Posts Tagged With: Rainbow Rowell

Book Reviews: Back To School

I was hoping for some fall-like rain, but this wasn’t what I had in mind.  It’s overcast and still in the 90s out, oppressive and muggy.  We might get ¼ of an inch of rain at some point tonight, says the weather guy on NPR, or we may just get dry thunderstorms.

Every little bit counts?

I had thought to do a review of something I’m reading lately, but all I’m reading is a host of romance novels by Sarah Maclean.  Her romance stuff is positively feminist, and I’m in love with all of it.  I can’t put them down.  It’s only been a few weeks and I’m almost out of her backlist already.  Sigh.

And so I’ll turn to old things to recommend to you instead.  It’s still early enough in the year that I can do back to school books, right?  These are three of my favorites, no matter where you happen to be going:

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Cath Avery, freshman, girl obsessed with all things Simon Snow and Watford the wizard school, is dismayed when her sister doesn’t want to room with her their first year in college.  They’ve always shared a room, and Cath isn’t at all equipped for new people, least of all her scary, taciturn roommate and her cute farm boy boyfriend who is always hanging around.  Couple that with a professor who thinks Cath’s fanfic is plagiarism, and a mentally ill father who goes a little nutty without his girls in the house, and Cath’s Anxieties abound.  But as her life as she knew it unravels, Cath realizes that she might have strength for something more.

This book is one of my favorite things ever.  Cath is so sweetly neurotic that you at once feel like she embodies everything you’ve ever worried about.  But she also never fails to make me feel normal, that my own anxieties are manageable. I don’t need to be forced to the dining hall and am able to kiss a boy while thinking about it, for example.  It makes it feel okay to be broken and to come from a crazy but loving home.  It makes it feel okay to take kissing seriously, to not follow the rhythms of the world around you like so many of us don’t.

I’ve read this book probably 3 times already since I found it a few years ago, and I’m not planning to stop any time soon.

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Princess Academy by Shannon Hale: Miri and the other girls in her small, poor mountain village are dismayed when an emissary from the king brings a missive to their far-away town: the priests have divined that the prince’s next bride will be from here.  Instead of working in the quarry to feed their families, all girls of a certain age must go away and attend a princess academy to ready themselves. The teacher is mean, the lessons useless for Miri’s old life, and even the other girls seem to be her enemy.  But eventually circumstances force them to get along, and Miri learns a secret that could ensure her village has enough to eat for all the future winters, if she can only execute the plan correctly.

This book is supposedly middle grade, I think, but it’s a really lovely tale about poverty and the importance of education, love, and diplomacy.  Miri is such a sweet girl that you find yourself rooting for her the whole way.  This book is the first of a series, and the themes grow up as Miri does.  Each chapter is headed by a sweet song.  Definitely worth checking out all of them.

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Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman: Told through letters, bulletins, waste paper trash, and other scraps of paper, this book is the chronicle of one English teacher’s first year at an urban high school.  It has bureaucracy, ill-behaved students, crazy administrators, and a cadre of other things that make it both sweet and exasperating.

There’s a reason it’s a classic, and even though it was written in the 1960s a lot of it still feels immediate.  Teachers are still fighting the good fight to put knowledge in kid’s heads, and kids are still irreverent jerks sometimes.  It’s a quick read, too.  Short and sweet.  I heartily recommend it.

 

As always, happy reading!

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Books: Sci-Fi and Fantasy for the Winter

Winter Reads

Thanksgiving is officially over (it went very well, thank you!) and I finished putting up my Christmas things on Sunday.  It’s cold here – in the 40s – and I’m hoping it quits soon because I own, like, 2 sweaters that are actually warm and weren’t bought for pretty.  Next weekend is when all the Christmas events start happening in my town.

There’s no way it will snow here, though.  So in the absence of actual snow, I need literary snow.  And for some reason, all my favorite winter books have a fantastical component.  Here are three that you should read, if you like this sort of thing:

Landline: A Novel, by Rainbow Rowell: Georgie McCool has always put her career as a scriptwriter front and center, and her husband Neil has picked up the slack.  When she and best friend Seth have the chance to pitch the script of their lifetime, if they can write it in five days, Georgie knows Neil will be upset.  But he’ll probably roll with Georgie’s assessment that they can’t bring the girls to his family’s house for Christmas like they planned.  Georgie didn’t forsee that Neil would be more than pissed.  He takes the girls to his parent’s house, leaves Georgie in California, and then is strangely unavailable.  Frantic, Georgie calls Neil from an old rotary phone in her bedroom to find that she’s dialed 20 years in the past.  But can she save her marriage from decades away?

Wintersmith (Tiffany Aching), by Terry Pratchett: Tiffany Aching accidentally joins the dark mummer’s dance, and then has to contend with Jack Frost, who thinks she’s his new girlfriend.  Embarrassing snowflakes in Tiffany’s shape, a cornucopia spilling out all sorts of things you just don’t want, the Nac Mac Feegles, and relations with the human boy Tiffany has a thing with are just some of the problems she faces.  But now that Tiffany has dethroned the goddess of spring, will Summer ever come again?

