Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

The funny thing with Landline is that I didn’t even fully mean to reread it, I just started the first few pages and then bang I was flying through it in true Rainbow Rowell fashion (see: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi)). I felt like I was at an all-you-can-eat buffet, filling myself with one more page, one more…

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past; all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up. And hope he picks up — because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over. . . . Does Georgie want to start over?

A heart-wrenching—and hilarious—take on fate, time, television and true love, Landline asks if two people are ever really on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway.

Also funny is the fact when I first read Landline, back in 2015, I came out of it thinking it was my least favorite Rowell book, simply because at that time in my life I couldn’t have cared less about married people. But with this reread now, coming after three years, I can’t get enough of family-based stories. So I was delighted to discover how with time my perspective had changed and matured to the point of gobbling up every little detail concerning the marriage chronicled in here.

It’s so hard to capture all that I loved (because there’s so many specifics) but I tried my best by including it all below:

  • Rainbow Rowell’s signature humor is ever-present and on-point.

“It was so rare to make Neal laugh. . . .
Georgie used to tease him about being a waste of dimples. “Your face is like an O. Henry story. The world’s sweetest dimples and the boy who never laughs.”
“I laugh.”
“When? When you’re alone?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Every night when I’m sure everyone is asleep, I sit on my bed and laugh maniacally.”

I was trying to find the best way to describe the humor, when I stumbled upon this interview between Rainbow Rowell and her audio narrator Rebecca Lowman, discussing the book:

Rowell: “…You know what, I don’t like punchline, sort of zingy humor. So I’m not drawn to comedians who are very big. I like people who are just sort of talking and they’re funny when they’re talking. …”

This. This is exactly it.

As well as this quote from the book on savoring what we hold precious:

“I put it in my Save Box,” she said.
“What’s that?”
“It’s actually just a box. I, uh . . . I hate that feeling, you know, when you’re thinking about something you’ve read or heard, and you thought it was so smart at the time, but now you can’t remember it. I save things I don’t want to lose track of.”

This right here hits the core on why I write such extensive notes during my reading.

  • Georgie’s office scenes with Seth (and Scotty) reminded me then why I had such a hard reading this book the first time. They weren’t my favorite scenes since no one was shining or bringing anything new to the table. In particular, Seth threw me off my game at the end because I feel like he was flexing, what Reagan in Fangirl so lovingly calls, his best friend muscles just to remind everyone that he came first. I’m not a fan. Also: He can’t write anything decent down without Georgie around, which makes him a true Nick.

“They were supposed to end up together, Seth and Georgie.
Well, technically, they had ended up together. They’d talked every day since that first day they met.
But they were supposed to end up together-together. Everyone thought it would happen—Georgie had thought it would happen.
Just as soon as Seth exhausted his other possibilities, as soon as he worked through his queue of admirers. He hadn’t been in any hurry, and Georgie didn’t have a say in the matter. She’d taken a number. She was waiting patiently.
And then, one day, she wasn’t.”

  • And since we’re on the topic of my favorite Rowell book, I was so keen on reading about Neal and Georgie together because it felt like we were seeing Cath and Levi chronicled from Levi’s perspective. Georgie is the one initiating all contact with Neal, making sure she can get a laugh out him (at least one), whereas “solid, stolid” Neal is a tough nut to crack, similar to Cath with their difficulty establishing eye contact and needing a barrier between them, such as drawing cartoons (in Cath’s case, reading fanfiction out loud) to distract. And lucky for him, Georgie doesn’t want the easy thing. To paraphrase Attachments, she likes to work a little harder to get the thing she really wants.

“He’s the guy in the Life cereal commercial who hates everything. If Mikey likes you, you know you’re good. If Mikey likes you, it means something.”

  • The concept behind ‘once we notice something, we see it everywhere’ is beyond fascinating to me, so I liked how subtly Rainbow Rowell incorporated that shift between the two:

“How had she missed Neal until junior year? He’d started working at The Spoon as a freshman, same as her. Georgie must have seen him, without really seeing him, dozens of times. Was she that sucked in by Seth? Seth was extra sucky—pushy and loud, always demanding Georgie’s attention. . . .
But once Georgie noticed Neal, she saw him around the office constantly. She’d try not to stare when he walked past her desk on his way to the production room. Sometimes, if she was lucky, he’d look her way and nod.”

Rowell excels at procuring real authentic moments.

