Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Okay, so everyone loved Eleanor & Park  and raved about it for months. Then, Fangirl arrived and was heralded with even MORE praise. Well, I have a confession to make: I hated Eleanor & Park. I was prepared to write off Rainbow Rowell off forever. But then… I succumbed to the peer pressure that is booktube and the book bloggers. They said that Fangirl is the anthem for every nerd girl who grew up loving Harry Potter… and they were right! I loved Fangirl. It was fresh, funny, and, oh-so-cute!

I related so much to the main character, Cath. I had a hard time adjusting when I went to college and I did end up taking some time off. I thought Rowell did a fantastic job of capturing the trials of a highly introverted, socially anxious person. She also created the ultimate nerd girl who is not ashamed to be one! For me, the most enjoyable part of the novel was getting to see Cath grow and building some relationships outside of her sister and Dad. Her interactions with Levi and Reagan were quite hilarious. I have a friend who is a lot like Reagan and I can attest that she helped me grow out of my shell.

Besides being a great portrayal of the struggles of a person with social anxiety, there are wonderful comedic moments as well as some ooey, gooey romance that makes you want to squeal and jump up and down! I thought that this book was great balance between the serious and the fun. In my eyes, Rainbow Rowell redeemed herself with this book.

The only thing that I did not really like were the excerpts from the Simon Snow novels and Cath’s fan-fiction at the beginning of every chapter. I found them distracting and they did not add anything to the story. To me, they were almost over-the-top in their parody of Harry Potter. The universe did not seem believable to me.

However, I thought this book was a fun, light-hearted read. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Stephanie Perkins’ books or is on the lookout for an easy, uplifting book to read.

Top Ten Books on My Spring 2014 TBR List

Now I don’t really have a TBR and I am also in the middle of a really bad reading slump (I haven’t read a book in over a month). However, I thought I would talk about the top ten books I’m hoping to get to as well as some new releases that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – This conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is coming out on April 8th. I’m so flippin excited for this book, I can barely contain myself. I love, love, loved the previous books. Laini Taylor’s writing is magical and the story is so unqiue. I can’t wait to see what happens to Karou and Akiva.

Cress by Marissa Meyer – The third book in the Lunar Chronicles, this book continues the story of Cinder and her growing gang of misfits trying that are trying to overthrow an evil queen. I’m currently waiting to get this from my local library and I’m hoping that it will get me out of my reading slump.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – Why must I wait until June 17th?! I thought Smoke and Bone and Siege and Storm were awesome! I can’t wait for the conclusion to the Grisha trilogy. Leigh Bardugo has built an amazing world based around magic with a Russian flair. Plus, the covers are gorgeous.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Let me start by saying that I didn’t like Eleanor and Park at all. In fact, I strongly disliked it. Therefore, I wasn’t eagerly awaiting the arrival of Fangirl. However, everyone has been raving about it and it does sound up my ally, so I’ve decided to give Rainbow a second chance to impress me. I am looking forward to diving in once I can get a hold of a copy.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman – Expected publication for this historical mystery/love story set in 1930s Munich is April 22. I’m a sucker for anything World War 2 related and a good mystery so this book sounds amazing. It follows Gretchen Muller, who is the niece of Adolf Hitler, and the complicated choices she has to face when she meets a young Jewish reporter.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I’m hoping to tackle this book sometime this spring once I get out of my slump. It’s a chunky book so you have to be committed. I’m a big fan of The Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) and I’ve heard that this is good option for those who like high fantasy, epic adventures, etc.

That’s all of I got today folks. Since my list tops out at 6 books, any recommendations for some spring reads?

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Swoon

ImageTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is very Valentine’s inspired!

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – This book is ultimate swoon worthy, teen romance. It’s set in Paris and features an English love interest! Yum!

2. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – Perfect for book lovers everywhere.

3. Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor – For the fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this novella covers the cute, romantic night that brought Zuzana and Mik together.

4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – Does this need an explanation? I mean, Mr. Darcy!

5. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen – My favorite Sarah Dessen book, this follows the unlikely romance between Annabel, recently rendered friendless, and Owen, a music-loving loner with a heart of gold.

