the Pevensies

I recently learned something about the conclusion of the Chronicles of Narnia. If you have not yet learned this thing, it is a spoiler. Look away. Read a different post.

I again post you to this thing I read: http://ink-splotch.tumblr.com/post/69470941562/there-comes-a-point-where-susan-who-was-the

I again remind everyone that THREE of the four Pevensies die. IN A TRAIN CRASH.

Aside from the massive “what the hell?” factor I’ve been thinking about a couple of other things.

First, I started contemplating the nature of dead characters. The Pevensies aren’t the first characters to be killed off. Or the last. Maybe not even the most famous or the most popular. It happens all the time. And I hate it. Partly this stems from why I read: escapism. I don’t read to be miserable or cry many tears. Sometimes those things happen but they are not the intent. Even when there is no other choice, I often find myself wondering “Was this the only way?” In a lot of cases it is not. And then I get angry. Sometimes I even boycott authors (like Phillip Pullman) entirely. Other, rarer, times I will conclude that there was no other choice and in those moments I will tip my imaginary hat to the book and the author because they did things right.

Secondly the Pevensie Incident, as it shall henceforth be known, raises a lot of questions about spoilers and public consciousness. I’ve seen a few versions of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (which pre-Pevensie Incident I actually enjoyed!). I am 85% sure I read the book and at least one other Narnia novel.

But I had no idea about the Pevensie Incident. It didn’t even occur to me. No one gave me pointed looks when we talked about it. No one ever warned me or cackled evilly (Nicole is reading Divergent soon. I cackled. A lot. I’m not proud.)

Anyway that lead to the question: Did everyone know already and just assume I did too? Or is it rather that no one knows and we all just move blindly together wishing that The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe were actually a stand alone?

Has the Pevensie Incident, as a massive spoiler, become sacrosanct–something we all must learn on our own? Compared to other recent spoilers and dramatic plot reveals, where does this one train wreck (literal and figurative connotation intended) stand? What say you, dear readers?

 

The Impossible Knife of Memory: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse AndersonHayley and her father Andy have been on the road for the past five years. Sometimes riding in Andy’s rig. Sometimes laying low while Andy tries to hold down a job and Hayley does her version of homeschooling. But then everything stopped and Hayley has been moved back into a life she doesn’t want in a childhood home she refuses to remember.

Being home gives Hayley a chance at a normal life with friends and maybe even a boyfriend. Unfortunately the more the Hayley lets down her guard and allows herself to imagine a future, instead of living day-to-day, the more obvious it is that Andy is still haunted by memories of all the demons and friends he left behind after his last tour over seas. With monstrous memories looming for both of them, Hayley begins to wonder if having a normal life is something she and her father are even capable of in The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014) by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Hayley is an unreliable who lies both to the reader and herself as pieces of her past unfold in memories that cut like knives and unwanted visitors from her past. Slowly, with flashback-like memories from both Hayley and her father, the story of how they returned home unfolds. At the same time, Anderson manages to ground this book in the present with a fledgling romance and a grocery list of other problems that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, would feel trite as the perfect facades of Hayley’s friends also fall apart.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is an interesting book. But it’s also an incredibly difficult read at times. My mother was very sick last year and it took a toll on both of us–so much so that, as I read this book, I saw much more of myself in Hayley than I would have liked. That said, Anderson’s writing is excellent and returns here to the quality found in Speak with the same surprises and another fresh, surprising narrator. Although Andy is deeply troubled it was also nice to see a parental figure in a book with genuine affection for his daughter and interest in her well-being–even if it is mostly mired in the hardships that come with dealing with his own psychological traumas.

On the outset The Impossible Knife of Memory sounds like an issue book with its focus on Hayley’s father’s PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Anderson, however, brings her usual skill to this topic offering a well-rounded story that encompasses more than this one timely topic. I probably won’t re-read this book because of the personal slant that made it hard to read. I am actually painfully certain I don’t even want a copy in the house. That said, The Impossible Knife of Memory is an important book that is never heavy-handed or obnoxious. Instead Anderson offers an honest, unflinching portrayal of one family’s difficulties with PTSD as well as the promise of not just a way through but also even a chance at a happy ending.

Possible Pairings: I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Paper Towns by John Green, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Linktastic!: Stories and Memories and Feminism (1/27/14) Edition

More links! More feminism! Also stories and memories and baby names!

Always Be Polite and Other Advice from my Latest Birthday

I had a birthday earlier this month. That feels especially important now because I can now say, in every sense, that I am in a new year. Because I really, really needed to be in a new year.

2013 was very hard. Possibly the hardest although there was some stiff competition from 2009 and 2010. I have made a decision that I am not going to dwell on any of that, though, so I won’t get into further details. All I really need to say is that the last five years have been awful in just about every way possible and I am glad to see them go. I got a new camera recently and for this first time in a while I actually feel like photographing things. I’m starting to think in terms of months or even years down the line instead of being mired in getting from day to day. The change, honestly, is astounding–yet another difference you can only see when you look backwards or sideways.