“Can we go back and start over?”
“How far back?” Georgie tried to fold her arms, but she was still holding that stupid Zima.
“Back to the wall,” he said. “Back to you walking across the living room toward me. To you saying, ‘I’m surprised to see you here.’”
“Are you saying you want to go back to the living room?”
“No. Just go ahead, say it again now.”
Georgie rolled her eyes, but she said it: “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Neal said. He lifted his chin and looked directly in her eyes. For the second time in five minutes. For the second time ever. “I’m here because I knew you’d be here. Because I hoped you would be.”

That moment when people stop playing games (Gemma Collins echo) with one another and just present their real selves… Showing someone you’re keen on them and having it reciprocated is a grand gesture.

I equally loved those tiny, intimate moments sprinkled throughout their married life:

“Stop. You’re blowing my mind.”
“Oh, I’ll blow your mind. Girlie.”
“Are you flirting with me?”
He’d turned to her then, pen cap in mouth, and cocked his head. “Yeah. I think so.”
Georgie looked down at her old sweatshirt. At her threadbare yoga pants. “This is what does it for you?”
Neal smiled most of a smile, and the cap fell out of his mouth. “So far.”
Neal . . .”

As well as featuring really beautiful metaphors with flowers, like: “Pizza girl’s name was Alison, and Heather’s face followed her around the room like a sunflower chasing daylight.”

And: “(Neal’s face was like a flower blooming—you’d need time-lapse photography to really see it in action. But Georgie’d become such a student of his face, she could read most of the twitches.)”

  • Regarding the major plot line of the magic telephone, I could only think of this:

To give some background, this quote led me to it: “Georgie exhaled when she heard Neal’s voice, then resisted the urge to ask him who the president was.”

  • I’ve been holding off, but I really have to end on the most epic cameo to appear in this book, featuring my all-time favorite couple: Cath & Levi. I really thought before starting that it wouldn’t hit me as hard because I’ve already read it before. But it’s been so long and LEVI’S STILL SO GOOD.

“Can we help you find something?” someone said.
Georgie turned. It was the ecstatic young couple. Still hanging on each other, as if neither of them could quite believe the other was finally here.
“Taxi stand?” Georgie said.
“You’re looking for a taxi?” the boy asked. The man. She should probably call him a man. He must be twenty-two, twenty-three; his hair was already thinning.”

My boy is all grown up. bookspoils“Wait a minute.” The boy got out of the truck, then hopped back inside thirty seconds later with his duffel bag. He unzipped it, and clothes spilled out. He started heaping them in the girl’s lap. “Here,” he said, pulling out a thick, gray wool sweater. “Take this.”
“I can’t take your sweater,” Georgie said.
“Take it. You can mail it back to me—my mom sews my address inside everything. Take it, it’s no big deal.”

LEVI GOES OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE SURE GEORGIE GETS SAFELY TO HER DESTINATION (on top of the snowy hill).

And Cath caught up with Levi’s good habits along the way because when they notice Georgie’s shoes not having foolproof cover from the Omaha snow, this happens:

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” the girl said. “You can wear my boots.” She reached for the floor. Georgie noticed she was wearing a small engagement ring. “You can have them. I don’t even like them.”
“Absolutely not,” Georgie said. “What if you get stuck in the snow?”
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “He’d carry me across the city before he let me get my feet wet.”

Levi would do it in a heartbeat!! Cue my tears.

I really thought that time would pass and one day I would be ready to move on. But these characters are my home, and I’m never going to stop missing them.

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Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55I’ll close off by sharing this beautiful alternate cover for Landline, which has the best details from the book; the Polaroid!!

Source

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Landlinejust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Wedding Shenanigans, Family Disasters, and Childhood Crushes in Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Wedding Shenanigans, Family Disasters, and Childhood Crushes in Save the Date by Morgan Matson

“It was that feeling like when the lights come up after a movie—how it takes a minute to let go of the world you’d been immersed in. ”

I’ve been patiently waiting for this newest Matson’s book, back when its release date had been set for the same day as Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All, both surrounding the wedding season, though, the latter is more on planning than attending one. Save the Date still holds the same hectic atmosphere since the main event – the wedding – is taking place at the Grant’s house with a bunch of siblings set to arrive all at once.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

I forgot how quickly these contemporary reads go by. You start to get into it and then poof the book’s over.

Save the Date, in particular, hit it off with a bang by starting with a romantic get-together that swept me right into the storyline. I’m a (low-key) sucker for obsessional crushes, so seeing Charlie’s keenness on her childhood crush was all too real; Jesse Foster is no longer a boy in her eyes, but a mythical figure that can do no wrong.

