Book Review: FANGIRL, by Rainbow Rowell

I was totally going to do this as a Waiting on Wednesday, because the book’s not out yet, but if I wait until next week I might forget (again), so HERE WE ARE.

You may have heard of a book that’s currently burning through the bookstore shelves called ELANOR & PARK? The CEO of my company was on Canada AM talking about it just this morning. I haven’t read it yet (OMG, SO MANY BOOKS), because I am trying to write PRAIRIE FIRE, but last week I saw the ARC of FANGIRL, Rowell’s forthcoming title, on the shelf and just could. not. resist.

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You can’t see it on this version, but the one I had was subtitled The “Story” Of My Life, which is about 18 kinds of perfect for reasons that are [redacted for spoilers]

I found out about this book because I follow gingerhaze, who did the wonderful cover art, both on twitter and tumblr. I think it’s actually kind of fitting, because where better to find a book called FANGIRL than on a blog I started watching because of Broship of the Rings?

(This review, by the way, is probably going to be something of a Word Journey, because I’m not sure I can talk about it without talking about my own experiences in fandom. Which might be the point?)

Anyhoodle, FANGIRL is the story of Cath, aka magicath, who found the Simon Snow novels as a kid with her twin sister, and has never looked back.

The two of them did it all: fanfic, conventions, costumes for the movie premieres. Except now it’s time for college, and while Wren (Wrenagade) has mostly grown away from fandom, Cath is still holding on.

With the eighth (and final) Simon Snow book due out around finals, Cath has to balance her life in fandom with a surly roommate and her charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I think I am going to have to review this on two levels, one as a writer-of-fanfic, and again as a reader-who-is-a-writer-of-fanfic. So…technically and emotionally, if you will.

I fell in love with FANGIRL pretty much as soon as I opened it and read the fake wikipedia entry for the Simon Snow books. And then it GOT EVEN BETTER, because the book was broken into chapters by excerpts from the novels themselves, as well as scholarly articles and Cath’s own fanfiction. Basically, it was nerd heaven, for me. And as if that wasn’t good enough, Cath’s fanfic shows IMPROVEMENT. Her early stuff is, well, like MY early stuff, and then she gets really good! And when she co-writes with Wren, her style is different. What I am saying, basically, is that Rowell’s attention to detail is beyond perfect.

There were also a lot of hilarious touches that I could relate to. Like struggling with kissing scenes when you write “in public”, and desperately trying to finish a story before the canon comes out and steps on all your dreams and plans, and the pitfalls and high points that come with being a BNF*.

Which leads me to my emotions. Because, lordy, did I have emotions.

So, so often in the “real world”, I am made to feel like less of a person for being a fan. Like it’s a waste of my time and talent. Like I should do “real” writing. Like I should grow up. Cath faces a lot of that, but rather than let it overwhelm her, she lets it help shape the kind of grown-up she wants to be. Her writing prof, who is basically doing that thing where she’s writing fanfiction without realizing that she is writing fanfiction, is both Cath’s biggest block and her biggest encouragement. It’s a position I could identify with all too well.

Cath also has a really, really fantastic supporting cast. I think Reagan (the surly roommate), might be my second favourite character in the whole book. Except for the surly part, she is exactly the kind of roommate I needed (and eventually got) in university. Wren is just a beautiful disaster. And Levi…

Levi should have his own paragraph, really. Except that everything I want to tell you about him is a spoiler. So just take these lines and hold them until the book comes out.

FANGIRL is exactly the kind of book I never, ever dreamed would get written. It takes a topic that’s almost trendy, but not very well understood, and it doesn’t even attempt to explain it. It’s strongest moments are some of the most difficult to describe. It made me laugh a lot, and then at the end I cried because Simon Snow was over, and I remember what that felt like. And then, just to really drive the point home, the book ended with one of the best examples of how to say “I love you” that I have ever come across in my entire life.

This isn’t the kind of book you have your mother read so that she can understand why you need to stay up until 3AM writing stories about characters who have three seconds of screentime together** having a complicated off-screen relationship. This is the kind of book you give to the other fans in your life. It’s something else to hold tight and love, and never apologize for, because it’s freaking beautiful. The writing, the story, the “story”, all of it.

Cath had the “story” of her life, and most of us have ours. FANGIRL is the story of how to make it all work together, and even more besides.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell will be released on September 10, 2013.

 

 

 

*Which, I hasten to say, I never was. I mean, I had followers and stuff, but nothing to Cath’s scale. Of course, I also don’t write about boys kissing (well, in popular fandoms, at least), so it’s to be expected.
**Or no screentime. Let’s be honest.

Waiting on Wednesday

That awkward moment when you go back through you blog posts and realize that while you did promote THE ASHBORN BOY, you forgot to talk about how excited you are for Victoria Schwab’s THE ARCHIVED.