With this new year I feel like I’m a little wiser and maybe a little smarter. I had tried previously to be Unflappable whenever possible. It turns out that is actually impossible in many scenarios even though it was an interesting exercise.

Now I’m just trying to be zen and make my peace with things. That’s where the advice I have to share comes in:

It’s taken a while but I’ve realized it’s much better to not dwell on things beyond my realm of control. People will stay in touch. Or they won’t. This new plan will work. Or it won’t. In the end, whenever the end is, everything will come together. I forgot that somewhere along the way but it is a help to remember.

Now that doesn’t make bad times easier or any more fun. But I’m hoping in the future if I hit another rough patch it might help with the crushing feelings of uselessness and inadequacy. (I won’t rehash but I will say it is only just now–a few months into Shiny New Job–that I can actually see my self-esteem and confidence coming back. I’m generally a confident, self-assured person so let me assure you that several years is a very long time to feel worthless even when you know intellectually it’s absolutely not true.)

One more piece of advice: being polite to absolutely everyone is life changing. In a good way. When things were rough (and when I worked in retail) I noticed there are lot of rude or just inattentive people out there.

I decided I didn’t want to be one of those people. Which, it turned out, was a really easy thing to change. I just decided to be polite to everyone. I thank bus drivers, I wave to Shiny New Job security officers in the morning, I ask cashiers how they are. It’s really easy and even on bad days, it doesn’t cost me a thing. But you never know when it will mean a lot to someone else. Just the other day I asked a worker at a bookstore cafe how she was. I told her it was my first time in the store and we just had a small conversation. No big deal. But her face lit up when I asked how she was because she thought it was so nice that I wanted to hear.

That’s a pretty good return for something that literally costs nothing, isn’t it?

I’ll end here by saying to all of you, dear readers, that if you’re in a good place I hope you can stay there for a nice, long while. And if you aren’t, I hope you get there soon and I have every confidence that you will. It might take a while, and it might not mean much coming from a faceless blogger, but it will get better. Hang in there. (And until then, I hope someone asks how you are today and wishes you well.)

Belle Epoque: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth RossWhen Maude Pichon ran away to Paris she expected a brand new life far away from her provincial home in Brittany and her overbearing father. Instead, her money is running out and work is harder to find than she had imagined.

But Eiffel’s unsightly tower keeps climbing higher as construction continues buoying Maude’s perseverance. Paris is her city and she will find her place in it.

An add seeking girls for easy work seems innocent enough. Until Maude realizes exactly what kind of work she is meant to do. Working as a repoussoir Maude, with her plain face and ugly features, is meant to make real young women of society look more attractive.

The work repels Maude in a visceral way. But with bills to pay and desperation slinking closer, she takes the job with few expectations. Working in secret as a repoussoir, Maude slowly begins to befriend her client. Soon, Maude herself begins to lose track of her lies and where–in the midst of so much luxury–her real life actually lies in Belle Epoque (2013) by Elizabeth Ross.

Belle Epoque is Ross’ first novel and a finalist for the Morris Award for debut authors which is given by YALSA.

Ross’ writing is a delight as she brings 1888 Paris to life on the page with evocative scenes that are sure to dazzle. The book itself is stunning with an elaborate design fitting of the period as well as a beautiful cover (and a surprise under the dust jacket of the hardcover) that while deceptive in some ways is also very in keeping with the theme of beauty that runs through the novel.

Maude’s journey is a realistic one that many young people striking out on their own will find familiar. Her evolving conceptualizing of her own looks and her own worth without or without physical beauty is fascinating. The message here, to quote an old cliche, reminds readers with varying degrees of finesse that beauty is only skin deep.

While it is never meant with malice of any kind, the fixation throughout the story on looks and weight (Maude’s best friend at the repoussoir agency is overweight) began to feel uncomfortable as readers are reminded at every single appearance of a character’s flaws. Again, this technique reflects Maude’s own perceptions but that motif doesn’t make it easier to process.

Unfortunately, the pacing did not enhance Maude’s coming into her own or add much to the story. Instead Maude plods through a variety of beautiful parties and events before taking a hard fall that is broadcast for most of the story. At one point Maude also seeks to “debrief” a friend–a valuable activity but one that didn’t go by that name until 1945.

There are moments of ugliness and beauty in Maude’s story and Ross looks on all aspects of the plot with a careful eye and rich prose. That said, plot and premise aside, the thing that really shines throughout Belle Epoque is Maude herself–a lovely heroine in a story ripe for discussion to say the least.

Possible Pairings: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, I Rode A Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson

Blog Book Giveaway: It’s My Birthday[CLOSED]

It’s my birthday this month and I felt like celebrating by giving away a book.

