rainbow rowell

Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kindred Spirits is a stand-alone novella, written by Rainbow Rowell especially for World Book Day 2016. Kindred Spirits follows Elena, a huge Star Wars fan who dedicates an entire week to camping out waiting for the new movie, The Force Awakens. Expecting a crowd of hundreds, she’s disappointed to find a line of… three. Life in the cinema line isn’t as glamorous as she was expecting…

The cover is very similar to the cover of Fangirl and Carry On, and so initially I was expecting this book to be linked to those two books (which are linked themselves). Kindred Spirits is a completely stand-alone novella – so no need to read any of Rainbow’s other books to understand what’s going on.

My main issue with this book is that it will age very quickly. TFA came out 3 months ago, and this book already feels a little late. What I liked about Fangirl was that Rainbow took the Harry Potter phenomenon and made it her own, transforming that into Baz and Simon – it would have been fun to see that happen here too.

A short novella perfect for fans of Rainbow’s other works, but perhaps not the best introduction for new readers.
View all my reviews

Advertisements

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fangirl is a book that needs no introduction, but have one anyway.

The ‘fangirl’ in question is a girl called Cath, who moves away to university with her identical twin sister Wren, leaving her dad at home (their mum walked out on them when they were 8). Cath writes fan fiction for her favourite book series, Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) as she waits for the eighth and final book to be released, but Wren has grown up, perhaps a little too fast. Cath’s social anxiety plays up as she’s forced into new scenarios, new experiences and even forced to write original characters (shock horror!).

Although the book is about growing up and moving away to university, it is firmly Young Adult. I personally love stories about starting university – it’s interesting to see characters forced to adapt and change during a story, and it’s a plot that’s rarely used (despite the fact that it’s fundamentally interesting).

This novel is definitely character driven – I found the characters to be well defined and fleshed out (the pictures at the front of the book may have helped), although the plot is a little hit-and-miss – I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen at the end, and the ending felt a little rushed and not quite wrapped up – this also happened in the other Rowell novel I’ve read, Eleanor & Park. Although this leaves you thinking more about the characters, there’s not too much tying up of loose ends, no big finale (unlike the Simon Snow novels!).

On the character front, we do see some diversity (which makes the characters interesting!) – Art is a single-parent father, Cath and Reagan are both described as plus-size, and Jandro and Abel are both Mexican, for example. The characters are flawed as well, with the love interests being realistic and not hot rod sex gods – which makes them all the more relatable. A real highlight of Rowell’s novels is the interesting characters and their development, and they do stand out against the white-washed Mary-Sue adventures that often clutter the YA bookshelves.

On the point that the plot wasn’t developed enough, especially for a book of 460 pages, I’d like to add my suggestions. I would have liked to have seen more conflict between the twins and their mother, as well as between the twins themselves – they don’t talk for three months but this is mentioned as an afterthought, and there’s no seething and anger from Cath during this time or any real indication Wren is gone. I also didn’t cotton onto the blossoming relationship between Cath and Levi until it was spelled out to me in sky writing – so I would have liked to have seen more scenes between them earlier in the novel. Nick also completely disappears, and he could have been a really interesting character, but instead his plot his resolved suddenly just before the end.

I quite liked how the excerpts of fan fiction broke up the novel – but honestly, I wasn’t invested in the characters, and so there’s way way too many excerpts written in. Especially as some chapters are Cath reading her fan fiction to Levi, without any real addition to the plot. Carry On, Cath’s fan fiction novel is being released this October, but I’m not particularly interested in reading it – the characters are a slightly-too-obvious rehash of Harry Potter.

I would recommend Fangirl if you’re looking to read something original, entertaining and popular. If the plot had been expanded and consolidated more, this would be a definite five stars, but it just doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

View all my reviews

Annalise x

Non-Fantasy/Dystopian YA authors to try!

I’m packing up my books this week as I’ll be leaving university at the end of this year and my schedule leaves about 3 weeks holiday between now and July, so I’m getting a good look at some of those books hidden on my shelves!