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Now you might be thinking that this book is actually pretty sad, but there are some great swoon moments throughout.  Especially between Cosette and Marius. They’re so cute.

7. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier – One of my favorite books in high school. Reading it always makes my heart fuzzy. It follows the tale of young Jena and her best friend, the frog named Gogu.

There are quite a few more that I could probably think of, but I’m battling a cold and this is all my poor brain could come up with. 

Top Ten Characters I’d Never Want to Trade Places With

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic was either “Top Ten Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In” or “Top Ten Characters I’d Never Want to Trade Places With.”

1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series

I know this is fairly obvious, but this girl has had a rough go of things. Not to mention a myriad of psychological disorders brought on by having to compete in the arena.

2. Death from The Book Thief

Although I love his narration in The Book Thief, I would not want to take his place. His job is something is only he could do.

3. Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Yes, she does get to run around Prague and play with magic, but still doesn’t make up for losing most of your people and your love. I will take the magic though.

4. Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights

Catherine is one of the most miserable characters I’ve probably ever read. And, in my opinion, she has done it all to herself. I would not want to lead her lonely life on the moors.

5. – 10. Anyone from A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin has weaved an incredibly terrifying land with some pretty awful characters. I wouldn’t want to be anyone in A Song of Ice and Fire. If you’ve read any of his books, you know that none of the characters are left unscathed by this never-ending “game of thrones.” Personally, I like having a happy ending (I’m a romantic at heart).

Library Book Haul – Jan. 2014

Today, I thought that I would do a quick library book haul. Personally, I don’t buy many books. Between living expenses and university, extra cash is hard to come by. However, I’m a proud advocate of libraries and I fully believe that more people need to utilize them. Probably 98% of the books that I read each year were borrowed from my local library.

During my last trip to the library, I picked up five books:

Vicious by V.E. Schwab20140120_155937

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones (my review here)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Quiet American by Graham Green (this actually for one of my courses at university)

I think it is so wonderful that I can get these fairly new releases with very little wait and at no cost to myself. I do love to buy books, but most of the time, I buy ones that I’ve already read and loved. Spending money on a book that ends up being no good is not fun. Of course, I still can appreciate the desire to grab a book you’ve never even heard of and bring it home.

Where do you get your books from? Libraries, bookstores, online shops?

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

constableOne of my 2014 resolutions was to try to read some more children’s/middle-grade fiction, so I ventured down to my local library and picked up Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones. Because it’s set in Victorian England and features ghosts, I thought it would be up my alley.

The story mostly around a young man who can see ghosts, Sam Toop, and a paper-pushing ghost named Lapsewood. Lapsewood is sent by the Bureau (think R.I.P.D if you’ve seen the movie) to investigate disappearing ghosts and uncovers a mysterious Black Rot that has sprung up in London. As Sam Toop can speak to ghosts, he ends up becoming involved in the important task of saving the ghostly realm. Since I love a good mystery, I found the plot to be captivating with a touch of darkness around the edges. The book reminded me of a middle-grade Dickens novel. There were many different characters all tied together in some way but it also had that dark, dreary feeling that is so characteristic of Dickens.

I enjoyed all the characters in the book, but Lapsewood, the ghost, was probably my favorite. He was humorous in a dry, British kind of way. By the end, he has really grown as a ghost and come to embrace a bit of adventure instead of his previously dull existence. Additionally, the relationship between Mr. Tiltman and his daughter Clara (she has quite a large role in the story) was quite hilarious and endearing. They have some great moments together.

Even though this is geared to younger audiences, I felt that the level of writing captivated even me, a 21-year-old. I even thought that this book was actually a young adult story. The vocabulary was not overly aged down yet would not be too hard to read for a younger reader. There was one instance of mild swearing (d*** said twice), but I think most kids probably aren’t bothered by that. However, there is some violence throughout

Constable & Toop was a fantastic supernatural story that was both humorous and dark at times. I think that readers of all ages would enjoy this imaginative read. A YA comparison would be Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

This was the last book I read in 2013; I actually finished it a half hour before midnight! Breakfast at Tiffany’s is  a novella and, in the edition I had, three short stories were included. However, I’m going to focus solely on Breakfast at Tiffany’s in this review. When people hear the title, they probably either think of the movie or the song. I’ve seen the movie with Audrey Hepburn and I have to say that, while it has some similarities, the book is very different.

