Also, this weekend Flannery and Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous got to hang out for multiple hours in real life, watching amazing films and t.v. shows and by all accounts, having a fantastic time. Meanwhile, the rest of us tried and failed not to be incredibly jealous. Not to be outdone, Catie roped Maggie's co-blogger Noelle into an email chain of playlists, classic fantasy, and fluffy fluff reads. The following post is the result. Hopefully we'll be back next month to discuss which of these we all picked, and look out for some reviews over at Young Adult Anonymous through the month as well!
What it's about: Two best friends growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mary Poppins. Baseball. A school project. A deaf orphan. First love. Friendship. Lots of things I can make into short phrases and then add periods to the end of.
Why I think she'll like it: Maggie and I both lived in New England for a few years. (She was in Boston, I was in Providence, then later in Boston) Perhaps I was just very nostalgic when I read this book but it made me miss Boston and a lot of the little things that make it such a lovely place to live--certain architectural details, the weather in the fall, neighborhoods, food, etc. This book definitely has a lot of almost laughably diverse characters and it is high on the cheese scale but I know Maggie can handle that when she's in the right mood. She'll know if she's in that kind of mood this month.
What it's about: What is any romance about? Hot guys and their future ladyloves. In this case, four grandsons to Daniel MacGregor, a wily, undercover matchmaking billionaire. He sets his family members up like pawns and then pretends he had nothing to do with it. Every young relative of his is positive they will be able to find someone on their own and every one of them, SURPRISE! is totally wrong.
Why I think she'll like it: Everyone knows that Nora Roberts is the queen of contemporary romance. Maggie and I have pretty similar tastes in romance books, mostly in one of our favorites, Susan Elizabeth Phillips but she's never read any Nora Roberts. I know, right? Get real, Maggie. She says she, "doesn't know where to start." I lose sleep wracking my mind to figure out which Nora is the best to start with. My first Nora Roberts book was The Villa during my freshman year of college and it certainly got me hooked. However, this one is one of my all-time favorites. I'm curious whether the four shorter-length stories will appeal to someone who has not read lots of Roberts romances before. One of the stories is a particular favorite of mine: A formerly dowdy girl gives herself a makeover and takes over her family's bookstore. She is thrown together with a hotshot JFK Jr. type when he asks her to help him design his new library. Sa-woon.
What it's about: White Cat is the first in a series that is basically YA urban fantasy. Some people are able to work magic with their hands in various ways so everyone is required to wear gloves. Cassel, the protagonist, comes from a mafia-like family of curse workers, though he himself is a normal human--or is he? His relatives can change memories, kill people, or play on the emotions of others with just a touch. A few years back, Cassel killed his best friend Lila and now he is sleepwalking and having all sorts of weird dreams.
Why I think she'll like it: Maggie recently has become addicted to audiobooks and this series is one of the best in that format. Jesse Eisenberg narrates and is absolutely perfect as Cassel. I read the last book in the series and really regretted not finishing it off as an audiobook. I am positive Maggie will enjoy this series if she gives it a chance. Neither one of us has read anything else by Holly Black. (I don't really like fairies. I just asked Maggie if she liked fairies and she said, "You mean in stories?" (You know, because there are tons of fairies around in regular life.) We are both fans of male-narrated YA stories and Cassel is clever and the friendships and relationships in this series are realistic. Nothing about this series annoys me and that is reason enough to recommend it to Maggie. Listen to it. Do it.
I want to start The MacGregor Grooms right now! The matchmaking grandpa already sounds like he'd be in my "old people can be so sweet" hall of fame. And a JFK Jr type? Be still my heart. Someone tell Taylor Swift about this book.
My Most Excellent Year is the only one I'm slightly nervous about because I loathe baseball with a passion usually reserved for telemarketers and child molesters. What kind of sport has athletes that are out of shape? And lasts indefinitely?? (Answer: Not basketball.) However, I do love Mary Poppins. I'm curious to see if my Disney love can overpower my baseball hate.
I love that Flann picked books that weren't already on my to read list. Can't wait to start! No, seriously. Give me your Kindle with MacGregor Grooms. NOW! :)
What it's about: Soccer superstar Gracie Faltrain is the only girl on the boys team. She's as unapologetic off the field as she is on, though not quite as skilled. She's trying to navigate high school without her best friend (who's moving to London) and her father (who's traveling on business). Just as she thinks she's about to get the boy and everything else, her tongue gets her into trouble. Literally. Can she learn from mistakes? One thing is for sure, Gracie won't be staying on the sidelines.
Why I think she'll like it: It's Cath Crowley's debut -- from whence she came! This is my favorite non-dystopian YA series (sorry, Ruby Oliver!) and cemented Cath Crowley as my spirit author. I would love for this to become a TV show a la Friday Night Lights (oh yes, I'm dropping an FNL comparison) because there's so much heart. Correction: full hearts. I loved the characters and seeing how they developed throughout the series. Since Flann loves both Graffiti Moon and A Little Wanting Song, I think she would love Gracie Faltrain. (Note: I would also recommend this to fans of Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen series.)
