Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow Rowell


I’m not sure why AS King isn’t a worldwide phenomenon, worshipped by all who are lucky enough to read her books. CBR9 Review 48.

UnknownThis is the fifth AS King book I’ve had the pleasure of reading during my tenure as a Cannonballer…I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz way back in CBR3, Ask the Passengers in CBR6, and earlier this year I read the mind-bending Still Life with Tornado and the amazing Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. And after reading this one, I found myself wondering why teens (and parents! parents should be reading these!) all over the world aren’t universally singing the praises of AS King.*

I know. These books aren’t exactly easy reading. Not only is the subject matter often upsetting (as is life), but the story is usually not told in a linear, sensible manner. King’s protagonists have often been abused or endured and survived some other trauma. Maybe they suffer from mental illness. Sometimes they wonder about their sexuality and about how their parents will handle that. And King always makes it clear: however you feel, whoever you love, whatever you do, its ok.

Her methods are strange and surreal, I’ll give her that. Glory O’Brien drank a bat smoothie that gave her the power to see the future. Vera Dietz hangs out with thousands of ghosts of her dead best friend. Sarah (from Still Life with Tornado) makes friends with different versions of herself at different ages. Astrid (from Ask the Passengers) gets her best advice from people flying over her house in jets. And it all somehow makes sense.

This time, King gives us a group of “broken” friends who are seniors in high school. One is building an invisible helicopter. One won’t ever take off her lab coat. One has magical hair that grows every time she lies. And one has swallowed herself and is now inside out. Maybe the rest of the school sees them as freaks, but together they support each other and help each other deal with what’s happened in their lives to bring them to these situations.

The book is mostly about trauma and PTSD. How do different people handle stressful and horrible situations? Some drink. Some withdraw and watch old TV sitcoms. Some become obsessed with death.  Some put themselves in dangerous sexual situations. Some are lucky enough to have the support of their friends and family to help them get better, while some have to figure it out on their own. But King shows us that help is out there, and that anyone can be saved.


Stanzi’s parents really pissed me off here. Yes, I understand that losing a child is the worst thing that can possibly happen. But you have another child that you are letting slip away and she needs your help. Meanwhile, I assumed China’s BDSM mother would end up being useless. And her strength and love really blew me away.

*And, as I’ve touted before, Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell books should be government issued as well. These three authors understand life as a teen better than anyone I’ve ever come across. Have a teen? Know a teen? Are you a teen? Have you ever been a teen? If so, I recommend these authors.


This is why I still visit the YA section of my library. CBR9 Reviews 28 & 29.

UnknownThere are very few writers — of any genre — that absolutely grasp how to write dialogue that an actual  human being would say. And I think its especially difficult when it comes to YA characters. Rainbow Rowell can do it. Andrew Smith can do it. And my god, AS King can do it, too.

Years and years ago (for CBR3!!!), I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz, a book I still think about every once in a while. It was so different from anything else I had read in the world of YA, it really and truly stood out for me as groundbreaking. Then in CBR6, I read another one of King’s books, Ask the Passengers, and it was another beautiful home run from King. Her books were a bit bizarre — but so realistic. The kids had some unique issues but handled them in mature and impressive ways. These are books that I made a mental note to have on hand when Bunnybean went to high school.

Last week, I saw the new AS King book on the shelf at the library, so I grabbed it, along with one from a few years ago. Why did it take me so long to get back to an author I had enjoyed so much? I HAVE NO IDEA. My bad, clearly.

First, the newer book, Still Life with Tornado. From Amazon:

At 16, Sarah is facing what she calls an “existential crisis,” questioning whether her life has meaning or value, an event fueled by an unfair art show, a cruel teacher, a toxic and abusive family, a missing brother, and the loss of her ability to draw. Sarah wanders through the streets of Philadelphia and meets her future self at age 23 and 40 as well as her 10-year-old self. With the help of these past and future selves, she uncovers hidden memories of the vacation leading up to her brother leaving and the lies and violence that have driven her family dynamics for years. This beautifully written, often surreal narrative will make readers wonder if Sarah is schizophrenic, if she has post-traumatic stress disorder, or if she just needs to take a break from the realities of her life. Two weeks before Sarah’s crisis, her friend Carmen drew a tornado and told Sarah that it was not a sketch of a tornado but of everything the tornado contained. This drawing becomes an analogy for all that Sarah is hiding in the emotional tornado of her life, the secrets she has hidden from herself and the world. King’s brilliance, artistry, and originality as an author shine through in this thought-provoking work. Sarah’s strength, fragility, and ability to survive resonate throughout. VERDICT This is a complex book that will not appeal to all readers, but for others it will be an unforgettable experience.