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin: Genly Ai has agreed to go as an emissary to the planet deemed Winter to see if he can get them to join the ecumenical society of planets.  It is first contact, and Genly is more than aware that he could be killed or imprisoned.  Winter is a world where most humans there are genderless until they mate, and over the course of a lifetime can be both male and female.  The planet is as unforgiving as it’s icy landscape, with a strange code of behavior called shifgrethor, and Genly is getting nowhere with his quest.  He places his trust in Prime Minister Estraven, who is then accused of treason and cast out of the kingdom.  But Genly and Estraven meet again in a work camp on the outskirts of civilization, and together they undertake a perilous journey over icy wastelands so that they can be free.

 

All links are affiliate links.  Enjoy!

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Book Reviews: 3 by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is my new obsession.  Her books are filled with flawed characters who live in the world I do and want the things I want.  Her plots may be slightly unlikely, but they err on the “OMG I wish that happened to me,” side.  Oddly enough, they make me long for that time when I was 20 and uncertain of everything except how much I loved Brian.  And how easy it was to love him in detail back then without the cares of the world to intercede.  I don’t get nostalgic for my 20s often, so the fact that Rowell can do that is a form of magic.  At this point, I’ll be reading everything she’s ever written.  The only one I haven’t dived into so far is Eleanor and Park.

My conclusion in a nutshell: READ THEM!  READ THEM ALL!  NOW!

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Attachments: A Novel

I picked up this book because the premise sounded fun.  Man hired to read and screen company e-mails gets sucked in by the quippy correspondence between two girls in the office and falls in love with one.  I mean, it was written by a woman named Rainbow.  It had to be fun, right?  I expected a cute, light read.  What I didn’t expect was the depth of character.

Lincoln (the e-mail reader) is this sad guy deeply in need of, well, something.  He lives with his mother and pines for the high school girlfriend who cheated on him once they got to college.  He’s pathetic, but there’s something so attractive about him just the same.  You feel sorry for him, but at the same time you can see how a girl would fall head over heels for him.  I don’t know how Rowell does that, but it’s brilliant.  One of the many reasons to love her.

There is depth in the story of the two girls, also.  One pregnant with a baby she isn’t sure she wants even though she’s happily married.  And another who is trapped in a relationship with a man who has been very clear that he will never marry her, despite her desire to get married.  They go beyond being funny (which they are – hilarious), and become genuine people.

I won’t say too much, but the ending is way more satisfying than I ever thought it could be.  A+

Landline: A Novel

This book is strange, from the standpoint that everything else in Georgie’s life is totally normal, except that she finds a telephone in her bedroom that calls the past.  When she has to stay at home over the holidays to work on a script, her husband takes the kids to his mom’s house without her.  And then is strangely unreachable.  Also enter complicated relationship with male best friend.  So she calls on the telephone and talks to her husband Neal just before he proposed to her, in another time and place 20 years earlier when they were also on the rocks.

This book felt really familiar, in that I think all people who are married build up baggage and decide that the other person is  judging them for things when they might not be.  And that there is a past that was blissful without responsibility involved.  This is the book that made me really nostalgic for those college days when I used to drop by Brian’s house between classes, when he took me out for hot fudge sundaes after work at 2 am.

If this book has any flaws, it is the unlikeliness of that phone existing, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be an unsolvable problem between Georgie and Neal.  It’s all in her head.  But the flaws might be all in my head.  It was a pretty great read.

Fangirl: A Novel

Just as I’m about to say that this one is my favorite of the three, I remember how great the other two were.  But seriously, this one is SO GREAT.  Cath and Wren (twins) go off to college, and socially challenged Cath is dismayed to find out that her sister doesn’t want to hang out once there.  Cath much prefers the online community she’s built as a fan fiction writing mogul to meeting any new people at all.

But it’s about living with social anxiety, living with a mentally-ill father, dealing with the tragedies in your past, learning to write, and letting yourself fall in love.  Cath’s roommate, Regan, is so negative that she’s hilarious.  Levi’s aerie in the house he lives in is my favorite thing ever.  I would never leave.  And there are super-hot, reading aloud to each other leads to heavy petting, scenes.  Basically every fantasy I’ve ever had.  Another amazing read.

I hear there’s going to be an actual Simon Snow novel next.  I’m a little thrilled about that.

All links are Amazon Affiliate links. Happy reading!

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Fall-ish Reading List 2014

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In the holiday shuffle, I missed posting my fall reading list.  So this one contains everything I’ve read up until January 1.  It’s shorter because I’ve been doing less reading of other people’s novels and more reading of my own.  Draft 6 is in full swing.

So, without further ado, here it is:

1.      A Wonderlandiful World, by Shannon Hale – Fun like the others, but I missed Apple and Raven.  Hale does some brilliant stuff that is Against the Rules and Shouldn’t Work with the character of the narrator. And yet it does, perfectly.