A rut I definitely got in when starting out with YA was that I just loved the Genre of the Day – and so my shelves are full of vampire novels and dystopians. However, there are some series I’ve really enjoyed which aren’t your typical YA book, and they’re great to try if you’re getting bored of the same-old YA books which come out year after year.

Meg Cabot

I know Meg Cabot through the Princess Diaries series – which has recently rebooted – but she’s actually written a few bestselling series. The Mediator series has rave reviews – but is also fantasy. The Princess Diaries, Queen of Babble, The Boy series, and the Heather Well series (which starts with Size 12 is Not Fat) should all be fantasy-free, amusing and fun to read. (The Princess Diaries also led to two Disney films, although they do not follow the plot of the books exactly).

Louise Rennison

The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series is hilarious and brilliantly British. Georgia is a typical British girl on the cusp of becoming a woman, and we follow her as she discovers boys, snogging, and how embarrassing parents can be. There’s 10 books in total but they’re so easy to read and enjoyable (and not too long either) that it’s easy to fly through them. Rennin’s latest series is the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series, which is very much in the same vein as the first series – in fact, Tallulah is Georgia’s cousin. I’d definitely give this series a go if you’re in a reading slump – and the movie is pretty funny, too.

Morgan Matson

The only Morgan Matson book I’ve read so far is Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which is a classic American road trip story (which are always fun, right?). Since then, Morgan has published two more stand-alone books, with another, The Unexpected Everything, coming in 2016. Second Chance Summer and Since You’ve Been Gone are on my TBR list.

Ally Carter

I absolutely loved the Gallagher Girls series, which follows a student at a Spy School for Girls, Cammie Morgan, and her emerging love life with a fellow spy. These books are only about 300 pages long, so short enough to devour in a day or two. Heist Society is a book I actually own, but haven’t got round to reading yet, but the series (which currently has three books) is in the same vein as Gallagher Girls. Her new Embassy Row series looks exciting too. These books are a little more Middle Grade than YA, so great starter books for easing into the YA world.

Sarah Dessen

When I first got into YA, Sarah Dessen was reigning queen of love stories. Her books are stand-alone, so easy to pick up just one and know you’re not going to face a devastating cliff-hanger at the end – and all of her books have stellar reviews on GoodReads so definitely well worth a dip into. I’ve read Just Listen, The Truth about Forever and Lock & Key but if you’re looking for her most recent work, Saint Anything was released in May.

Cecily von Ziegesar

The Gossip Girl series is 13 books long, but they’re very short and fun books (although a little expensive – still £7.99 each on Amazon). These are the source material for the CW show of the same name (which I absolutely love) although the show deviates quite heavily from the books. There are two spin-off book series too – Gossip Girl: The Carlyles follows the Carlyle triplets, and The IT Girl follows GG alum Jenny Humphrey at boarding school.

Honorary mentions: John Green (who else) and Rainbow Rowell (of course).

Who are your favourite YA authors? What are your favourite non-fantasy series? Comment below or tweet at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

The Inside Out Book Tag

inside-out

Thank you so much to Macy for tagging me in the Inside Out Book Tag!

A book that brings you joy

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a sweet love story, but it’s also made me very optimistic for the future of YA – it’s not another rehash of Twilight, it has wonderfully written realistic characters, and its popularity is a testament that realistic books can do well in the market today.

A book that makes you angry

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

This one was difficult purely because I usually wouldn’t read a book that I knew I wouldn’t like. I read Hush, Hush years ago (probably about 2010). Everyone raved about. I didn’t think it was terrible. What I did think is that it was a complete Twilight rip-off. There were so many similar scenes and characters, and I was disappointed that a book would earn so much praise when it was so similar to other books on the market.

A book that makes you sad

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

So I must be one of the only people who didn’t cry during The Book Thief, but I think this book is pretty deserving of the sad book title – an absolutely beautiful original novel that should be the top of everyone’s TBR lists!

A book that disgusts you

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. I tried. I really tried. But I couldn’t get into it. I have seen the film though (yes, I’ve become one of those people) so I know the basic plot. It’s really cliché but I don’t read that many books which disgust me. Any book in which an unhealthy abusive relationship is idolized is undeserving of my reading time.