The book hits the mark on experiencing unrequited crushes and observing from the sidelines. Like my favorite quote from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before conveys: ‘You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.’

I mean, I can’t stop thinking about this:

“Jesse didn’t move over from his spot on the middle cushion, so when I sat on the couch, I was closer to him than I had ever been before, except for two memorable occasions—when we’d been stuck in an elevator together at a laser tag place for Mike’s fourteenth birthday, and a memorable car ride when I was twelve and we’d been coming back from playing mini golf in Hartfield, all of us crammed into the car, and somehow, I’d ended up in the way back next to Jesse, Mike on his other side. And Jesse kept turning to talk to Mike, which meant he kept leaning into me, his bare leg pressing against mine. It had been a thirty-minute ride home, and the whole time, I’d prayed for a traffic jam, a road closure, a flat tire—anything to keep it going longer. So, as I sat on the couch next to him now, it was with full awareness that this proximity to him—voluntary, as opposed to car-logistic mandated—was a brand-new thing.”

rubs hands together Now, it’s getting good.Save the Date 2-- bookspoils

“She didn’t know what it was like to look and wish and want, always two steps behind the person, always on the edges of their life. What it was like to stand next to someone and know you weren’t registering with them, not in any meaningful way. That you thought about someone a thousand times more than they’d ever thought about you. To know that you were just a face in the crowd scenes while they were center stage. And then, all at once, to have the spotlight finally swing over to you. To suddenly be visible, to be seen, no longer one of the people in the background who never get any lines. To suddenly be in the midst of something you’d only ever looked at from the sidelines. What that felt like when it finally happened, dropped in your lap when you were least expecting it, like a gift you were half-afraid to open.”

This right here is exactly why I so love Wren’s line from Fangirl: “That moment,” she told Cath, “when you realize that a guy’s looking at you differently—that you’re taking up more space in his field of vision. That moment when you know he can’t see past you anymore.” 

I’ll never tire of seeing books get it right when discussing something close to heart. I was living vicariously through Charlie and Jesse’s interactions, which is why this became such a pivotal reading experience for me when it went the extra mile of showing the reason these types of crushes don’t tend to develop any further is because you hold them on this invisible pedestal, whereas for them you’re just a body in a crowd.

“He was a nice guy. He was cute, and he was a great kisser. But that was actually all I really knew about him, Jesse the actual person. I couldn’t have told you his favorite movie, or his roommate’s name, or his greatest fear. He wasn’t who I thought he was all those years, because that person didn’t exist. That Jesse was just a compilation of everything I’d projected onto him, coupled with a handful of real-life interactions that I’d given far too much value to.”

Her anthem should include Dua Lipa’s New Rules.

Analysing and reading into their every move can become exhausting really quickly, so I was beyond grateful to safely experience from the sidelines where all this can lead to with Save the Date. (Another great book that touches upon this is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.)

I’m putting that major revelation aside by moving on to discuss the actual book, which is ‘what you see is what you get’ synopsis-wise since the entirety of it is set around three hectic wedding days (without any major flashbacks). Consequently, the usual contemporary, summer fun isn’t quite as present here as with Matson’s previous books, especially when each developing storyline could be detected from a mile away.

The only remaining upside Save the Date held for me were Charlie’s siblings with their dynamic personalities put into one house. It’s the little things that made them seem so close to me. Like, calling for “witnesses” when making a bet, or their “not it” gesture of pulling on their earlobe.

“This was one of the thousands of tiny things that only happened when we were together, one of the things you didn’t know you’d miss until it was gone.”

It’s these details that are able to procure real, authentic moments.

“Mike Drop?”
“No!” I said quickly. Mike Drops were something that J.J. and Danny had done a lot when Mike was in elementary school and they were much, much bigger than he was. It was true to its name—Danny would pick up Mike, yell “Mike Drop!” and toss him in the air and J.J. would dash in and catch him just before he hit the floor. All of which had worked out great when Mike was six. But as they’d all gotten older, J.J. sometimes forgot to catch him, and they had a way of getting people injured, sometimes all three of them in the same Mike Drop.”

They were a never-ending hoot to read about. As well as the scarcely Grant Central Station comic strips scattered throughout.

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Plus, there’s the added bonus of featuring quite the creative chapter titles that make for a compelling road ahead, with favorites including: “Or, Acronyms Are Not Always a Good Idea Or, AANAAGI” & “Or, 98% of All Statistics Are Made Up on the Spot.”

