Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Book Details:
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 433 c.
Released: Sept. 10, 2013
Goodreads Rating: 4.2

Goodreads Summary:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a 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? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Review: 

I really, really enjoyed this book. There was a lot in it that I completely related to, and I think that is what made me feel for Cath a lot. Rowell has a way of creating these intensely real characters that people can relate to; if it is not the main character, it will be one of the secondary characters. You become invested in everyone’s story and start getting frustrated when you see things that should be right in front of the character’s eyes (*cough* LEVI *cough*).

While I did love Cath (mostly because we are pretty similar people) she wasn’t my favourite in the story – that honour goes to Cath’s roommate Reagan (and Levi who I will talk about a little later). Reagan was great and exactly what Cath needed in her life. As someone who clams up when put out of their comfort zone I can tell you how important it is to find someone to pull you out and make you comfortable. Reagan was really direct about it, not giving Cath any other option. Not to mention Reagan was hilarious. Totally my favourite character.

I really didn’t like Wren. She annoyed me. Maybe because her attempts to break away from her sister and become ‘one of the college kids’ was so obviously desperate or it could be because I didn’t relate to her all that much. I never wanted to leave the fandom life- much like Cath – so I wasn’t in sync with Wren’s brainwaves. I just found her character to be really annoying (Cath was annoying too, just not in the same way).

There were only two things that I wasn’t too thrilled about (sort of…you’ll see what I mean).

The first one is Levi. Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE this character. He’s so sweet and amazing and just an all around great guy…I just couldn’t buy it. Maybe because I’ve never met anyone like that or I’m just a crazy cynic, but his character wasn’t believable to me. Trust me, I wanted him to be believable because, like I said, I loved him and everything he was about (plus he worked at Starbucks – hello free coffee), but I think he was maybe too perfect. Doesn’t change the fact that he is on the “best fictional boyfriend” list, though.

The second thing, and this is actually something that I wasn’t a fan of: the fanfiction.

I love my a good fanfiction. Sometimes I put off reading actual novels to read multiple novel length fanfictions (happens more often than I’d care to admit) and the quality of the fanfiction in Fangirl was not good. I have definitely read better fanfics online, and for someone who is supposed to be the best, the messiah of Baz/Simon fics it just wasn’t good enough.

Overall though I did really enjoy this novel. It was a quick read that held my attention the whole time for so many different reasons. Wanting to know what happened with Cath’s writing class, with Nick, with her sister, her dad, how her relationships with Levi and Reagan were going to grow – there were so many things to look forward to. While I don’t think it’s a book I would read over and over again, I think that anyone who is living the same lifestyle as Cath (or even Wren) should read this book. Big ups to Rowell for writing about a group of people that doesn’t really like being in the spotlight, and doing it really well.

My Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Let’s get crawling: The Independent Bookshop Week Bookshop Crawl

This week is Independent Bookshop Week and it is part of the Books are My Bag  campaign (of which I have two bags) and it works towards “[celebrating] independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland.”

The IBW Bookshop Crawl is new this year to bring all bloggers and vloggers out to as many independent bookshops in their area as possible.

So this means myself and possibly a few friends will be running around Edinburgh this coming Saturday (5 July) to visit all these bookshops and documenting the adventure along the way using the hashtag #bookshopcrawl (easy enough to remember).

Just because you don’t have a blog or vlog doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join in, just visit the stores you can and make sure you use the hashtag!

Below I have put a map of all the participating bookshops in Edinburgh – luckily there aren’t too many and they are all pretty close to one another so I should be able to hit up all five of them! If you aren’t in Edinburgh, click here to find the participating stores in your area.

I’m so happy that I am in the UK this year to be able to participate in this event! I’m super excited.

Happy crawling, everyone!

Up and Coming: Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

Yes, I only used this picture because Theo James is in it. No judging.

I thought it was only fitting to write this up now considering I just wrote about my thoughts on the Divergent series earlier today…also I only just clued in on this right now (fail by me).

Four: A Divergent Collection is a companion novel to Divergent and it is, obviously, written in Four’s (or Tobias’s) perspective. Here is the official synopsis from Epic Reads:

Readers first encountered Tobias as “Four” in Divergent. His voice is an integral part of Allegiant. Readers will find more of this charismatic character’s backstory told from his own perspective in Four: A Divergent Collection. When read together, these long narrative pieces illuminate the defining moments in Tobias’s life. The first three pieces in this volume—”The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” and “The Son”—follow Tobias’s transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initiation, and the first clues that a foul plan is brewing in the leadership of two factions. The fourth story, “The Traitor,” runs parallel with the events of Divergent, giving readers a glimpse into the decisions of loyalty—and love—that Tobias makes in the weeks after he meets Tris Prior.

