Thursday 7 November 2013

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Oh Rainbow… you don’t just have a fabulous name. You also write the kind of books that make *me* want to write. I did not expect this, especially after loving Eleanor & Park so much. I loved the book and I adored the characters, but I could hardly identify with them. At least not as deeply as I did with Cath.
Fangirl is basically a book about Tumblr people. I feel like it belongs to the whole community and indeed it has been appropriately chosen as Tumblr’s first bookclub read. In a way, it manages to condense in one single character so many young women (and boys? Probably boys too but not as visibly) who are struggling with their awkward self, with anxiety and self-acceptance, with not fitting in and feeling different from anyone else. Young women who are (sometimes quietly, sometimes less so) proud nerds and enthusiastic fans of certain TV shows or books or celebrities, and feed their passion with endless rewatches/re-reads, cosplays, gif/graphic making, comic-cons, and of course, fanfiction writing. 

Also, a lot of this.

 I’m amazed at the amount of people who don’t know what fanfiction is. It’s just something that I’ve always been aware of. At least I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know what it was. Even before ever reading one, I’ve always liked to imagine different or longer endings for movies, alternative situations for TV shows, and of course, better and more satisfying scenes for my “ship” (the two people I want to be together, in layman’s terms). So, when I first came across fanfiction, I must have regarded it as a natural product of fangirling, which I’ve always done. I’m terrible at writing it myself. I tend to just imagine situations where I’m in the show/book, interacting with the characters, normally ending up making out with one. Basically the kind of thing that’s shunned by the fanfiction communities. So I just read it, every now and then. I’m not a regular fic reader, but I do like to look for one, when I’m in need of something that the show (let’s just be honest, it’s mostly a TV show thing, for me) can’t give me. Mostly crackships, like Magnacarter (Sam Carter and Helen Magnus) which you probably wouldn’t think would be a perfect pair, on account of them being played by the same actress, but you’d be WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They’re made for each other. You just need to look harder. But also regular ships, like the mighty painful Sam/Jack (Jam) from SG-1. Since the writers forgot to give us a proper onscreen resolution for these two poor souls, one needs fanfic to fill the hole and to sooth the pain caused byhardcore shipping.

So yeah, Cath is one of them. One of us. I felt like Rainbow nailed her character. I didn’t think she represented a stereotype. And even if she did, she used one that could be easily embraced and loved by a lot of young women. A lot.Cath is somehow special, though. She has the gift of storytelling. In her online world, she’s famous. She has fans of her own. People read her fics every day and regard her as their favourite writer. Not many people can say that. And yet, IRL, she’s painfully shy and awkward. She hates parties and drinking and would rather live off energy bars than venture into the dining hall of her new campus. Because Cath is a freshman and has to face the terrifying prospect of going through a whole academic year on her own, without her twin sister, who up until then, had been her inbuilt BFF. This being a YA story, things don’t stay the same for long. Slowly Cath starts making friends who are not her twin sister Wren (whom for most of the book behaves like a douche and whom I disliked wholeheartedly, but this being YA, she redeems herself at the end, which we liked) and even gets a boyfriend. The one I had been shipping her with from the start. Yay! Not the other useless, annoying, self-absorbed jerk (also, for the record “Second person is never the answer. Nothing good has ever been written in second person. Second person is for twenty-year-olds in creative writing classes who like beat poetry and have finger-mustache tattoos”©Raych
With Cath and her boyfriend (not gonna say who because slight spoilers but it’s pretty obvious) Rainbow throws another Eleanor & Park. Their romance is just as adorable and passionate and cute, and did I say adorable. The only thing that was slightly annoying was this whole Starbucks glorifying thing. What is it with Americans and Starbucks? Somehow it always manages to become this magic, mythified place where wonderful things happen. I don’t get it. I actually tried their much hyped Pumpkin Spice latte this year, just to see what the whole fuss was about, and it was disgusting. I couldn’t even finish it. The most expensive, undrinkable coffee I’ve ever bought. I know they can have (sometimes) nice coffee, but so do a lot of other cafes who are not multinational, anti-union, independent-cafes-killing machines. So that was my pet peeve. But it was quite pettish, as it didn’t stop me from ADORING thing book and going all  

Also, as I said at the beginning, it made me want to go back to writing. Which is something that happens on a regular basis, and it doesn’t mean it will last, but it’s a good feeling. Right now I’m not thinking that my writing sucks and that there’s no point in trying. I’m thinking that it can be good, and all I have to do is try.