A book which brings you fear

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

I guess I don’t read that many scary books, but this is one that did scare me as a child (perhaps the film moreso) – it’s full of whispering murderous snakes and unpredictable deaths and paralysis. It’s also brilliant and deserving of another re-read sometimes soon – and the new covers are just beautiful.

So that’s it! Another thank you to Macy for tagging me, and although it’s been difficult, I think that just means I need to expand my book horizons and read more disgusting, scary literature!

Annalise x

Tags:

Nichola (Always Rambling & Reading)

Disha (Franklenstein)

Chanice (Inside The Mind of a Bibliophile)

Always Opinionated Girl

Olivia (bibliomad)

And whoever else wants to participate!

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: this was my first Rainbow Rowell novel. It won’t be my last.

Eleanor Douglas is an overweight (yes, an overweight main character!) teenager who starts at a new school after having being sent away by her new stepdad for a year. She reluctantly takes the bus to school, where she reluctantly sits next to Park Sheridan, a half-Korean boy from a pretty well-off background. Over the course of the school year, they go from sitting in silence to sharing comics and then find themselves dating. Simple, huh?

What really makes this story stand out is the background. Eleanor is overweight, dresses strangely, refuses to wear make-up, and subsequently finds herself with no friends and getting bullied. She lives in a poor home – a house where she shares a bedroom with her four siblings, and doesn’t even own a toothbrush. She bathes before her abusive stepdad comes home because their bathroom has no door. She lies when she goes over to Park’s house because her stepdad would refuse to let her go.

This isn’t a story set in a dream romantic world. There’s no love-at-first-sight locked-eyes-across-a-crowded-room twilight-esque scene where the main characters realise that they’re meant to be, forever and ever. Park doesn’t even like Eleanor when they meet, and it’s only through getting to know her that he starts to find her attractive. Eleanor acknowledges that they’re unlikely to get married and live happily ever after. There’s poverty and boundaries and bullying and embarrassment and even a break-up.

I think everyone can relate to Eleanor in one way or another. She’s the weird girl that every school has at least one of, the girl who’s a bit chubby and strange, who doesn’t dress correctly, who hates PE class, and who gets picked on. I was definitely one of those girls (I also didn’t have a cute half-Korean boyfriend though). This book is a little ray of hope for those girls, hope that they might meet someone who loves them for who they are (yeah, still waiting on that…).

So what else is great about this book? The characters are well developed, with hobbies and likes and friends and PARENTS (who haven’t dropped off the face of the earth conveniently so our lovebirds can live happily ever after at the tender age of 15) and FLAWS. Eleanor is no Mary Sue. She’s a girl with a bad home life and low self-esteem who doesn’t quite understand why this guy likes her so much (and doesn’t share absolutely everything with him). Park’s mum is judgemental at first, and doesn’t like Eleanor – but, like Park, she comes around to see she’s actually a nice person. There’s also diversity with an Asian love interest (not all love interests have to be mysterious, pale and handsome!) and Park’s background involving the Korean War really gives life not only to him, but also his parents.

Other reviews have highlighted a few problems with the book. There is a lack of racism in 1986 Omaha towards both Park (as a Korean) and Eleanor’s black friends which could have been a really interesting side story and the romance which develops between Park and Eleanor is perhaps a little unexpected (unless of course you’ve read the title of the book!) seeing as how antisocial he is towards her when they first meet. If I had to change something in the book, I’d add more. The book is pretty damn near perfect, but a few more side stories and secondary character development wouldn’t hurt.

A note on the ending: it left me wanting more. Don’t doubt that it wasn’t a good ending, but it left me wanting to know more about what happens to these characters as it’s a tad abrupt. However, I’m content with knowing that this a great stand-alone novel – too many YA books today are spun into a 10+ book series which eventually run out of steam.

Eleanor & Park is a Jacqueline Wilson novel for a slightly older generation, a refreshing tale of love between two imperfect characters. I personally can’t wait to get my hands on more Rainbow Rowell books. (Fangirl is waiting patiently on my shelf!)