As someone who MUCH prefers Four to Tobias (I know it is strange because they are the same person, but there is a difference – trust me on this one) this book should have been a shoo-in for me as something to look forward to. And that would have been the case if I hadn’t read Allegiant.

We all know how important his POV ended up being in the final book of the trilogy, but stylistically and character wise it was all wrong. Simply put: Tobias sounded like Tris. There was no separation in the voices making it highly difficult to understand sometimes because you would forget whose POV you were reading.

I have read a small excerpt from the book (which confused me a bit if I’m being honest – but that could be me misremembering things from the series) and it is hard to tell when you have maybe a page to look at, but maybe Veronica Roth has managed to actually write Four as a boy this time around. I don’t know…I’m going to need to see a bit more before I’m convinced.

While reading Divergent I loved Four because he was so mysterious and strong, but as the books went on and, especially in Allegiant, when we get more into his brain I actually started to really dislike his character. I think this is what I am scared of when it comes to this companion novel – I don’t want to end up hating Four the way I hate Tobias. Okay, that is a weird sentence when you know it is technically the same person…but hopefully you understand what I’m saying.

Well you have a bit of time to decide, the book comes out on July 8th of this year.

What are your thoughts on Four: A Divergent Collection? Do you hold the same fears about it as I do? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@melissaloparco).

Review: Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

I was originally going to review each of these books individually but then I realised that I didn’t really care for them enough to warrant individual reviews. Also I read them all within a week, so it’s almost like they were one giant book anyway. I should add that I did read all the books before the movie came out, but I was aware of casting which could (absolutely did) alter how I felt about certain characters (*cough* Theo James *cough*).

Overall I can easily say that I liked the Divergent trilogy. I didn’t love it, but I definitely enjoyed my time reading it…for the most part (more on this later).

The story was fun, there was a badass female character, a super handsome lead who is, uh, sometimes really cool, and REALLY GREAT SECONDARY CHARACTERS.

Let’s begin, shall we:

Divergent

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

Out of the three novels Divergent is definitely my favourite. The story was engaging, there was great action, and compelling characters. It had all the characteristics that make a successful YA novel.

The one thing that bugged me was the age of the character Tris versus the way she thought and acted throughout the book. It just didn’t add up, and I know they they generally don’t but sometimes you don’t notice it (The Hunger Games) and I noticed in this (just like I most definitely noticed in City of Bones). I think it takes a little believability away from the main character, but not enough that you aren’t rooting for her to succeed.

The love story wasn’t too over done either, very predictable, but not over done. I really did like Four a lot – his actual name (Tobias *shudder with hate*) and story was a also extremely predictable, but I just kept picturing Theo James and honestly didn’t care.

Other than that I really did enjoy Divergent and was definitely looking forward to finishing the rest of the story ASAP when I finished it…which I did.

I give Divergent 4 out of 5 stars.

Insurgent 

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful.
Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I was honestly neither here nor there with this book. I flew through it and enjoyed certain aspects of it (URIAH AND CHRISTINA FTW) but just…meh.

It is probably the one book that I remember least because it, in all honesty, wasn’t very memorable; it was there to bridge the gap between Divergent and Allegiant.

The one thing I was always hyper aware of with these books was how close together all the action takes place. There is literally no time for anyone to breath let alone heal all these wounds they seem to be getting. A tad unrealistic, but it is a fiction book after all.

Thinking back on this book it is sad how little I actually remember and what I do remember is that I love the secondary characters so much more than Tris and ‘Tobias.’

Speaking of ‘Tobias’ am I the only one who prefers Four over Tobias. Four is strong and mysterious and Tobias is a whiny little shit. GO BACK TO BEING FOUR!

Insurgent gets 3 out of 5 stars because I remember enjoying it…but I don’t remember anything else.

Allegiant 

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

And now we arrive to the shit show that is Allegiant. I apologise if you liked the book, but I also question your sanity a little bit.

Let’s start off with the first thing that really grinds my gears about this book: switching perspectives. In the long run I fully understand why it needed to happen, but it just wasn’t good. I would be reading Tobias and thinking it was Tris. This happened constantly.

Veronica Roth doesn’t seem to have the male voice down at all because I was never picturing Tobias (I really hate that name so much…no wonder he changed it to Four). Maybe she had been writing as Tris for so long that she couldn’t differentiate? I have no idea but it did not work – it made me hate Tobias more than I think we were supposed to.