Overall, Save the Date was an enjoyable YA read, though a bit rushed in places, and included just the right amount of fun and laughter.

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Review: All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Review: All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Reading this coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships back-to-back with Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared made for a great reading experience, since both revolve around similar adolescent themes that naturally occur with the peak of summertime.All Summer Long 2-- bookspoils

Thirteen-year-old music-loving Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he’s off to soccer camp for a month, and he’s been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it’s up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own.

I’ll start off by noting that I was a tiny bit thrown off from the start with the author’s choice to include “Infiniflix” and “Filtergram” (aka Netflix and Instagram) as I personally prefer not to have social media in books if it’s made up names. But once I gradually got used to it, I was yet again left scratching my head upon seeing Bina rip CDs from her friend… Does Spotify not exist in this world then??

Aside from that minor hindrance, I did have an enjoyable time reading about Bina’s summer adventures, so I’d like to highlight some of the noteworthy moments (both random and not) that I gathered from All Summer Long:

All Summer Long 3-- bookspoilsA band called “ASMR” was worth it all.All Summer Long 4-- bookspoilsBold artwork that shows itself in show-stopping panels like the above.

All Summer Long 5-- bookspoilsI highlighted the above because having Bina call someone out on their act by acknowledging the important distinction between being nice and appearing nice was grand.

All Summer Long 1-- bookspoilsHe probably got fired from Del Taco because they got a new thing called FR E SH A VOCA DO.

All Summer Long 6-- bookspoilsAnd true to the comparison I presented at the start of my review with Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared, this graphic novel ended on a sweet note for more and more.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: May 1st, 2018

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Angst, Love, Texts, and Tattoos in Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Angst, Love, Texts, and Tattoos in Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

When I read through the excerpt for Emergency Contact back in February, I had a slight inkling indicating it would be well worth the wait. I was hooked, in particular, when I highlighted the opening line that really gets those of us living in the more warmer areas: When it came to perspiration, Penny had a problem. Not that she stank of BO or anything. It’s that from March to around October she was invariably damp. 

I do have to say, though, that upon starting the full book and realizing the aforementioned excerpt wasn’t from the first chapter was quite disappointing for me… I definitely had to rearrange my expectations for the following, as the shared excerpt is set way down the road from the opening storyline.

While readjusting, I also became agonizingly aware of how much time we spent on the many, many arbitrary scenes before Penny finally heads off to college: buying a new iPhone, arguing with her mother for flirting at the Apple store, packing up and heading on her drive to the University of Texas at Austin, actually arriving on campus, entering her shared dorm room, going into the bathroom, rearranging her toiletry bag… SO MANY DETAILS that I shouldn’t have to know; pages upon pages of description make my mind wander. In my eyes, all the aforementioned could have been summarized in a couple of pages, instead of dedicating four whole chapters to it.

There’s literally a scene at House Coffee that starts from Sam’s viewpoint, where Penny enters with her roommate and her roommate’s best friend, and then follows up exactly where we left off in Penny’s following chapter… Like, silent-scream having time jumps of over an hour is allowed…But I’m glad I pushed through the longish introduction (low-key because I had already prepared the header image for my review out of excitement and wasn’t gonna let it go to waste) because what unfolds is a coming-of-age tale that chronicles the intersecting lives of Penny Lee and Sam Becker, both not to be trifled with.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

But it’s the precise commentary invoked in this book that made me want to stick around. Penny’s character had the best lines, as well.

  • Sam is the essence of the tweet that goes “when i see a skinny white boy that looks like he hasn’t slept in years,” courtesy of Penny’s many favorable descriptions for his looks:

“Sam could have been in a band. A dreamy, brooding band. Penny thought cigarettes were pointless and smelled awful, but she imagined that Sam smoked and that he looked cool doing it.”

And this priceless line: “Sam had resting bitch face until he laughed.” 

Also, her appreciation for his many tattoos (sixteen in all) was beyond infectious: “Sam had somehow found the Perfect Shirt with the Perfect Collar, which was stretched out just enough to create this enticing peekaboo effect.”

I was practically craning my neck to get a better look.

  • Things only went up from here when Penny gets some much-needed characterization by introducing her love of writing. Similar to Fangirl, we get to sit in on her Fiction-Writing course, and it was fascinating through the various topics discussed. Her professor, J.A., really channeled in this quote:

https://twitter.com/Hannahfoni/status/978345811082928128

“Penny had been writing all the time, for years now. She’d never stopped even if she showed no one. Stories, lists of ideas, and strange chunks of amusing dialogue that came to her while she ignored whatever else was going on in her actual life. She knew she was decent. Only she wanted more.”