I needed to steal the blurb from the book’s page, because I really couldn’t do the plot any justice in describing it. Yes, this is a serious story about bullying, about sexual abuse, about depression, about domestic violence, and about the difficulty about navigating through the teen years. It is also a strange and bizarre look at what makes a person themselves — Sarah comes across versions of herself at different ages as she makes her way across Philadelphia while skipping school. She meets her 10 year old self, her 23 year old self, and her 40 year old self, out and about, giving advice and offering an ear to listen to Sarah. Is Sarah having a breakdown, or is there something more to these other versions of herself that she meets?

Its only when all of the versions of Sarah get together, to become the complete version of Sarah, that she realizes what she needs to do in order to move on with her life and to keep her family together.

So weird. And so upsetting. Sarah’s family was difficult to read about. Her parents had a toxic relationship and her brother’s disappearance was certainly troubling. And Sarah’s ability (subconsciously) to block her past from her memory was fascinating to read about, even though we knew it was going to negatively effect her present.

When I finished that one, I immediately picked up Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. And this one was one of the best YA books I’ve come across. Ever.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last–a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities–but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way…until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions–and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying: A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do anything to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

Glory is graduating from high school, and has constantly lived in the shadow of her mother, who committed suicide when Glory was in preschool. Glory has no plans for college or for her future, as she assumes that she’ll follow in her mothers footsteps and end up dead. She spends most of her time hanging out with her “friend” Ellie, who lives in a strange, cultish commune across the street. Not really a friend, but the only companion Glory has really ever had, they talk about their experience (or, in Glory’s case, non experience) with boys and what their futures may hold.

One night, Glory and Ellie decide (DON’T ASK WHY) to drink a desiccated, mummified bat that they found. They sprinkle the bat’s remains into their warm, cheap beers, and toast to their futures.

When they wake up the next day, they realize that everything is different. They can see the past and the future of everyone they make eye contact with. They can see the horrors that lie ahead for civilization, and Glory realizes that something has to be done to warn others about it. And so she keeps a journal.

She describes the horrible laws that will be passed, eventually taking away all rights for women. How a second civil war will tear our country apart, and how women will be kidnapped from states bordering opposing sides to be held prisoners as breeders and sexual slaves. And how rebel insurgents will refuse to accept this new society, and fight to bring our nation back together.

Glory sees the role that she is to play in this bleak future, and gladly accepts her fate if it means that she can make a potential difference. In the meantime, she struggles to accept her past, learning as much as she can about her mother and how her suicide affected everyone around her.

Another book that wasn’t easy to read, as the scenes in the future are bleak as hell. But King pulls it off. The strange powers that come from the bat aren’t really explained, but theres really no need for them to be. Just accept them and keep reading.

And yes, the future that Glory sees is completely bleak and awful. But she does what she can to prepare herself — as well as society as a whole — by keeping her journals and making note of who is responsible and when.

AS King is a totally badass, original voice. I plan to go back and read all of the other books of hers that I’ve missed.



Note to self: Never question Rainbow Rowell. CBR9 Review 13.

51qavrpjbcl-_uy250_Last week on Instagram, Rainbow Rowell posted a photo of a book she had just finished and recommended. The cover of the book looked a bit ‘twee’ to me, and I filed it away in the back of my mind, a book for a rainy day. I went and I judged a book by its cover, instead of listening to the all-powerful words of Queen Rainbow. I’m sorry. I’ve learned my lesson.

The next day, I saw it randomly, unshelved, just sitting there at the library. It was a sign.

This book was fun. And mysterious. And suspenseful. And not realistic in the least, but I don’t care.

Like a cross between The Shining and The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Bellweather is a grand old resort in upstate New York that has seen better days. In the winter of 1997, its barely hanging on, basically surviving on the profits it makes from a high school musical convention that it hosts every November, bringing the teenaged musical stars from all over the state of New York together for a weekend of music, drinking, and sex.

But the hotel has a secret. That a horrible event took place there 15 years earlier…a bride who murdered her husband just moments after their wedding, and then took her own life. And it was all witnessed by young Minnie, who was there for her own sister’s horrible wedding.

Minnie was never the same. Obsessed with horror movies, she was never able to fit into society after that weekend. She lived with her parents, interacted with the general public as little as possible, and gorged herself on horror and junk food for the next 12 years. But in 1997, Minnie decided she needed to return to the Bellweather, and face her past.