And then there is Tris…oh Tris, how you annoyed me by the end of this series. Okay guys..major spoilers coming up about this one over here so if you haven’t read the series yet LEAVE NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE.

SPOILER

SPOILER

SPOILER

Is everyone gone? Okay.

I was happy when Tris died. It was the only way the story could have ended without it being a cop out. I’m a crier when I read books, and I can honestly say that I didn’t shed a single tear reading anything about her death. She obviously couldn’t let her brother walk to his death, the Abnegation in her was 100% not going to let that happen.

I did, however, shed a few tears when Uriah went. He is hands down my favourite character in the book and I was rooting for hard for him to survive…but that never ends up working. He was funny, likeable, and just a breath of fresh air.

Overall I would have to give Allegiant 3 out of 5 stars as well because even though most of it was really not good the ending made up for it a little bit.

Let me know what you thought of the series; did you agree with me, disagree? Comment below of hit me up on Twitter and we can chat!

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Adaptation Report: First Mockingjay Part One Teaser Trailer

I had a really shitty night last night so when I woke up this morning after maybe an hours sleep the Instagram post that said there was a special announcement from President Snow available on Capitol TV was just the thing I needed to literally propel me out of bed to get my day started (*cough* turn on my laptop so I could watch the video *cough*), and I was not disappointed.

The video is all white – eerily white – and you have Snow sitting on quite a majestic chair reciting all sorts of Panem propaganda…but then you notice another body standing next to the chair. I knew exactly who it was and had to hold in a scream.

Peeta. Capitol tortured, probably not yet hijacked, Peeta Mellark. I literally gasped and wanted to cry all at the same time.

LOOK AT THIS PERFECTION:

You really have to hand it to the guys over at Lionsgate who are marketing the SHIT out of this movie, and doing it so well. So, so well. They are bringing to life the Capitol and we are eating it up like we are part of it (scary to think about it that way, isn’t it?).

Honestly the only thing that would have made this teaser better would have been a flicker of the screen and a glimpse of Katniss in the Mockingjay uniform. I think I would have stopped breathing if that happened.

I have high hopes for this movie after the greatness that was Catching Fire. Since they have two movies to play with the overly packed and very rushed final book can potentially be given a much better pace and allow the story to flow much smoother…perhaps develop the story a wee bit better.

Basically, November 21st needs to happen immediately, and if not that at least a full length trailer.

What did you think of the little teaser? Let me know in the comments below!

Panem today, Panem tomorrow, Panem forever

I think I can, I think I can…I can’t: five books left unfinished

Photo: We Read Better

We’ve all been there. Reading a book you just can’t get into for a multitude of reasons. It’s boring, the narrator is a little shit, the book itself is shit, the story doesn’t work, you can’t relate, the writing style doesn’t sit well, the list goes on and on.

I have always been the type of who hates leaving books unread. Once I have started a book I feel 100% committed to finishing it, but when I dislike the book my little book OCD becomes an issue. I get put off reading (‘why read this book I’m not enjoying when I can binge watch Scandal?’), I don’t touch the book for ages – I will avoid reading at all costs.

When it gets to the point of no return and I really miss reading, but I do not want to read something I don’t like I finally give it up, move on to the next one and – usually – finish it within a couple of days. There haven’t been many books that have forced me to move on, but there definitely are a few. So here we go:

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I tried liking this book, I really did. I loved the musical so much that I really wanted to like the book…I just didn’t. The same issue arose when I was younger and reading A Christmas Carol – I love the story, I love watching the story, but reading it was a drag. In this instance the only thing I can think of is that I just don’t enjoy Dickens’ writing style – which is totally plausible. As someone who has, more often than not, found herself drawn to more contemporary pieces of work maybe Dickens is too old school? Too Victorian? Too..something. I honestly am not sure what it is about Dickens that I find so difficult to read, but I can sure tell you that I definitely did not want some more.
Will I ever attempt again: I remain hopeful though as it is still listed on my Goodreads account as currently reading, but I seriously doubt that is going to happen.