  • The impeccable humor in here takes it to a whole other level. The messages exchanged between Sam and Penny that had me stifling a laugh more than once. Including the most memorable from Sam’s POV after he shoots Penny a mirror selfie, debating if he’s overdressed:

(His responses are on the right)

Emergency Contact 1-- bookspoils“Yah”

This is that more comical when you know the insider’s scoop on Penny’s stance with nudes (shudders @Mark) and her spot-on “Calm down,” poking fun at Sam’s earlier use of it, and him lightening the air by making a jab at his earlier panic attack. They’re catching feelings as they text, and I’m nothing if not here for it.

“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.”

And I nearly CHOKED on this conversation between Uncle Sam and Jude:

“The thing is,” she continued, “I’m also very perceptive. And I get now why you guys did what you did. Speaking of which, you’re both so lucky you have unlimited texting. You know she couldn’t even pee without taking her phone into the bathroom? I could hear her laughing in there.”
Jude smiled then.
“News flash,” she said. “At some point, your girlfriend might have been taking a dump while you were flirting with her.”

This book is TOO REAL.

  • On another note: Sam and Penny getting caught up in one another was entrancing and intoxicating to witness.

“Sam wanted to tell Penny everything. He wanted a record of his thoughts and feelings and stories to exist with her. Like a time capsule for this strange period of his life. With her, he felt less lonely. He hadn’t even realized he was lonely. He hadn’t let himself.”

  • More notable observations:

“Penny never looked the way she thought she did in her head, like how your recorded voice sounds positively vile when you hear it out loud.”

“Wow,” he said. “Sometimes talking to you is like accidentally clicking on a pop-up with autoplay video.”

Celeste’s (aka Penny’s mom) take on the signs of love:

“I know I love someone when I can’t remember what they look like in any real way. I can never seem to recall whether they’re handsome or ugly or if other people think they’re cute. All I know is that when I’m not with them and I think about them, where their face should be is this big cloud of good feelings and affection.”

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Although I did have minor hindrances to my reading experience, overall I’d conclude by saying that Emergency Contact features a realistic story that has emotional depth and ends on a hopeful note. (But I’m mad at myself for thinking the last chapter wasn’t the last and being once again shocked at seeing Acknowledgments at the head of the page…)

Lastly, I couldn’t have listened to a more fitting song than the one below, since Penny and Sam coincidentally share the same pair of beat-up black sneakers.

If you’re not sleepin’ with me, then I’ll get no sleep at all.

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Cute Boys, Late Summer Nights, and Blossoming Friendships

Cute Boys, Late Summer Nights, and Blossoming Friendships

My umpteenth reread of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl made me realize how compulsively readable the contemporary books that made my 2014/’15 were. So the queen of the genre, aka Sarah Dessen, had to make a comeback for my next reread.

They just don’t make them like this anymore. I’ve yet to experience a new summer contemporary read that receives the surrounding hype of Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss, Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone, and Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. Reading this made me recall how I achingly miss that feeling of fun and ease those iconic books that scream of summer provided when I needed it the most. I mean, remembering my reading experience of these books now feels like sifting through teen memories, and even though I didn’t encounter the described events personally, I experienced so much joy reading them that they simply feel like mine. And it’s exactly this rush of emotion that I haven’t felt in a while with a YA book.

Now, I definitely feel the keen need to revisit more of the kind in the near future. But in the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of things I adored within this reread:

  • The tiny random moments of resemblance Fangirl shares with The Truth About Forever (I had to note it down with the former book still so fresh in my mind): Wes’s pickup truck coming to save the day (Levi’s red truck), Macy’s denying invitations (Cath), Bert pushing the doors with too much gusto (Reagan’s quirk).
  • My favorite catering crew to exist in fiction, aka Wish Catering, with their tiny mishaps somehow always solved before the night is done. I definitely had to rearrange my expectations when it came to them since I recalled the dynamics between the crew a tad different, but still, they were so good.

“They honestly seemed to believe that things would just work out. And the weirdest thing was, they did. Somehow. Eventually. Although even when I was standing right there I couldn’t say how.”