What it's about: Adaptation meets the teen version of Larry and Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm with a dash of Troy and Abed from Community. Plus cancer!
Why I think she'll like it: There aren't many people who would crack up at cancer. I think Flann is totally my kindred spirit in this. We've had two Netflix marathons and based on the 1:4 ratio of appropriate to inappropriate laughter and sheer number of Arrested Development mentions, Flann is the target audience for this book. I absolutely loved this one and snort-laughed my way through it, as Jo and her old cat promised.
What it's about: Sexy Sadie meets a SEAL. Hooyah.
Why I think she'll like it: Flannery and Maureen were directly responsible for my summer of SEP. I read 6 in a row and 11 altogether -- and only disliked 1. Once I get on a roll with an author, it's hard to switch styles. I tried reading a few romances after my SEP-a-thon, including an old favorite, but I just couldn't get into them. Until I read this Rachel Gibson book. Mother of God. Former Navy SEAL Vince Haven is as manly as Dan Calebow and as swoonworthy as Alexi Markov. It's also laugh out loud funny, which is a key element in SEP books. I think this is a romance Flannery's SEP-lovin' heart will be able to enjoy.
a) She has excellent taste in music and
b) She likes to create playlists for her favorite books.
So naturally, being a fellow music/book nerd hybrid, I asked Noelle to do something a little bit different with me for this version of She Made Me Do It. We both love to ponder our favorite stories and then pair them up with songs, but could we do the opposite? I’ve always wanted to try it, so I asked Noelle to give me a list of songs that she’d like book recommendations for. She sent me an awesome playlist (which I’ve been listening to non-stop for the past two days) and from that list I selected the following three songs:
Brand New - Sowing Season
This one is my favorite off the list, so come hell or high water I was going to find a book to pair with it for Noelle. I think this song could be young adult or adult, but for me it’s about recovery, growth, and starting over. The lyrics, which are partially based on Rudyard Kipling’s If, are just stunning. Noelle was particularly taken with these lines:
Take all that you have,
And turn it into something you were missing.
Somebody threw that brick, shattered all your plans.
Is it in you now,
To bear to hear the truth that you have spoken,
Twisted up by knaves
To make a trap for fools?
Is it in you now,
To watch the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools?
Which is why I picked this book as my first recommendation:
What it's about: Lou is a thirteen year old prodigy who doesn’t fit in with her classmates, who are all two years older, or at home where her parents are both held by grief. When she meets eighteen year old No, homeless and broken, she decides to interview her for a school project. Lou comes to care for No, and despite all the objections of society, she wants to swoop in and rescue her. No likewise wants to let Lou be her rescuer – but can simple wanting stand up to years of trauma and abandonment?
Why I think she'll like it: Honestly, the strongest reason I have for why Noelle might like this book is that Maggie liked it. This pick is much more about the song. Both of the lyric passages above remind me of this book, which may be because I just finished it and can’t get it out of my head. But still. The first passage reminds me of Lou, throwing off her doubts and taking a chance. And the second passage is basically what I’d like to ask No. It’s an amazing book. It’s a quiet, understated read that’s more about emotion and great writing than plot, which I’m not sure if Noelle appreciates but I had to add it to my list!
First Aid Kit - When I Grow Up
I think this song is definitely a young adult pick. It feels like the big improbable dreams that we have when we’re young:
“When I grow up, I want to be a forester
Run through the moss on high heels
That’s what I’ll do, throwing out a boomerang
Waiting for it to come back to me"
There were a couple of books that I thought about for this one but I ultimately settled on:
What it's about: This is a very surreal but visually stunning story about Abbie, who uses art to process her feelings and Kane, the bad boy surfer she’s obsessed with. This book isn’t perfect, but it had a huge impact on me nonetheless.
Why I think she'll like it: Can it be true that my dear Noelle has not read a single book by Kirsty Eagar? It is time to remedy that one. I thought about picking the fantastic Raw Blue for this song, but I ultimately decided on this one. Here is another thing you might not know about Noelle: she’s a brilliant artist. I think she’ll really appreciate all of the surreal imagery and Abbie’s artistic journey.
The Boxer Rebellion - No Harm
So. I really wanted to pick a fluffy fluff disco chicken read (as Noelle would call it) – something that she could just disappear into for a while and not have to think about too much. Really, this is the most feeble of my song/book pairings, and it all hinges on this little line:
“Maybe there's no harm,
there's no harm,
there's no harm in you
So watch what you see
There's a beast, that's in me”
What it's about: Feisty girl Kate is kidnapped by the Goblin King Marak – which turns out to be the traditional Goblin method of finding a suitable spouse. She’s understandably reticent about the whole idea (and seriously pissed off) but she finds more than she bargained for in the Hollow Hill.