The book is narrated by an unnamed man who Miss Holly Golightly calls “Fred” after her elder brother. It begins in the autumn of 1943 and ends the following year. The narrator is reminiscing about his relationship with the young (the book says she’s 19-20) society girl and all the various events that happen. Eventually, their relationship ends, but Holly Golightly remains as the beautiful, mysterious girl that Fred was in love with.

Personally, I think Holly Golightly is the epitome of the “manic pixie dream girl” character. She’s young, beautiful, and captures the imagination of an awkward young man by regaling him with quirky stories that fit with her quirky personality. Fred is not the only man in love with her during the story.

However, in many instances, she’s flighty and capricious. She’s gone all hours of the night and sleeps all day. Of course, she also gets into spots of trouble. Rather than having a job, she accompanies wealthy men to dinners or parties and, in return, receives gifts or money.  In an interview, Capote called her an “American geisha.” She’s the kind of girl that manages to get everything she wants with out having to do anything for it.

In terms of plot, there was not a a huge, complex story line. It is more of character study of Holly Golightly done by “Fred” as he examines their year long friendship. The entire novella features a whole host of interesting and unique characters from Rusty Trawler, a child-like man, to Madame Sapphia Spanella, the angry neighbor who hates Holly. I enjoyed how Capote created this dysfunctional cast of characters and in a few, simple words crafts such striking images. If you read my review on In Cold Blood, I rave about Capote’s writing style and I loved it just as much in this story. He has a certain way of seeing the world, which is unlike any other writer I’ve read.

I’d also highly recommend the short story “A Christmas Memory,” which is the moving story of a young boy and his best friend. I also recently purchased Capote’s first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, a story that I’m excited to read. 

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Published in 1950, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a series of short stories, or rather, vignettes, detailing the arrival of humans on Mars. The first story begins in January 1999 and the stories progress through October 2026. I’ve read Fahrenheit 451, another popular book by Bradbury, and I really enjoyed it. While I didn’t enjoy The Martian Chronicles as much, I did appreciated Bradbury’s extensive imagining of how Mars might have been populated by humans. He also has an almost poetic way of writing and some of his scenes are especially moving.

Usually I’m not a fan of short story collections because I find that often the short stories are disconnected and not developed. I’d much rather read a longer book that has fleshed out characters and a plot.  However, even though these were all separate stories, they all felt connected because of their common element – Mars, as well as a few recurring characters.

Even though the stories are set in what would’ve been the future (most of them take place in the early 2000s), there is still a very 1950s feel to the setting. For example, even though these humans have the advanced technology to get them to Mars from Earth (the closest possible distance between them is 33.9 million miles), they aren’t able to communicate with Earth via radio transmissions, etc. They send letters or flashes of light (in reality, the time delay for radio transmissions is relatively short). Even though it was interesting to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in this alternate future, there was a teeny weeny part of me that couldn’t put forget that space doesn’t work that way. The Civil Rights Movement hadn’t happened yet, so in this future there is still racial prejudice occurring. But these gave the book a unique feel. While it’s supposed to a sci-fi look at the future, the book is also like a little slice of the past, creating a unique juxtaposition.

The stories also include some ideas that appear later in Fahrenheit 451 like book burning, censorship, and atomic war. I almost feel like maybe Fahrenheit 451 could have been a precursor to The Martian Chronicles. One of the stories details how books were burned on Earth and one man attempts to escape the censorship.

Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. I don’t read science fiction much, so I think this would be a good book for anyone wanting to get their feet wet in the genre. Ray Bradbury was a great writer and had an incredible imagination. I’ve never read anything quite like his books. The Hunger Games series has some of the same themes and a similar feel, if you’re looking for a modern comparison.