Of course, the weekend that Minnie arrives is the same weekend as Statewide, New York’s festival for the best and brightest on the musical scene. Twins Alice and Rabbit (Bertram, but don’t call him that) Hatmaker are both there from their tiny, podunk town, along with their bizarre new music teacher, Mrs. Wilson. The Hatmakers are both looking forward to the weekend — Alice, because she only understands life when it takes place in music, and Rabbit, because he’s pretty sure he’s gay and wants to take this time away from home to come out to his sister and see what life is like outside of Ruby Falls.

Also among the cast of characters: a child flute prodigy and her controlling mother, a crazy Scottish conductor missing several fingers on his right hand, an elderly concierge who loves the hotel like its a part of his family, a douchy — but so cute — college acapella singer, and an adorable deaf dog.

A blizzard is expected that weekend, maybe the biggest snow storm New York has seen in years. And this year, Statewide just so happens to take place on the 15th anniversary weekend of that horrible murder/suicide many years before. What could possibly go wrong?

Kate Racculia has put together a page-turning mystery, sometimes very dark and sometimes funny, filled with colorful characters that I sometimes rooted for and sometimes pitied. There’s a lot of darkness here: murder, adultery, mental illness, sexual confusion, and child abuse, but then someone breaks out into song and dance, so that the darkness never overwhelms the story. The light and dark are very well balanced.

I’d never heard of Kate Racculia before. She’s written one other novel, which I’ll be sure to add to the list soon. Thank you Rainbow. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.



Oh, Rainbow. You and I really are kindred spirits. CBR8 review 18.

UnknownI’m pretty sure that Rainbow Rowell and I are more or less the same age, give or take a year or two. We clearly see eye-to-eye when it comes to several things: depressing 80s new wave music from the UK, what it was like to go to high school in the time before the internet, and Star Wars.

One of my first first clear memories is of my dad taking me into downtown Boston on a weekend (just me! no little brother! something special was going to happen!) to meet his best friend and his niece, who was just about my age. We met up at a fancy movie theater (it is now a Whole Foods, of course), and then they told us that for the next two hours, we were going on an adventure.

That adventure, of course, was Star Wars. And no, I won’t call it A New Hope. I’ll just call it Star Wars. And I loved it. Maybe not as much as my dad and his friend, but I loved it a lot. And a few weeks later, my dad (who was in advertising, and happened to have one of the very first VCRs) brought home a shaky, pirated, very illegal, hand-held video recording of Star Wars that he got from some guy who knew a guy.

And we watched that thing until the tape was pretty much see-through.

I had Star Wars birthday parties and cakes. We wore Tshirts with iron-on Star Wars decals from Spencers. We traded Star Wars cards. We had all of the original figures and cool Kenner toys. I was all about Star Wars and the original trilogy.

I’ve seen those movies in pretty much every single iteration that George Lucas has come up with. When they re-released them in the theaters in the late 90s, my dad and I went to all three. We went to special screenings at fancy theaters where orchestras played John Williams’ score. We couldn’t get enough.

Until the prequels came around. Those I’ve had enough of, thanks. I saw each of them once, and that’s it. My kids have seen them over and over again, but I just can’t. There’s just something so inherently wrong about them that I just can’t bring myself to care about the mythology from that time period in the canon. Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels are fine (just last week I made my 6 year old a stuffed Rotta the Hutt doll!). Just no prequels.

And that’s why I bonded with Elena, the main character of Kindred Spirits.

No, I never waited in line to see Star Wars. No, I’ve never worn any sort of Star Wars cosplay. But still. I felt a kinship with Elena. OK, so her favorite is Princess Leia, and mine is Han Solo, but I can get past that.

I loved this little story about a girl with Star Wars in her heart. My only complaint is that it just wasn’t longer. I could have had a whole book about Elena and Gabe and Troy. And Elena’s mother. And the grumpy movie theater dude. I wanted more. What happens when they go back to the movies later that night? What happens in school on Monday? What about Elena’s dad in Florida?

But 60-something pages is all we got, and I’ll try and get past that, too.

Special thanks to the wonderful faintingviolet for sending me a copy of this. You are the best!



These two books are so good I really don’t even have anything to say. Just read them. CBR7 Reviews 58 and 59.

FullSizeRenderI just finished reading Carry On, literally seconds ago. And just before that, I had the pleasure of reading Stand Off. Not only were these the two best YA books I’ve read in ages, but they were just two of the best books I’ve read. Ever. Full-stop.

Nobody out there can touch Cannonball favorite Rainbow Rowell and Andrew “my Cannonball boyfriend” Smith right now, as far as I’m concerned.