So, I’m hosting a giveaway (US Only, sorry!) for a signed ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

ENTER HERE

I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

Being Sloane Jacobs: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren MorrillSloane Emily Jacobs isn’t sure about her supposed comeback to competitive figure skating. If she can’t start landing her jumps and getting triples again her comeback might end up very short-lived. At least the frustrations and pressure of figure skating can give her a chance to get away from her family and pretend she doesn’t know the truth about her father’s indiscretions or the depths of her mother’s oblivion.

Ice hockey is a bright spot in Sloane Devon Jacobs’ otherwise dim life. Her mother is gone, her dad is busy, and Sloane might be a little angrier than she should be. Possibly all the time. With hockey as her one and only ticket to a different life, Sloane is in for a big problem when she is suspended from the team right when scouts might finally start paying attention.

One chance meeting for these unlikely named girls changes everything when they swap places for a summer at skating camp. In their efforts to avoid real life both Sloanes find more than they bargained for and possibly exactly what they needed to know in Being Sloane Jacobs (2014) by Lauren Morrill.

Being Sloane Jacobs alternate between Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon’s first person narrations with handy headings labeled for each character. The headings are especially handy as, without benefit of external details like Sloane Emily’s rich family or Sloane Devon’s hard knock hockey persona, the two heroines have a habit of blending together.

The story is perfectly fun and easy to read so long as you can go along with the premise of these girls swapping lives. Being Sloane Jacobs has a vibe very similar to The Parent Trap with rich Sloane Emily and poor Sloane Devon swapping lives but in a cute, non-irritating way that mostly works. It was difficult to understand why–in a world of need-based aid, state schools, loans and merit scholarships–Sloane Devon would have no other option to get to college but for an athletic hockey scholarship although it is also an area outside of my expertise.

Morrill’s writing is snappy and moves the plot along (although jarring slang that seemed dated in comparison to the modern story did often turn up) and–when the Sloanes converge–creates a seamless plot with clever moments of overlap as the two girls assess each other. The story here is a fun blend of serendipity, athletics and romance that is ideal for readers who want a dose of sports in their books. Being Sloane Jacobs is definitely a lighter read that will leave readers smiling.

Possible Pairings: Tumbling by Caela Carter, Girl Overboard by Justina Chen, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Pivot Point by Kasie West, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Linktastic!: 1/13/14 Really Old Links Edition

I’ve been meaning to post these for ages but then I kept having other, more timely, content to share SO here are a bunch of random things I’ve had bookmarked for so long that I no longer know who directed me to what (most links are from twitter friends, that I can be certain of):

Blog Book Giveaway: In which I have 100 followers[CLOSED]

WordPress informed me last night that I had 100 followers on the blog through WordPress. While the number is largely meaningless, I do like a good milestone as much as the next person.

So, I’m hosting a giveaway (US Only, sorry!) for a signed ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Statistical Probability of True Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight cover

ENTER HERE

I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

Champion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Champion by Marie LuTogether June and Day have faced death, loss and countless other obstacles in their efforts to help the people of the Republic. June is now poised to serve at the Elector’s side while Day is in a respected position within the military. With Anden taking the country in new directions as Elector, it finally seems like the Republic is worth saving.

Whether the country actually can be saved remains to be seen. An already elusive treaty with the neighboring Colonies becomes all but impossible when a new, far deadlier, plague surfaces and war threatens to break out anew.

With so much already lost, June and Day might have to sacrifice even more if they want to save the Republic–or themselves–in Champion (2013) by Marie Lu.

Find it on Bookshop.

Champion is the conclusion to Marie Lu’s “Legend” Trilogy which began with Legendand Prodigy.

Champion is an excellent conclusion to a trilogy that has been both action-packed and heartbreaking. It’s amazing to see how much all of the characters have grown over the course of the series as they make hard decisions and gain perspective on all of the choices that led to this present moment.

While the second book in the series was more plot-driven, Champion is more introspective* and brings the focus back to June and Day’s relationship. Alternating chapters (as found in the other books) ensure that June and Day have equal time telling the story. It is, however, interesting to note the subtle shift as June is finally able to become as completely selfless in her heroics as Day was from the beginning.

It’s easy to talk about romance in a story with characters who are attractive both apart and together. Finding true partnerships is much more difficult. Lu has created the latter here. While Day and June are both strong and capable on their own, Champion confirms that together this duo is all but unstoppable.

Because of the intricate plot and world-building that brings readers to previously unseen parts of Day and June’s world, it’s unlikely readers will be able to follow Champion without reading the earlier books in the series. That said, Champion is easily the best of the series complete with a satisfying epilogue to round out a sensational plot. Highly recommended.

*Don’t worry, there are still tons of high octane action sequences and nail biting moments too!

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, White Cat by Holly Black, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Proxy by Alex London, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Divergent by Veronica Roth, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin