Top Ten Tuesday: On My Syllabus

At first, I had thought not to participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week, the top ten books on my syllabus if I taught 'X'. I couldn't think about anything but fantasy books because that's what I'm currently reading (Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas). As much fantasy as I do read, I still consider myself a novice and so doubted whether I could "teach a class" on it. 

But then I had a conversation the other day about how hard it is to be a woman because there are a million and one opinions and expectations as to who you should be and what you should want, none of which are actually yours - and boom! I was inspired. So, here are the novel (not ten however) that would be on my syllabus is I were to teach:

YA Strong, Brilliant Female Characters 101

( because young girls need to know there is no one way to be a girl)

Now despite the film adaptations, which all depict these characters as absolutely stunning beauties (hello, Hollywood!), all of these ladies are lauded for their strength and intelligence first and foremost in their respective books. 

Let's just go ahead and start with the obvious...

Harry Potter's Hermione Granger

Seriously, I really just adore Hermione. Her character made me feel normal and wanted as a kid, and quite frankly as an adult as well. I may just name my daughter Hermione if my future husband lets me :) In the novel, Hermione is described as having big bushy hair and very large front teeth, and she's brave and "the brightest witch of her age." Her friends and others love her for her brilliance, kindness, and insistence on doing what's right. Very little is said about whether she is pretty because she is so much more.  

Fangirl's Cath Avery

Unlike her twin, Cath is described as awkward, painfully shy and quite plain in this novel by Rainbow Rowell. Her wardrobe is full of fandom tee shirts and lounging clothes, and she wear glasses and ties her hair up most of the time. Although Cath is pretty, her sister is considered the "hotter twin". Cath is noted for her imagination and her quirkiness and the deep level to which she cares about people, all qualities just as worthy of praise.  

Eleanor and Park's Eleanor Douglas

Eleanor is heavier than most girls, and many of the characters in the novel comment on her size and lack of beauty. But I said it in my review and I'll say it again: somehow, all this considered, the reader comes away with the idea that Eleanor is stunning and wonderful and amazing.  Despite her terrible home life, she is brave and funny, adorably sarcastic and sharp as a tack and we admire her for it all.

Divergent's Tris Prior

Shailenne Woodley, who plays the role in the movies, might be stunning, but Tris Prior is not. In the novels, Tris is a plain girl with dull blonde hair, sharp features and a slight frame that makes her look like a little girl. In the first book alone, her boyish frame is commented on quite frequently as well as the fact that she isn't typically pretty. But (minor spoiler!) Tris is divergent; she's strong, and brave, and smart and selfless, and above all else, a good, loving person. 

The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen

Oh, Katniss. I actually can't remember if Collins describes her as attractive... *checks and gets sucked into the vortex that is the internet* Nope, she's not said to be pretty. She's tan with long black hair, and is malnourished and scarred due to the impoverished state of her life. And even though Katniss is described as hot-tempered and a bit mean, she's got a fiery personality and can be very maternal and protective. She is also incredibly resilient, brave, honest and selfless, which she exhibits multiple times in all 3 books.

Bonus! Because adult girls too need to know that being stereotypically pretty isn't the only way to be (maybe also because I love it so): 

Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennett

She is described in the novel as lively and playful and quick. She is thought to be fine looking but not pretty or a beauty like her sister Jane. In fact, a certain someone refuses to dance with her at a party because she was "tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt" Lizzie's strengths are her [good nature] and the life she seems to carry in her eyes. In a single word, she has spark.

I really, really enjoyed writing this post, or rather creating this "syllabus". I'm thinking I'll do it again sometime. 

How about you? What books would you add to this course? Or would you teach a different course?

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge Month #2

Ummm. Five posts in five days. Whaaatttt?!

I snapped my fingers and another month has near flew by, so it's time to check-in again. I've come to the realization that sticking to my preliminary reading list is going to be damn near impossible. My Harry Potter binge took care of that one last month. I regret nothing but still... I've just got to accept that, make modifications and move on.

Here's my standings so far, as well as a few modifications from the prelim list:

  • Read a YA novel
  • Read a novel written by a Non-US author.
  • Read a book recommended by a blogger (or instagrammer / you-tuber / goodreads-er).

  • Read a book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more.

  • Read a novel with a kickass female character.

  • Read a book that is or will be a movie (or TV show)

  • Read a book written by a comedian or celebrity – or even a memoir if neither of those are your jam.

  • Read a novel with a one word title.

    • Emma by Jane Austen (may be subbed for a book of the month!)

  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge!

    • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (my original choice Count of Monte Cristo is too long to even attempt for this challenge!) 

  • Read a book about summer, with summer in the title, or in any way related to summer.

My Progress: 5 out of 10!

I like my odds of finishing by September 21st! 

How are you doing with the challenge? Don't forget - you can still win the Wildcard prize! Comment or link-up you progress below. (As always you can also check-in via this form or checking in on Instagram with the #literaryladies.) 

Happy Friday!

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publication: 2012

Main Plot: Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. (Goodreads)

I might burst. I might literally burst into a pile of happiness and sadness right here on this floor. Then who will put me back together again? I cannot control myself. Why did I read this? Why didn't I read this sooner?

I tried to take my time with this. I really did. It was just too good. I had to devour it. And so I did. And when I say devour it, really I mean, it devoured me.

"...you look like a protagonist. You look like ther person who wins in the end. You're pretty, and so good. You have magic eyes. And you make me feel like a cannibal."

Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

(Park and his mom)
"Does Dad know?"
"He knows, but you don't have to talk to him about it, okay? This is our business right now, you and me..."
"Is Dad going to be mad at me?" he asked.
"Whose business is this right now?"
"Ours," he said.
"You and me," she said.

In her head, this was Park's doing, too. The world rebuilt itself into a better place around him.
                                                       5 Cups = Up All Night!

                                                       5 Cups = Up All Night!

As always, Rainbow's character game is strong.  It almost hurts how much I adore these two misfits, Eleanor and Park. Park is quite possibly the most lovable character I've ever read and my favorite in this book, earning him a top place in the ranks of my bookish boyfriends. He's not perfect, but he tries so damn hard and I love him for it. He's tries to be a nice person, to understand Eleanor despite the very different and sheltered life he's use to, and to be honest and truthful without hurting her feelings. And sometimes he fails. Miserably. But he always feels those things acutely and always tries to make them right, no doubt due to his upbringing. His parents steal any scene they are mentioned in because they are also wonderful people (❤️), especially his mom. She's the sassiest. Sass Queen. Eleanor is uncomfortably shy and self-conscious, which is why the portrayal of a girl like Eleanor in love is so important. She's heavier than most girls, and not stereotypically beautiful, a fact that most of the characters in the novel comment on often. Yet, somehow, the reader still comes away with the idea that she is stunning and wonderful and amazing. With a home life that makes me want to to tear this book in two, Eleanor begins the novel reconnecting with her family after having been tossed out by her mom's boyfriend a year ago, and it doesn't get much easier from there. She's a tough cookie and you constantly feel for her heartbreakingly sad story, which I think makes her relationship with Park that much sweeter. 

Their relationship, while fast-paced, grabs you and never lets go. Yes, it only takes a handful of bus rides before they begin to fall for each other, but they're sixteen. That's what it feels like when you are sixteen. You meet this person that both quickens your heart and makes you feel so normal for the first time in your life and it feels like forever. And Rainbow does an amazing job at tapping into that experience. The novel is filled to the brim with adorable moments like hand-holding on the bus (who knew it could be so erotic? Hellooo. I knew not), first kisses in hidden passages and dramatic professions of love. I loved every single interaction these two had because it never felt fake. For instance, (very minor spoiler ahead, skip to the next paragraph if you'd like), Eleanor responds "I think I live for you" when Park asks if she likes him and for the first time, it doesn't read super melodramatic or unrealistic to me. In fact, because of Eleanor's dismal home life, it feels like the realist, truest thing she could say and I get it. It doesn't feel like a cheesy, barely true one-liner. It feels brave.

All this talk of character reminds me of a main gripe some have with Rainbow's writing: her novels are majorly character-driven and nothing really happens between the pages. In one way, they are right - Rainbow's characters, so powerfully crafted, urge you do read on - but as for plot, I beg to differ. Life happens. As much as I love the worlds of epic fantasy and dystopian novels, plot isn't one life or death situation stacked on top of anther. For most of us, plot is just life, living with hopes and dreams of something greater and better and more magical. That is the plot of Eleanor and Park, living with whatever happiness or depression that gets thrown their way, and learning to see setbacks as plot twists instead of insurmountable mountains or deep black holes. As expected, Rainbow navigates it all impeccably well through her characters, coupled with poignant writing and storytelling techniques that pull you in by the collar and demand that you listen. If you're wondering if you should read this book, stop it :) 

Read any books you just loved recently?

Scarred For Life?

In my teeny tiny bathroom in my teeny tiny apartment, there's a teeny tiny sink where I have my curling iron expertly balanced on the edge. There's very little space around my sink for anything other than hand soap, room spray and a cup for toothbrushes, and not really as my cup sits on a small metal plate jutting out from the wall a few inches above. 

I am staring intently into the teeny tiny mirror above my teeny tiny sink, so intently in fact that my eyes are crossing a bit. This is what happens when I'm styling the hair at the back of my head. I always have a terrible headache and what can only explained as an eyeache (?) afterwards. It's a relief to reach the front portion because I don't have to strain my eyes as hard anymore. At least, it's usually a relief. 

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I'm curling my hair towards my face and almost burn my fucking face off. There's really no other way to explain the severity of the situation. See, I normally curl away from my face because (1) curls are better that way and (2) to avoid things like this - burning my face off. I feel like my heart stops as I watch the iron come within inches of my eye. It's like that scene in an action movie when everything slows down and you watch as the nemesis throws a punch that just barely misses the hero's head. You watch the look of relief spread into his eyes as the tight fist sails across his face. Phewwwwp! I'm sure I actually hear the sound of the bullet I just dodged. 

Immediately I think, That's what you get for trying something new. I begin berating myself for it. I suddenly wonder why I even tried to change things up in the first place. That's what you get for trying something new. I continue to curl my hair, in the right direction this time of course, as I repeat this to myself. Then, I suddenly shake my head as if trying to shake it free of a tequila-induced haze. Another close call with the iron. I set the iron down carefully and back away from it as if it were a wild animal.

"Why am I doing this to myself?"

No response comes. Even I don't know how to answer this. Why was I giving myself so much shit? Ok, so maybe I tried something new, and maybe it didn't work out so well. It happens. But here I am giving myself a goddamn complex about it. I'm memorializing it in a way that will scar me, deter me from changing things up next time because "oh, remember what happened last time!" And worse yet, it's not someone else pushing these negative thoughts into my head, someone else who'll remind me of that fail any time I think of branching out again. It's me. 

I step back up to my teeny tiny sink in my teeny tiny bathroom inside of my teeny tiny apartment and start in on my hair again, curling in all directions, holding my breath a bit when the barrel gets close to my cheekbone. I wish I could say that it went without a hitch, but that'd be untrue. I did catch myself once on the jaw. It stung like a you-know-what for a few seconds and then it just wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. So I kept going, still holding my breath but minus any dread because, hey, I knew I could handle it now.

I learned three things by the end of it all: (1) curls really do look kinda nice in alternating directions, (2) not every mistake has to scar you for life, and (3) if you tilt the bottom of the iron away from your face, you'll avoid burning your fucking face off.    

What's some ordinary thing that taught you a not-so-ordinary lesson? Comment below! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Today's theme for Top Ten Tuesday really feels like deja vu, doesn't it? At least half of these authors were also on my "authors I've read the most of" list last week. Yet, I still had fun compiling this list. Here are the authors who could literally write anything and I'd buy it:

JK Rowling

She's the Queen. "I'd read her grocery list." Need I say more? I think not. Moving along. 

Rainbow Rowell  

I've officially read all but one of her released novels (review of Eleanor and Park coming soon!). My cycle with Rainbow is never ending: start novel, love novel, try to absorb novel into my soul, finish novel and think about it constantly, slowly move onto other novels, wonder "I haven't read a Rainbow novel in a while. Why do I love her so much?", pick up another Rainbow novel, fall in love with novel after 1st chapter." It never fails and I will always love it <3

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Cassandra Clare

I was kinda late on the Cassandra Clare bandwagon (think late 2013). But for what I lost in time, I make up for in intensity. I intensely love the Shadowhunter world that she has created. The world the characters, the incredible one-liners. I love it all, and I will continue to purchase all of her Shadowhunter novels so long as she continues to write them. 

Sarah Dessen

This is just one of sheer numbers. I've read 1/2 dozen of her novels and always, always enjoyed them. I know that if I'm looking for a novel with swoon-worthy characters and young girls learning to be strong, I can always go to Sarah Dessen. 

Sarah J Maas

I can't lie, part of the reason Sarah J Maas is an auto-buy for me is because are just SO DAMN GOOD. But also because I love her personality with I've come to experience because I follow her on twitter and tumblr. She's like the ultimate fangirl and she is as in love with her characters as we are. Knowing that, it makes me that much more confident in anything she releases. 

Alexandra Bracken

I've only read the first book in her triilogy, The Darkest Minds, but I cannot wait to finish the series because I really enjoyed it. Also, I think part of the reason I like Alex Bracken is because I've gotten to know her a person, like with Sarah Dessen, via her twitter. She's funny and sassy and such a Star Wars nerd that she's got a book in that world in the works. 

Marissa Meyer

Maybe it's because I'm such a huge fan of fairy tale retellings and it seems like that's kind of her thing... I don't know. But I know I love Marissa Meyer's ability to tell a compelling story. The thing about fairy tale retellings, they are usually super predictable because we know the story, we know the character's fate. However, Meyer's novels always have me guessing and it's the best. 

 

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Benjamin Alire Sáenz  

Earlier in the summer, I reviewed Sáenz's novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and I cannot stop thinking about it. You can check out the review for all my fangirling over it, but the writing is just so rich and the characters so perfectly flawed (even the secondary ones or the ones you never "meet") that I'm convinced I'll love any of his other work - although I don't think he's published anything else. 

Stephanie Perkins

My love for Anna and the French Kiss is so strong that it spurs the love of Stephanie Perkins all on it's own. Between that novel and her short story in My True Love Gave To Me, I am so sure that I'll love anything she writes. 

Classic Authors  

I took this topic to mean "living authors". However, I found that I kept wanting to put older, classic ones on my list. So I compromised :) Authors I'd include in this category: Jane Austen, James Baldwin, Emily Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gaston Leroux, J.D Salinger. If I don't have a novel/short story/ anything that any of them have written, you can bet your life it's on my wish list or I'm angling to get it. In fact, Penguin has a collection of classics with these amazing gothic covers (See image to the left. I think they are Australian editions?) and I want to repurchase them all! 

Who are some of your auto-buy authors?

Stories

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"Shh..." The soft sound comes from right next to me. A gentle pat on the knee follows just to prove no harm is meant. I pout anyway. Seconds later the television show pauses and it's silent for just a moment while my ever-so patient partner waits for what he knows is coming next. 

"Well, I just don't understand why she'd do that. She's sooo stupid. Clearly..." I launch into my frustrations, aimed at the writers of the show and the mediocre acting but said with vigor to my partner as if he's to blame. A slow smile begins to pull at the corner of his mouth. I know that smile. That's the "youuuu" smile, the "shaking my damn head" smile. 

I've done this before. Paused the show to add my commentary. (Sometimes I don't even pause at all, talking right over the next scene.) And I'll do it again. That's what that smile is about. It's about the inevitable. I'll surely realize in a minute or two that I've interrupted the flow, apologize, vow not to speak for the rest of the show, and then butt in again with a "just real quick!" in 15 minutes or so. That's just who I am.  

I'm the girl who will pause the Harry Potter movie to fill my non-reading companion in about the things in the book that the movie is skipping. I'm the girl who likes to try to predict the outcome of an episode while I'm watching it (for the record, I totally predicted the ending of Sons of Anarchy!). I'm the girl who will have enough to say afterwards to fill up an hour of your time. 

I like stories. Understatement, I love stories. I breathe them and I live in them. There's nothing like a well-placed story, except, maybe, an unexpected one :) When I look around - the guy resting his head in his girlfriend's lap after a long day beneath the shade of a tall tree in the park, the woman picking up each item in her basket and carefully reading the ingredients because she's counting macros this week - I don't see people. I see stories. 

So when I saw that my blog was taking a turn in that direction, that I found myself wanting to write about reading, writing and experiencing stories more than anything else, I decided to stop fighting it. I mentioned it on the day I launched this design: for 2 years I've been fighting my blog, not wanting it to lean in the direction it wanted. And look at us... right back at the crossroads. Except I'm not fighting it this time; I'm letting it steer and it's steering towards the thing I love most. Stories.  

Which is an incredibly long-winded way of saying "that's why you see the name change up there in the header!" After deliberating for months, berating myself for yet another name change (what's this? 3? 4 now?), and being advised by some of the best girls in the whole wide world (love you ladies!), I went with "Oh, For the Love of Stories."  Yeah, it breaks Blogging Rule 101, no long names, but it's punny so it slides right? Playing off the idiom "oh, for the love of God!", I thought the play on words was a perfect expression of my passion for stories as well as making it easy to remember. What does that mean for my blog and my lovely readers? Nothing. This blog is still a part of my website By Kari Parker. You can find the blog right here by either going to "bykariparker.com" or "ohfortheloveofstories.com", your choice. Content will remain generally the same. I'll still be blogging about what I want but it will be more focused on stories, reading them and reviewing them, and writing them, and telling them, and getting you to tell them to me. I hope all that's okay! I so look forward to sharing what I love with you <3

If you read all the way through to here, you tha real MVP!

Leave me a comment below telling me about when you finally found your "blogging niche" (or maybe you are still looking!).