  • One of my favorite scenes arose out of Macy sharing with Kristy her experience of being in a relationship with Jason, whose constant need for perfection makes her fall short again and again in his eyes and consequently makes her doubt her every move… So Kristy makes sure to pass onto Macy her confidence.

“—would totally want to hear say she loved him. You’re smart, you’re gorgeous, you’re a good person. I mean, what makes him such a catch, anyway? Who is he to judge?”
“He’s Jason,” I said, for lack of a better argument.
“Well, he’s a fuckhead.” She sucked down the rest of her beer. “And if I were you, I’d be glad to be rid of him. Because anyone that can make you feel that bad about yourself is toxic, you know?”
“He doesn’t make me feel bad about myself,” I said, knowing even as my lips formed the words this was exactly what he did. Or what I let him do. It was hard to say.
“What you need,” Kristy said, “what you deserve, is a guy who adores you for what you are. Who doesn’t see you as a project, but a prize. You know?”
“I’m no prize,” I said, shaking my head.
“Yes,” she said, and she sounded so sure it startled me: like she could be so positive while hardly knowing me at all. “You are. What sucks is how you can’t even see it.”

It brought to mind this empowering exchange from Skam

  • The ongoing “gotcha” scare game shared between the two brothers, Wes and Bert, reminded me of the trailer for the upcoming film Tag and the true story behind it, titled: I’ve played a game of tag for 23 years. The game came from a bad period in life that later blossomed into a more concrete focal point for the brothers.

“Truthfully, it’s just this dumb thing we started about a year ago. It pretty much came from us living alone in the house after my mom died. It was really quiet, so it was easy to sneak around.”

“Plus,” Wes continued, “there’s just something fun, every once in a while, about getting the shit scared out of you. You know?”

  • Speaking of, seeing Wes care for his younger brother, Bert, who’s beyond nervous to go to a very important engagement (…Armageddon club), was a huge sa-woon worthy moment for me.

“Calm down,” Wes said, stepping around me into the room and walking up to Bert. He untangled the tie, smoothing the ends. “Stand still.” Then Bert and I both stood and watched as, with one cross, a twist, and a yank, he tied the knot perfectly.
“Wow,” Bert said, looking down at it as Wes stepped back, examining his handiwork. “When did you learn that?”
“When I had to go to court,” Wes told him. He reached up, plucking the piece of tissue off his brother’s face, then straightened the tie again. “Do you have enough money?”
Bert snorted. “I prebought my ticket way back in March. There’s a chicken dinner and dessert. It’s all paid for.”
Wes pulled out his wallet and slid out a twenty, tucking it into Bert’s pocket. “No more cologne, okay?”

  • I do have to mention, though, that after the initial excitement slipped away, I couldn’t help but notice the few irks that came to bother me: the way Macy’s mother was characterized, Kristy barely appearing after Macy and Wes grow closer, Wes himself not being given enough character building so that he essentially resembled a mirror image to Macy (both have lost a parent, both have a bf/gf on hold, both can’t accept a compliment, etc.), and it was too unequivocally convient to feel real. And then it also hit a bit of a rut when the catering crew, who were one of the biggest highlights for me, didn’t appear in the following scenes.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55Overall, I had a nice walk down memory lane by rereading The Truth About Forever, but the memory of the book still holds more appeal for me than the actual book.

I did, however, really enjoy this Rex Orange County song that gets the mood of this read:

I’ll find a spot that’s just for me and see if I can cope without An ounce of pain, without an ounce of pain Said the likelihood just frightens me and it’s easier to hide But I can’t ignore it endlessly, eventually things die

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Roller Derby, Girl-Power, and Friendship

Roller Derby, Girl-Power, and Friendship

I was pumped to read this middle-grade graphic novel all about recognizing female empowerment within the roller derby community, especially after having read and loved Pamela Ribon’s SLAM! Vol. 1, which is a YA comic bundle set around the same premise.Roller Girl 1-- bookspoils

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Roller Girl tackles a lot of important issues within the story arc, such as the giddy start of a new blossoming friendship, growing apart from childhood friends, standing up for yourself and those in need, the power of positive role models, and channeling your inner TOUGHER, STRONGER, FEARLESS-self.

Plus, I know I really enjoyed a middle-grade book when I can’t wait to share it with my little sister. She adored Raina Telgemeier‘s work in the past and has been on the search for anything and everything similar, so she’ll be pleased to know that Roller Girl reads like the perfect follow-up book.

I do have to note that, personally, the story hit a bit of rut when it focused too heavily on supplying all the technical terms in roller derby, but thankfully it more than made up for that with its following character-defining moments.