So, yeah, I really really liked it. I loved the humour, I loved how it’s written as if Cath was writing it in her head instead of just narrating. I LOVED Reagan, but I loved Cath’s dad even more. I mean, how can you not love a dad who says stuff like  “Honey, I’ve watched a lot of 90210. The parents weren’t even on the show once Brandon and Brenda went to college. This is your time – you’re supposed to be going to frat parties and getting back with Dylan”.  I loved that they kept referencing Battlestar Galactica even though I haven’t seen it yet. I loved that the mother wasn’t just simply redeemed at the end, because NO. And finally, I loved the whole Simon Snow idea, and even thought that it could be even better than Harry Potter and that I’d love to read it (but I’d like to read Carry on, Simon more so I think Rainbow should publish it somehow as a sort of extra feature for the book. Just a thought). 

Basically, I loved it. Rainbow Rowell has officially ascended to the “Authors I would read anything they’ve ever written” list.

Friday 1 November 2013

The new policeman - Kate Thompson

Yet another one of those books that have been waiting on the shelf for years and that I enjoyed more than I expected I would. I wasn’t even sure what it was about, just that once someone told me it was good. And yet, the right time for it only came now. I devoured this in less than two days. It was that good. It’s also about everything I love. Ireland, for starters. It’s set in a delightful little village I’ve visited more than once, in county Galway. It’s about traditional Irish music, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of trad, or diddly aye as my friends from the wesht call it, I do enjoy a session every now and then. It really shows the true heart of Ireland. And finally, it’s about magic, folklore and mythology. About the Tuatha de Danann and the great Irish heroes of the old sagas.Only, not like you’ve read them before.
Life in Kinvara seems to go as usual, except it isn’t. Time is slipping away too fast and people never seem to have enough of it. There is a new policeman in town, but he’s not so sure he’s right for the job and he’d rather play his fiddle in the pub than investigate crimes. Then there’s 15-year-old JJ Liddy who bears his mother’s family name with pride (The Liddys have been for their music and their ceili for years), until one day his friend tells him his great-grandfather murdered a priest, and he’s not sure about being a Liddy anymore. He doesn’t know anything about his family’s past and now his mother realises it’s time to tell him the truth. But soon JJ realises there’s more at stake than his family pride. His determination to buy more time for his mother, as she asked for her birthday present, brings him to the edge of reality in a quest to fix time and fulfil his mother’s wishes.
This was a multi-layered story that was satisfying on many levels. It was filled with humour, with characters instantly easy to love, with an almost tangible love for music and for dancing and for communal traditions carried forward for generations with love and pride. And then there was a not-so-subtle criticism towards the present times, or the present at the time of the novel, when Ireland was at the height of its economic boom, which happened so sudden and so fast that it had earned the name Celtic tiger. No one had time for anything anymore, except making money, buying houses and cars and climbing the career ladder. This was not a huge part of the story but it did linger there, understated, until the ending, when it becomes more obvious.
 But what I loved the most was the new take on the Irish “Gods”. I especially loved Angus and the Dagda, and Bran the dog, and everything that had to do with them. I was slightly concerned about JJ, because unlike him, I did remembered what happened to Oisin in the legends. But still, you don’t need to know too much about old Irish sagas to enjoy this. If anything, it’d make you want to read more about them. But even if this was the only book you’d ever read about them, I think it’d be a good one.
The ending was the cherry on the cake. You find out who the new policeman really is and even though I had an inkling, I hadn’t guessed the full story, and it’s brilliant!