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Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

Books and Histories and dead people? I’m so, so in. I love the idea of Histories being set up like that, of something that…might be able to move and talk for itself? I have no idea, but if the cover is anything to go by, we’re in for something creepy and fierce and bookish, and that sounds like something I will love.

THE ARCHIVED is available for pre-order, and will be released on January 22, 2013.

Waiting On Wednesday

There’s no cover art for the books I’m looking forward to this week. In most cases, there aren’t any agents, deals or editors either. There aren’t any words (or there shouldn’t be), and in some cases, there isn’t even any plot.

But there’s a dream. And a goal. And a lot of stockpiled coffee.

These are books I’ll probably never read, though a few will be honed and polished and eventually see the light of day. But I’m waiting for them anyway, because they’re being written.

Tomorrow is the start of NaNoWriMo, when thousands of writers all over the world attempt to do something ridiculous: write 50,000 words in 30 days. Most are amateurs, writing around jobs and kids and their social lives with no plan on going pro some day. Some are dreamers, like I was (yes, THE STORY OF OWEN was written during NaNo 2011), and some are pros (like I am now? I think? Technically I think I’m still doing this for fun?), but for 30 days, we’re all just writers with books on the brain.

I am on the NaNo website as grav_ity. Feel free to add me to your buddy list, if that’s the kind of thing you do. I wish you all the best if you are writing. Remember to eat and sleep occasionally, and to remind your family that this is your month, your time, and you’ll see them in December.

Mostly, though, this is the time of year when I’m reminded that I love writing. It’s this crazy thing, and I do it because it’s fun. So write because you love it. Write because you chose it. And write because I’m competitive, and if you have a high word count, chances are pretty good I’ll have one too. 😉

Waiting on Wednesday

I’m pleading exhaustion and skipping my Monday post altogether, but I think I have my head in the game enough to write a Waiting on Wednesday post, so LET’S DO THIS THING!

Today’s WoW book is THE GENERAL’S MISTRESS, by Jo Graham:

Admittedly, it doesn’t look like my usual fare. Except it’s about LOVE and MAGIC and GENERALLY BEING AWESOME during the Napoleonic era (ish). I got to test read this book when it was called something else, and when it was in another format, but I haven’t read this version and I’m not entirely sure what happens in it, so I can’t wait to find out.

Jo Graham has become one of my favourite writers since I started reading her stuff in 2010, and I am excited to go back into the Numinous World with her. I love trying to figure out who everyone is (true story: I am really bad at it! Except with Sigismund!), and even though I could easily look up what happened on wikipedia, Graham’s storytelling is so amazing that sometimes I forget stuff in her books happened in real life!

THE GENERAL’S MISTRESS comes out on October 23rd, and would be a great way to tide yourself over while you’re waiting for Les Miserableto come out in theatre. In the meantime, also check out Jo’s other books, particularly STEALING FIRE, which is beautiful, and THE RAVENS OF FALKENAU, which is…just stupendous (and $3.99 on ebook).

The world is a numinous place, for those who have eyes to see it…

Waiting On Wednesday

Originally, this was going to be kind of a fluffy, vaguely sarcastic WoW entry, but then the internet happened, and it turns out I have opinions. Who knew?


Yeah, I’m excited for THE CASUAL VACANCY. I have no idea what it’s about, which is kind of great in this world of “you can find spoilers anywhere”, and I’m almost positive that I’m not going to love it, but gosh darn it, I am going to buy it tomorrow. That’s not really what this post is about, though. This post is about the person who is probably the MOST excited for THE CASUAL VACANCY.

That person? J.K. Rowling.

(Sidebar: I adore her. I really, really do. Not only has she written a bunch of books that helped define a large part of my college years, she’s also become fabulously wealthy and stayed possessed of common sense. She gave away so much money she dropped a tax bracket, for crying out loud, and should I ever have enough money to build that kind of tree house for my kids, I am totally building one for myself. So I love her. And I am so…HAPPY for her. And, you know, also angry, because people are mean.)

Thing is, she didn’t have to write this book. She could have just faded away (publicly, anyway: I believe Harry Potter is with us forever), but she decided she wasn’t done. She decided she had other stories to tell, and, so help her, she was going to write about British politics.

She could have done it under a pen name and avoided all the flack she’ll catch for daring to publish something that’s not Harry Potter. She would have avoided all the “graduated to adult lit” shenanigans that will undoubtedly ensue. She could have, just like she could have stopped paying British taxes all those years ago.

But she didn’t.