Why I think she'll like it: I know that Noelle loves fantasy and this book is sweet and comforting and so much fun. I’m not sure if she’ll be into the whole Beauty and the Beast/kidnapping/Stockholm syndrome thing but we shall see!
First off, I'm blushing because Catie is the nicest person in the world and secondly, leave it to the wonderful Catie to point out new amazing layers in one of my favorite songs. The Kipling poem connection is just genius and I never realized that before! That might be a d'oh on my part but I like to think it's more because she's so awesome. I had so much fun picking out songs and wondering which books Catie would choose and these selections definitely don't disappoint. I'm excited and intrigued about all three recommendations. I can't wait to start reading.
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First of all, what a great song. It's hopeful, inspiring uplifting and wait a minute....I know a book character like that! After a few listens, I was sure. My book recommendation for "Hold On" by the Alabama Shakes is:
What it's about: Amber Appleton has it pretty rough but she's not one to let things get her down. Even though she's currently living with her mom on a school bus, Amber remains an irrepressible source of hope to every0ne around her--whether they want her to or not. But then, something happens that threatens even Amber's unyielding optimism. With her belief system shaken to its core, can Amber find a way to regain what makes her so special?
Why I matched it up with the song (and why I think she'll like it): Just listen to Brittany's voice. That's the voice of someone who has been through some shit, you know? And ooh boy, Amber Appleton has too. At first, I was this close to going with All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield for this song (like how I sneak in two book recs for the price of one?) but upon further listening, this song is pure Amber. The optimistic perseverance and the mention of a higher power made it a lock. I think Catie will be another convert to the Amber Appleton Adoration Society. Amber is like the Borg of Hope: resistance is futile. (And yes, Maggie I just made a Star Trek joke--but you share a blog with me so hahahaha.)
What it's about: An innkeeper's daughter happens across a thief in the night stealing her father's boat and finds herself at an impasse. You see, Birle is betrothed to a grade A asshole and her main prospects in life are subservience and soul sucking monotony. What first is an instinct to reclaim her father's property becomes a chance to escape her unpromising future. When the thief turns out to have a secret identity (but of course) and a pair of oh so pretty eyes, Birle decides she wants to see this adventure through but on fortune's wheel adventures are followed by unimaginable hardships and you never know which one will come up next.
Why I think she'll like it: Honestly, this rec is based on my vague recollection of LOVING THE SHIT out of this when I was a barely-teen. As soon as we started the Back to the Future feature on YAA, I knew I wanted to revisit this book with someone who had never read it before and I think Catie is the perfect person to give it a go. I know Catie loves her fantasy and epic girl quests (as do I!) and if I remember right, Birle's transformation from innkeeper's daughter to a survivor /independent woman (basically your choice of Destiny's Child songs) was a great coming of age story. Disclaimer: I haven't read this in...like, 18 years? BUT. That's all part of the fun.
What it's about: Oh yeah. Drink that cover in. Why yes, he took the precaution of protecting his forearms but thought it best to go shirtless in a sword fight. It all makes perfect sense if you stare at his abs long enough. (I guess we're just lucky that he wasn't wearing one of his beloved waistcoats and nothing else?) Basically: Ever since airship captain Yasmeen threw adventurer Archimedes Fox overboard, he's been smitten. Why waste time plotting revenge when he can be plotting for her affection? When fate and some stolen documents throw them together again, he gets his chance all while searching for treasure, avoiding assassination attempts and inciting a rebellion. You know, the usual.
Why I think she'll like it: Because it's straight up FUN. Ignore the ridiculous cover! Heart of Steel is like a swashbuckling, steampunk Nick and Nora Charles action-adventure. The two leads' relationship dynamic is so delightful. This is the second book in the Iron Seas series but with the help of the author's guide (and a summary of the protagonists' brief history in book one from me), Catie should be able to jump right in. Humor, action and adventure, some swoon for good measure and oh so much fun. Catie...Disco Chicken is playing your song! Don't you wanna dance? (Nanoagents optional!)
I basically want to read all of these books, and I think I just might. I've wanted to pick up Sorta Like a Rockstar for a very long time. I'm pretty sure that I've even checked it out of the library multiple times without reading it. The main character sounds like a present day version of Sarah Crewe from A Little Princess, which is like one of my favorite books in the entire world, ever. I'm psyched to have a reason to finally commit to reading it. Noelle actually sent me On Fortune's Wheel for my birthday last year (which was so kind of her) but it's just been languishing on my shelf ever since. Her description makes me so excited to read it - I've read a few heavy books recently and I think I could definitely do with some romance and adventure. And of course I always love girl quests. As for her third pick, I got temporarily hypnotized by the cover and so I sort of blanked out on everything else about it. Good enough for me!
If you'd like to follow Noelle and Maggie, you can find them in their natural habitat at their blog, Young Adult Anonymous, on Goodreads (Maggie and Noelle), and on Twitter. (Maggie, Noelle, and YAA)