So without further ado, here are some of my personal favorite bits from Roller Girl:

Roller Girl 2-- bookspoilsThat resilient moment of overcoming adversity is an ever-shining star.

Roller Girl 3-- bookspoilsI was all smiles reading the many descriptions and was even pleasantly surprised to see my name, Natalie, included… until I read her silly defining characteristic.

Another comical moment happens in the following hair coloring scene:Roller Girl 4-- bookspoilsThis brought to mind how Louis C.K. has a whole standup bit just around kids names.
Roller Girl 5-- bookspoils“3-4 weeks” got me good.

Roller Girl 6-- bookspoilsGentle parenting and patience is key.

Unrelated: I find it funny that this is the second book I’ve read that featured both my name as well as my sister’s (Rachel).

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Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi)

Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi)

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while now, you probably know by now that Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is an all-time favorite of mine; I make sure to reread it every single year.

This time around, I decided to revisit the book through a different medium by checking out the audiobook for the first time, as I mention in the Parks and Rec book tag (where I feature Reagan for Ron Swanson’s question, yet somehow still wound up including my perfect sunflower and the pride of Arnold, otherwise known as Levi Stewart).

As I mention in the tag, I feel like even the audio-narrator is enjoying herself with Reagan’s character because I can always hear a hint of a smile upon reading her comically outrageous lines. They’re profound contributions to this world.

“There was just no fear in her. No hesitation. Talking to Reagan was like standing in front of an oncoming train.”

However, since I already uploaded an extensive review full of ravishing ravings for Fangirl in 2016 that you can check out here, I decided to twist things around for this reread and feature the list of everything important I noted during my reading experience (which I can visually represent with this very accurate gif below):

  • Starting with the most beloved cast of characters that always bring out the best feelings out of me, I made sure to take my sweet time with this audiobook, listening to a little at a time every other week or so. More specifically, Levi has me wrapped around his finger; he leaves me grinning from ear to ear so easily. And I have to elaborate by making a whole new point about this…
  • I felt like Jim Halpert, smiling into the camera, because every time Levi shows, I’d inevitably look into a nonexistent camera like I’m on The Office, while trying to hold off the wisp of a megawatt smile showing on my face. Like, get you a guy like Levi who goes out of his way in making sure you’re comfortable and showing signs that he genuinely likes you.

Just to give you a feel of what I’m talking about, here’s a couple of instances that made me smile uncontrollably in his presence:

    • Walking with Cather late at night from the library to make sure she gets back safe and sound to her dorm.

“Just Cather, huh?”
“Just Cath.”
“Did you get lost in the library?”
“No.”
“I always get lost in the library,” he said, “no matter how many times I go. In fact, I think I get lost there more, the more that I go. Like it’s getting to know me and revealing new passages.”
“You spend a lot of time in the library?”
“I do, actually.”
“How is that possible when you’re always in my room?”
“Where do you think I sleep?” he asked. And when she looked at him, he was grinning.”

This loving, loyal sunflower has the biggest smile and an even bigger heart. Which is why I was beyond elated when I read Rainbow’s comparing him to a golden retriever (“For the constant good-natured game of him.”). Mainly because of a Youtube comment I shared in my Parks and Rec tag that used exactly that phrase to describe the relationship unfolding between Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate: It’s like watching a grumpy cat and golden retriever get married. And it represented a lot of what Cath and Levi’s interaction held for me.

  • Plus, having them slowly bond over Cath’s “secret, dirty fanfiction” is something that will never grow old on me. I’m utterly amazed at how effortlessly Rainbow captures that intimate moment of growth from being acquaintances to friends to something more.

“It’s not dirty.”
“Read me some anyway.”
She let go of the pillow; he’d probably already filthed it beyond redemption.
“Why?”
“Because I’m curious,” he said. “And I like stories.”
“You just want to make fun of me.”
“I won’t,” he said. “I promise.”
“That’s what you and Reagan do when I’m not here, right? Make fun of me. Play with my commemorative busts. Do you have a stupid nickname for me?”
His eyes sparkled. “Cather.”
“I don’t exist to amuse you, you know.”
“One, are you sure? Because you do. And, two, we don’t make fun of you. Very much. Anymore. And, three…”
He was counting on his fingers, and his cheeks were twitching, and it was making Cath laugh.
“Three,” he said, “I won’t make fun of you, to anyone but you, from now on, if you’ll just once, right now, read me some of your fanfiction.”

