Goodreads Review: Carry On.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read Fangirl, one of the things I really connected to in that book was the fanfiction aspect (since I read AT LEAST as much fanfic as I do published fic). I really liked the made-up-yet-Harry-Potter-like “Original Fic” that Cath was writing fic for, because it got to play with all the familiar things I love about HP fanfic while not getting bogged down by actual HP canon. So when I found out that Carry On was actually a thing out there that I could read, I was obviously pretty excited. I was also pretty curious, because I wasn’t sure exactly how a Simon Snow novel would play out independently.

Like the author says, though, this isn’t the canon Snow of Fangirl, or Cath’s fanfic Snow. This is Rainbow Rowell’s Snow. And it’s pretty fantastic. First off, as noted multiple times in my status updates, I really loved the magical system in this book. It’s consistent and logical, brilliant and fresh, and utterly ridiculous and fun. It certainly makes the battles entertaining as hell to read. I didn’t mention in my updates, but I equally loved the replacement swears and exclamations that were mixed in with the more recognizable and everyday types. I definitely have a thing for that in media, because it makes language more believable to have swearing and slang (especially when it’s teenagers/adults), and it makes it more unique and world-building to have at least some of it be original. Or maybe my Buffy influence is showing a little there…

Either way, I think when it’s done well it adds to the dialogue and makes a more natural flow to conversation. And here it really felt like it worked; I could hear the characters’ voices in my head when I was reading, because their words and thoughts felt like real speech and real people. That doesn’t always happen — in fact it doesn’t happen for me very often at all — so it made it extra special for me.

Speaking of the characters, there are quite a few amazingly awesome characters in this book. Baz is sassy and snarky as hell, and I utterly love him to bits and want more. Penelope kicks ass, obviously, and I even really liked Agatha after a while. Simon was not actually as annoying as I thought he’d be, given that Harry Potter tends to drive me up the wall. Even a lot of the adults were pretty cool and interesting. I really appreciated all the diversity, of course, but I can’t help but be a little annoyed at the UTTER LACK of, at any point in Simon wondering if he’s gay now, that there was ZERO mention of the word “bisexual” in his or anyone else’s mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for all the times gay and queer get talked about (not just for Simon, and not just him and Baz, either), bisexual NEVER gets mentioned once, for any of them. Which is a real shame, because otherwise I have no complaints or criticisms.

As a side note, the final confrontation between Simon and the Humdrum actually played out thematically a lot like the climax of a novella I wrote as a teen. I should go look at it again, brush up the writing a little, etc. It’s a good theme for a final showdown, and it’s nice to see it get used. But first, I need to go read Fangirl again…and then maybe Carry On again…which might make me need to read Fangirl again…

If you don’t hear from me again, I’m stuck in an endless reread loop. Send help. (Or chocolate and scones and tea.) (Either way is good.)

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Goodreads Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I overly relate to Isla’s self-estimate issues like whoa.

I really like that this book broke the love triangle mold of the other two. It’s nice not dealing with that every time, especially when we all know how it’s going to turn out in the end. It’s also good to explore the “after” part once in a while — after you fall in love and finally get together with your crush, what happens next? Of course, that inevitably meant I then spent the next half the book constantly flinching in anticipation of what exactly was going to go horribly wrong to blow up the happy couple. I admit I didn’t quite expect it to happen the way it did, and I was further blindsided by the clear spelling out of exactly was Isla’s insecurities were and how they made her act and why. Which, as I mentioned, was basically like looking in a mirror. So I might be a little bias about how fiercely I now feel about Isla. Just a little.

It was cool returning to Paris and the school, seeing it through someone else’s eyes. As I mentioned in my review of Lola, these books are heavily bias in their descriptions by their very nature; everything on the pages is through the lens of the storyteller’s mind. Getting to know Josh through Isla instead of Anna paints a very different picture of his character, and her familiarity and comfort with Paris, the school, and her classmates creates a very different atmosphere than we get with Anna being the New Girl. It really helps separate each girl as her own person, with her own personality, tastes, friends, and styles. They all have very unique voices, while still being easily accessible (at least to me). One thing I thought was especially cool was the way Josh’s art was used in the narrative to break out of having only Isla’s perspective on events, particularly at the end.