The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray

I think the most I read of this book was 20 pages before I gave up – it might be a record on how fast I’ve given up reading a book. I hated the main character. HATED HIM SO MUCH. You are definitely supposed to hate this character – he is supposed to be vile – but his narrator voice is one that I could never get behind. Arrogant, definitely not trustworthy, and just so egotistical. I think Barry Lyndon is my least favourite character ever…after Professor Umbridge.
Will I ever attempt again: No. Not even in movie form. Never.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

It physically pained me to put this book on the list, but if I’m being truthful the only part I liked in the book was Elphaba’s relationship with Fiyero – I flew through that part. The rest was just kind of blah…for me anyway. It sucks because I really did want to like the book, especially because I love the music from the musical (I haven’t seen it yet, unfortunately) but the book just wasn’t what I expected it to be.
Will I ever attempt again: Yes, I probably will. I think I only had a quarter of the book left to read, so maybe after I finally watch the musical – whenever that may be – I will pick up my copy and try again.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

There is only one reason why I never finished this book: it was SO BORING. Hello snoozefest. There are some bits that are better than others, but I’ve definitely read better. I do commend the fact that it is one of the earliest examples of science fiction AND it was written by a woman in Mary Shelley, but I think I might actually stick to the movies for this one.
Will I ever attempt again: Hard to tell, I may pick it up randomly and try to finish it as I was more than half way through…but the doubt is real.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I was honestly shocked at this one. It fits with YA series that I generally enjoy, and yet I felt nothing. No attachment to the characters, no need to find out what happens to them, nothing. I was also annoyed with the main character Clary because she just didn’t seem like a real person, and I know that it is YA fantasy but if a character who is supposed to be human (ish) doesn’t have any human qualities I have issues (also when they act about 3x their actual age. Just no). I think I only got about 30% through this book before I finally came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t care enough to continue. And as a side note: the book cover is just not good, so not good.
Will I ever attempt again: Probably. Just because it is going to annoy me so much that I couldn’t get through such an easy read. Also the fact that so many people are obsessed and love it will probably make me give it another chance. I doubt my feelings will change though to be honest.

Well those are five books I have not finished (there are probably more, but I can’t think of them at the moment). What about you? What books have you just had to put down? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (follow me here).

Ta ta for now!

Adaptation Report: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Do you believe in love at first sight? I didn’t think I did until I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire because OH MY GOD IT WAS ACTUALLY PERFECT.

I know that you all know this already since this came out ages ago, but as I said previously I’m going in order of books/adaptations I have experienced since moving away and this is next on the list so deal with it!

I don’t think I’ve ever left a theatre so satisfied over an adaptation since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 (another adaptation I was super satisfied with will be coming up at some point, okay? Okay). It was the type of movie that made me fall in love and crave the books again even though I’ve already read the series multiple times…so that’s what I did – I re-read Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

And you know what? I was even more pleased with the movie after I re-read the book because LINES FROM THE MOVIE WERE TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM THE BOOK! WORD FOR WORD! Okay, time to calm down.

In all seriousness, when you watch something that is taken from a book you read and loved so much it means the world when dialogue stays intact, casting is perfect, and the storyline isn’t too drastically altered. Knowing that Francis Lawrence is directing Mockingjay Part One and Two makes me so hopeful that he can take the (overly rushed) final instalment of the series to a fantastic finish – hopefully giving it the time to develop it needs since he gets to play with two movies (be still my beating heart).

We need to talk about casting for a minute here – no, not about Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and the rest of the original cast that returned because we all saw the first movie and knew we had nothing to worry about when it came to greatness from this group.

It’s the newbies.

Jena Malone was cast as the oh-so-fiesty Johanna Mason, a fan favourite in the books, and she ROCKED the character. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone complain about that casting. She brought Johanna to new heights and really sold her attitude perfectly. Also, the elevator scene. Perfection.

And then there was the casting that everyone was looking forward to – the casting of Finnick Odair. At this point almost every fan had input on who they thought should play the bronzed, godly victor and in the end the role went to Sam Claflin. I was into it right away – right age, right look, it looked really promising. Others weren’t convinced…until they watched the movie. Claflin was Finnick – he brought to life probably one of the most liked characters in the series.

The casting directors for these movies seriously need an award, a medal, a cookie, or something. ANYTHING.

I think the one thing I wish was included in the films was Peeta taking charge when training for the Quarter Quell. A lot of people came away with Peeta being a very weak character in the first film, when that is so far from the truth. Adding in him as a leader would have enforced how important Peeta is to the story and how strong and smart his character is.

Well since this is a report I need to give this a grade. This adaptation definitely deserves a solid A in my opinion. Here’s to hoping Mockingjay gets an A+…and we get a bloody trailer soon.

Where does Catching Fire rank for you when it comes to movie adaptations? (And more importantly) how long do you think Lionsgate is going to make us wait for a Mockingjay trailer? Let me know in the comments below!

Bonus points if you can guess what adaptation I alluded to earlier.