Say what you will about J.K. Rowling, the woman knows her damn path. And I admire her all the more for walking it. It doesn’t matter if THE CASUAL VACANCY is something you (yes, you) like. J.K. Rowling likes it, and she’s put herself in a position where she can get it published.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be the one who builds the display at work. And when the tills open, I’ll be one of the people in line. Congratulations, J.K. Rowling. You can write whatever you want. Well done.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea borrowed from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Since I have kind of forgotten about Waiting on Wednesday these past couple weeks, I thought I would do a bonus TWO FOR ONE.

So recently I started working at Chapters again, and one of the cool things about that job is that they want you to read books. I mean, they encourage it. One of the ways they do this is by distributing ARCs to their staff, even at smaller stores like the one I work at. That is how last week I got my hands on an ARC of SCARLET, and this week I got an ARC of THE RAVEN BOYS. Obviously, ARCs don’t have great covers, but fortunately both of those books DO have great covers, and here they are:

I knew by the end of the prologue that waiting for all four books in this series is going to be hard. But, oh, so worth it!

 

This book, on the other hand, was everything I never knew I wanted. I had no idea what to expect (like with CINDER, actually), and OMG, AMAZING.

THE RAVEN BOYS comes out on September 18,  2012.

SCARLET comes out on February 5, 2013.

Waiting on Wednesday

Once upon a time, there was a girl made of smoke and bone. Everyone read her story, and for a long time, my twitter feed was full of love. I finally got my act together and read it, and found that I had not been mislead.

Also, Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE led to my favourite thing I have ever said about a book:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is like a TARDIS. First you’re all “Huh! It really IS bigger on the inside!” and then you’re all “HOLY CRAP THERE IS A SWIMMING POOL IN HERE!”

Needless to say, I am thrilled that the second book, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT will soon be out.

Well, “soon”. But still.

I’m not going to post the Amazon description because it gives away the ending of the first book (WHICH YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ), but trust me when I say that I will be there on November 6th, when this book becomes available.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea borrow from Jill at Breaking the Spine

Once upon a time, three authors got together for an experiment. They would write short fiction, sometimes based on a common prompt, and see what happened. In a nutshell, it worked. Great stories were written, and much fun was had by all (by which I mean both them and their readers). But, alas, all things must end, and so too are the Merry Fates. But they’re going out with a BANG. They have published an annotated collection of their favourite short stories, along with doodles, notes, diagrams and comments.

The CURIOSITIES is a collection of the weird and the wonderful, the beautiful and the bold, the glamorous and the gross. The stories range in length, style, topic and theme, but are linked by the fact that all three of Maggie, Tessa and Brenna have such wonderful insights and ways with their words.

THE CURIOSITIES comes out on August 1. It is available for pre-order right now. And also I am running a contest to give away an ARC.

CONTEST!!!

To win an ARC of THE CURIOSITIES, comment on this post by asking a question. It can be about books, television, politics, cake decorating, or even me (Hello! I’m soon to be a published author! If by “soon” you mean “in 2014”!). Pretty much whatever tickles your fancy and I will do my best to answer it*. On JUNE 20, I will pick a name out of a hat, and that person will win the ARC. A North American mailing address is a must.

 

 

*For a certain value of “answer”. Sometimes I am silly.

Waiting on Wednesday

THE MARK OF ATHENA HAS A COVER, AND OMG! OMG! OMG!

Are they fighting? ARE THEY DUELING EACH OTHER ON PEGASI? DOES MY SPELLCHECKER NEED TO HAVE COOLER WORDS?

Let me just start this again.

So the newest book in the HEROES OF OLYMPUS comes out on October 2, and I am understandably excited about it. So far, this series has more than lived up to its predecessor, and Riordan shows no signs of slowing down. Not even two books a year is impeding his ability to write good stuff. So a book about my patron goddess? YEAH, I AM NOT THRILLED ABOUT THAT AT ALL.

The book description gives away nothing we don’t already know: heroes, journeys, prophecy, foreign vacations and possible in-fighting. And, you know, memory loss. And even without know what’s what, I’m STILL really pumped about it.

Thank goodness I’ve got other stuff to look forward to this summer. Waiting for THE MARK OF ATHENA is going to be hard!

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea taken from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Today’s post is a bit more special than usual.

The book is called LOST THINGS by Jo Graham and Melissa Scott. It is about airplanes and magic, monsters and mayhem, friendship and love…the enduring belief that a group of people can do good work in the world, even in the face of impossible odds. I got to read a draft and…yes. Just, yes to everything.

Jo then asked me if I would make a trailer for the book. I promptly had a panic attack, and spent two weeks wailing and gnashing my teeth. Then I had a breakthrough, and everything fell into place.

Both Jo and Melissa have been SUCH a huge part of my growth as a writer, and I am thrilled to help out, and to WAITWAITWAIT for the book. 🙂

LOST THINGS will be available in AUGUST from Crossroad Press (internationally). You can pre-order it now, here.