I also liked that Isla gave us a good look at the friendships and family relationships around her, too. That’s true to various extents in the other books as well, of course. I just automatically have strong feels about sisters because I have more of a relationship with my own sister than with my brother — no one’s fault, but he’s almost a decade older than me, so he’s just never been around as much in my life. My sister and I fought like mad and resented each other and played together and shared secrets, and then we each grew up and got even closer. So when I read fictional sisters doing that, it totally give me all the feels. Plus, I could relate a bit to Isla’s friendship with Kurt, since so many of my friends are also on that spectrum. Basically, I guess I’m just saying if I were any of the three main girls, I’d probably end up being Isla by default, even if I’d rather have more of Lola’s fashion tastes.

But back to the actual book! I really enjoyed this one. I’ve enjoyed all of them, of course, but obviously I ended up projecting myself all over Isla, so it gets bumped up a little for that.

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Goodreads Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was, for me, probably about a 3-3.5 star book. However, it gets bumped up to four stars on the merits of Lola/fashion, which was my personal OTP.

The love triangle felt like a gender-swapped version of Anna and the French Kiss, which was amusing but make it extra predictable. Lola was basically the definition of a hot mess throughout most of the book (albeit with good reason some of the time). The narrative failed to make Max at all believable as a serious love interest, mostly only showing him in moments of jealously or anger despite how many times Lola says to the reader that she thinks he’s the one. I didn’t fall in love with the setting the same way I did with Paris.

Plus, I started keeping count on my progress updates of all the times the writing felt like it was making an unintentional pop culture reference. Seriously, Max drives a Chevy Impala from the 60’s (Hello there, Dean from Supernatural), Lola has similar ideas about fashion expression as Weetize Bat from Francesca Lia Block’s dream-like lyrical novels of L.A. fairy-tales, Lola talking about being empty vs full for being in a relationship reminded me of a lesser version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer saying she’s still cookie dough and not ready to be with someone until she’s warm gooey cookies… [EDIT: oh, I forgot one! The more over-protective of her gay dads was named Nathan, and I just kept picturing him as Nathan Fillion playing Richard Castle. Admittedly, that wasn’t so much the text as just how my brain works, but still! It totally fits.]

But despite all this little flaws and pet-peeves and moments of distracting reference, despite taking quite a while to warm up to Cricket (largely due to having imagined something much worse than was actually the case about what happened in the past), it was still a fun and enjoyable book, and I still ended up reading it in basically one day(ish). It was also pretty cool getting to see Anna and St Clair from the outside. All three books in this series are told first person, from the POV of a teenage girl falling in love, so the Unreliable Narrator trope is pretty much a given. It makes it extra interesting to see the same characters again in the other books, because it’s a perspective we’ll never get from another book.

But Lola and fashion! Half the reason I love the Weetzie Bat books so much is the whimsical creative daring fashion choices so lovingly described throughout, and here Lola doesn’t disappoint in doing the same. It makes me long to get a sewing machine and a workspace and wigs and go to thrift shops and start CREATING. I adore the way Lola commits to expressing herself through amazing bold fashion statements, and dream about the day I can do the same. It seriously makes up for not being another love letter to Paris (sorry Paris).

Anyway, it was an enjoyable book, and I’ll be rereading it once in a while, right along with the other two. But as Roux said in the movie version of Chocolat, “It’s good…but it’s not my favorite”.

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Goodreads Review: Anna and the French Kiss.

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This felt really cute. That’s the feeling it leaves me with, the lingering taste in my mouth from the sweet fluffy joy at the end. But the reason I liked it isn’t just because of those final pages. I liked it because it wasn’t all light and fluff and falling in love. I remember falling in love as a teenager being huge and kind of scary and confusing and wonderful and difficult and all the things, and this book really seemed to capture the good intentions and bad choices and oblivious moments that come with being young and not having had much life experience.

Anna as narrator felt real and genuine to me. She was multi-dimensional, and she felt like an actual teenager when compared to my own experiences of the age. She fumbled and made mistakes and fell into bad choices, but she also learned from it and built amazing friendships and fell in love and gained becoming her own person. I went into this book thinking I’d just like it. Now that I’m thinking back on it, though, it feels like something I’ll be returning to in the future.

Also, as a side note: the descriptions of Paris REALLY make me want to go there. Like, so badly.

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