2.      Demons, and other magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge – She did not deliver on a (stupid) thing she’s been threatening for three books now, so that made me unhappy.  Otherwise it was what it should have been.  Nice epic finish that felt big enough.

3.      Manon Lescaut by Abbe Provost – I can’t say I liked it, although it got me thinking quite a bit.  It’s one of those novels where I disdain the characters and think they’re all idiots.  But it broadened my horizons.  So I’m not sorry I read it.

4.      The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern – If it was possible that anything could be funnier than the movie, this book is funnier than the movie.  The Florin jokes, abridgements, and history are the best thing ever, like I’m part of a massive inside joke.

5.      Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Man hired to read company e-mails secretly falls in love with girl who keeps violating the e-mail policy.  The two gals are beyond hilarious, the main character is such a great guy, and I love this book so much.

6.      The Lake by Analisa Grant – I just… 1st person present tense was difficult for me, and the story was cliché.  But it had profluence and an interesting main character.  I gave up 1/3 of the way through.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again, I don’t know.

7.      A Garden Folly by Candice Hern – The stupid sort of G rated Regency romance I love a lot.  Although it does make me uncomfortable when a girl says no and a guy doesn’t listen, no matter how much she’s really enjoying it.

8.      Paper Towns by John Green – Looking For Alaska was a better “finding someone” novel, and An Abundance of Katherines was a better “road trip” novel.  But it enjoyed it, and would have enjoyed it more had I not read the others first, I think.

9.      The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Now this is what I look for in a sappy regency romance.  Sophy is delightfully uncouth, quippy, and still the toast of the town.  It’s such a fun novel!  I’m pretty sure Heyer is my new obsession.

10.  The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer – A confusing start but ultimately fun.  Minus (miniscule) points because the siblings don’t have a great reason for masquerading.  Most of the novel had me in conniptions worried for Prue in White’s club.

11.  A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – I feel  like I shouldn’t have liked this one because of the abduction but I did anyway.  I could have done without the swath at the end where silly brothers are silly.  Otherwise impeccable.

12.  The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Considered her best by folks on Goodreads. It was cute, but I wasn’t super impressed.  The way she treats gender relationships sometimes bothers me, but not enough to hate the book.  It was a different time.

13.  More Than Somewhat by Damon Runyon – Why is he so wonderful?  I forgot how hilarious he makes the Broadway underworld of the 1930s and 40s.  I wish more of his stuff was available.

14.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – Oh CRAZY good, and perfect for the Halloween mood I was in.  Vampire novel meets quippy YA novel in the best way.  It was violent, but I found I could take it.  Seriously, this one is amazing.

15.  The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer – This one was sort of murder mystery-ish, although I knew who did it way too far in advance.  Once again, some unwanted advances are blamed on the flirtatious girl (sigh).  But I enjoyed it anyway.

16.  Dangerous by Shannon Hale – I love this novel, and the problems I saw in it the first time didn’t bother me at all the second time through.  The best part is still the funny names Maisy gives her false arm, and the bad puns.  They never get old.

17.  A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – You don’t often get nonfiction books that focus on the daily lives of women.  And women in the late 1700’s? Sold! It was a fascinating read and taught me A LOT about colonial domestic life. Love.

18.  The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – It’s weird.  This book feels utterly familiar and yet new at the same time.  I am in love with her, and this book is all the toppings on the sundae of how she’s changed my perspective and my life. So good.

19.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Beautifully written. It made me angsty and paranoid, though. The things she has to say about relationships are so heartbreakingly true that it feels like I could get there.  And the end?  No.  Just, no.  Ultimately did not like.

20.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I have never read any Dickens as an adult, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did when I was younger.  His character descriptions are delightful, and the story is so much more full.  Poor Pip and his fortune.

21.  Balls and Synthetic Cheese by Amethyst Hethcoat – A classmate of mine.  Such a weird and sometimes funny collection of short stories.  I had forgotten her penchant for unlikely metaphors and similes that make me grin. I was glad for the reminder.

22.  Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley – SO good, with that mundane quality in which nothing and everything happens which McKinley does so well. It’s a different book than Beauty, the ending far more satisfying.  Happily ever after is happy too.

23.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell – CRAZY good.  It made me think of Brian and the way things used to be 15 years ago when we were first dating.  It was sweet, and at this point I’m ready to read everything Rowell has ever written ever.

24.  Sunshine by Robin McKinley – It killed me that I didn’t have 12 hours to just sit down and read this thing all the way through.  Dirtier than most McKinely novels, but I didn’t mind.  This book makes vampire tropes look Hot (capital H).

25.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I love the way Rowell makes me think of my own college days.  It makes me want to love Brian in detail like that again.  Cath is so wonderful in such a messy way.  There isn’t anything I don’t love about this book.

26.  Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  I forgot how terrible Gwendolyn is, and how funny Chrestomanci’s dressing gowns are.  And Millie! And the adorable but bitey dragon! Some of the best of Diana Wynne Jones.

27.  The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  Because after Cat, you HAVE to have Christopher and his Almost Anywheres.  I might love this book more than the first one, although I nearly always read them in this order.

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