I’m blinking hearts.Pretty sure that with that Levi has ruined all other guys for me. I mean, having someone’s defining feature be kindness above all is cathartic. It’s like I always make sure to ask myself if the guy in front of me lives up to Levi’s standards, and if he doesn’t, well…

  • The peak, of course, hits with getting to experience my all-time favorite scene on audio, featuring Cath reading The Outsiders to Levi through the night. Any book that has the characters bond by reading a book out loud to one another is the way to my heart, all thanks to Fangirl being the primary instigator. I have to say, though, that listening to this part was so worth the wait, since my eyes couldn’t skip ahead out of anticipation as usual. I could actually savor each line and unpack the hidden meaning within the words. I even listened to the ending with closed eyes, and it was so perfect because Cath was tired and her eyes were tired, and I felt it all.

“Cath exhaled. Then inhaled. Her chest was so tight, it hurt both ways. Levi shouldn’t get to make her feel this way—he shouldn’t even have access to her chest.”

They had me going to bed with a smile on my face. Madness…

I’m pretty sure I can quote the whole book on Levi’s sunny disposition if you’ll let me, so this is as good a stopping point as any on that… I’ll just end by mentioning that THEIR DOMESTIC SCENES TOGETHER ARE MY NICHE.

  • The level of detail we’re given about the characters hits the exact right spot for my nosy-self. Like, knowing that Reagan’s voice sounds similar to Kathleen Turner’s rasp is *kisses fingers like a satisfied chef* perfect. Oh, and the random fact that the seatbelt in Levi’s truck is a hassle to pull through is bliss to know. It’s these little things that make the characters seem that more real in the big picture.
  • Which leads me to discuss how much of a blast I had actually giving a listen to the Spotify playlists created by Rowell for both Cath and Levi. Now, I can actually know what songs she had in mind during the most iconic of scenes, such as the infamous Emergency Dance Party.
  • It’s frankly terrifying how much I get Cath. Every time I reread Fangirl, I either discover something new about myself or connect together pieces about myself through her. We have so many overlapping thoughts and actions, so I thought this was an incredibly well-done part of the story. I felt it most strongly the morning after the shared half-asleep kiss with Levi, when Cath tried to convince herself all the reasons they would never fit together.

“He’s different,” Cath said. “He’s older. He smokes. And he drinks. And he’s probably had sex. I mean, he looks like he has.”
Reagan raised her eyebrows like Cath was talking crazy. And Cath thought—not for the first time, but for the first time since last night—that Levi had probably had sex with Reagan.
“And he likes to be outside,” Cath said, just to change the subject. “And he likes animals. We don’t have anything in common.”
“You’re making him sound like he’s some rowdy mountain man who, like, smokes cigars and has sex with prostitutes.”
Cath laughed, despite herself. “Like a dangerous French fur trapper.”
“He’s just a guy,” Reagan said. “Of course he’s different from you. You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.…”

The last line is THE STRONGEST THING I’VE FELT IN MY LIFE. I’m beyond thankful that Cath has someone like Reagan to set her straight. Their blossoming friendship was one of the most unexpected to appear with their juxtaposing personalities, and yet it grew to be one of my favorite friendships to read. I was thunderstruck time and again by their casual daily interactions that brought about some of the most memorable lines of the book.

  • Speaking of, the amount of times I had to pause the audiobook to release my pent-up laughter just goes to show how utterly brilliant Rowell is at creating incomparable comical moments at the most unexpected times. I’ll be still laughing minutes after I read a certain phrase because it’s on a loop in my head. Like, I never get over this particular line Levi throws at Cath the first time they hang out in his room/attic:

“Read something else,” he whispered, kissing the skin below her ear.
Cath took a deep breath. “What?”
“Anything. More fanfiction, the soybean report … You’re like a tiger who loves Brahms—as long as you’re reading, you let me touch you.”

The “the soybean report” got me good. I’m so keen on knowing HOW Rainbow comes up with this stuff… What follows afterward between Cath and Levi is, of course, one of the best scenes for them as a couple, but I won’t bombard you with more, since I’m obviously a complete fool when it comes to these two together. (And it’s impossible to choose just one moment to capture.)Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55With having read all of Rowell’s books (some even multiple times) I just have to say that she excels at making us EXPERIENCE a story instead of merely reading words. Fangirl explores the subtle real-life moments of young adulthood that are often forgotten about, and it makes her writing endlessly readable.

See you in my next reread of this book!

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