Annalise x

View all my reviews

TBR: The Post-YALC Pile

After an amazing weekend at YALC, my TBR (To Be Read) pile has grown. It was already pretty big – I’ve spent the last three years procrastinating by buying books, but not really procrastinating by reading them (after many 16 hour days in the library trying to learn Chemistry, you kinda just want to sleep and eat). I’m planning on getting through my pile this Summer though (never going to happen but it’s always nice to be optimistic!).

tumblr_m594prrf331r0yglfo1_400 9200000003760743

1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and 2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithian

I’ve read two John Green novels before – Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars. They’re both critically acclaimed, and I thoroughly enjoyed TFioS… the second time I read it. I hardly ever read a book twice, but TFioS was a rare exception, and I’m glad it was – I enjoyed it the first time, and I really want to be a bigger fan of John Green’s work (hence the book buys). Both of these books have interesting premises – AAoK is about a boy called Colin who has dated a grand total of 19 women called Katherine, and WG,WG is a collaboration between two authors, both writing for different characters (both called Will Grayson). I really hope these books exceed my expectations based on previous John Green novels I’ve read – but I won’t deny i’ll be first in line for his next book.

rowell_ep_us fangirl-rainbow-rowell-cover-677x1024

3. Eleanor & Park, and 4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Rainbow Rowell. That’s about to change. All I’ve heard are good things about her novels, specifically these two, both published in 2013. Eleanor & Park is a love story, set in 1986, with Eleanor, the slightly overweight new girl with a dysfunctional family, and Park, a half-Korean boy from the ‘perfect home’. Fangirl is about identical twins, moving on to university, still obsessed with their favourite author. I’m excited to start reading these books, if only for the fact that I know people who fit these characters (an achievement in itself).

41uloIrm4nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

5. Forever by Judy Blume

I’ve heard about Judy Blume ever since I started reading YA fiction. She’s a legend, and this weekend, I got to watch her giving a talk at YALC. I would have asked her to sign a book, but I’ve never read a Judy Blume novel. I decided to rectify that. It is a feat in itself that this book is still a bestseller after forty years – and a little disappointing that it’s still controversial. I picked this up at the Waterstone’s book shop on site at YALC – hopefully it’ll be worth the £6.99 I forked out for it.

16069030

6. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I first heard of the book a few months ago, and I knew I had to buy it. You know why? The cover. I knew I needed that cover on my shelf. I’ve also heard good things – about the plot, the world, the characters – and after attending a talk at YALC with Marie on the panel, I ran out and bought the book. Kestrel is a general’s daughter in an empire which enslaves those who it conquers, and she’s expected to either join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas. She buys a slave – Arin – with unexpected consequences, and finds herself falling in love with him.

untitled

7. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I hadn’t heard of this book before YALC, and it only took two days before I caved and bought it – I’d heard so many good things (It won the YA Book Prize 2015). To my surprise (maybe I should plan better), the author (Louise O’Neill) appeared on the ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ panel in the morning, and, because I was hauling around all my purchases from the weekend, I happened to have my copy of Only Ever Yours on me, for the signing afterwards! I’m so excited to read this book, and ‘Asking for It’, out in September – mostly because of the comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

tumblr_mr8khs7hnh1rwor04o2_250

8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This was one of the books my friends bought for my birthday (I sent them a huge lists of books I promised not to buy and let them choose which ones to get). This originally was released in 2011, and it’s been sitting on my Goodreads list since then. Juliette’s touch is fatal, and she must decide whether to use it for good, or for evil. Also, look at that cover!

gone-girl-400x400-imadu8yszepkzbvd

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I’ve known about Gone Girl for a few years, since the book first came out in 2012. I was there for the initial hype, and I was just never convinced enough to buy and read it. Then the film came out, and I went to see it. The film is amazing, and I knew the book would be too. I know all the twists and turns now, but I hear the book is even better, and the film will be tough to beat. Bring it on!

What’s on your TBR list? Have you read any of the books on my list? (I’m not going to lie, I imagine most people have.) Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x