Many people have touted Carry On before me. And I”ll gladly jump on that bandwagon, waving my Rainbow flag.

I’ll admit, I was nervous about this book. The Simon Snow parts of Fangirl were not my favorite. I was afraid that this was going to be the book that finally disappointed me. And unsure about the whole meta-ness of a book about a book in a book. But my god. I loved this damn book. I loved every single thing about it. Except for the fact that it had to end.

From the first handful of pages — when Penelope says that she likes wearing magical capes with her school uniform because it makes her feel like Stevie Nicks — I was all in. The characters, the plot, the magic and the “normal” all together was simply perfection.

Rowell’s ability to write real dialogue and thoughts is simply amazing. Taking something as mundane as:

…I wish I knew what he was thinking…

I don’t know what I’m thinking.

and giving it heat and emotion and making every single person who has ever fallen in love know exactly how both characters are feeling? So great.

Even Rowell’s throw-away lines and descriptions are little treasures, like when Simon first met Baz’s brothers and sisters:

They all look like Baz’s stepmum: dark hair, but not black like Baz’s, with round cheeks and those Billie Piper mouths that don’t quite close over their front teeth.

Or when Agatha finds herself in the Mage’s messy office:

…There are books everywhere, in stacks and lying open. There are pages ripped out and taped all over one wall. (Not taped — stuck to the wall with spells.) (And this is exactly the sort of thing I’m sick of. Like, just use some tape. Why come up with a spell for sticking paper to the wall? Tape. Exists.)…

Come on.

Really, the only writer out there who comes even close to breathing life into characters like this is Andrew Smith. You may remember how I ranted and raved about the heart-wrenching Winger earlier this year. That book made me ugly cry. And I loved it for its beauty and its honesty. Stand Off is the sequel to Winger.

Did Winger need a sequel? Maybe not. It had a strong ending. But I was so happy to come back to Ryan Dean’s world, to make sure that he was OK. I really just wanted to check in on him, give him a hug, tell him I was here if he needed me.

And poor Ryan Dean. He was not OK. Stand Off is all about his senior year at Pine Mountain boarding school, his relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Annie, and the aftermath of last year’s vicious hate crime.

Ryan Dean makes terrible mistakes in his day-to-day life. But he knows it. He has panic attacks at night. He’s losing weight. He’s terrible to his new roommate, and things aren’t going great with Annie. But how does a teenage boy get over the death of his best friend?

The dialogue is real, and my favorite bits are when Andrew Smith just lets Ryan Dean go on a rant, just like a real teenager would.

Okay. So, you know how when sometimes a person who you think is an okay guy tells you something you know he’s been holding inside for a long time and it makes you feel really bad for him and you try to think of a thousand things you could do or say to make him feel better, but there’s just nothing you can do at all — which is why I now understood how none of the rugby boys at dinner wanted to talk to Nico — so you just feel awkward and sad and stupid because you really think the other guy (who you think is an okay guy) probably just needs a hug from a friend and to hear a friend tell him “none of this bullshit matters,” but you don’t think you can do anything like that, so you just keep your hands in your pockets and you say nothing and you feel like a massive pile of shit and you know he feels like shit and there’s, like, this huge, incredible, growing shit supernova swallowing you up and making you both feel so terrible and you’re not really looking where you’re going because it’s dark and you’ve just cut through the woods and your toe gets stuck beneath a goddamned tree root (screw you, goddamned tree) and you fall down in wet tree mulch and get a cigarette butt stuck to your forehead because your hands were in your pockets and this happened to be the — air quotes — assembly hall — end air quotes — for the Pine Mountain Nicotine Club and then the guy you think is an okay guy is laughing, and that makes you feel better, because of all of the things you thought about that might make him not feel so shitty, gravity was not on that list?

Yeah. That’s what happened.

And screw you, gravity.

Not as heart-breaking as Winger, but still lovely. This book made me laugh and cry. Just like real life.

Seriously, if you aren’t reading Rainbow Rowell yet, what can I say? What’s wrong with you? GET THEE TO A LIBRARY! And Andrew Smith? So good. Go out and read Grasshopper Jungle before the movie comes out. His books are crazy and amazing and non-stop everything.


Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 53: My True Love Gave to Me by Every YA Author in the World

UnknownUsually, I review my 52 books and then take a break for the rest of the year. And after this review, I plan to do so. But since this is a holiday-themed book, I figured I would write something up.

My True Love Gave to Me is a book of short stories, all Christmas themed. The stories are written by an all-star team of YA champions: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Pena, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White. Yes, that’s right. Cannonball favorites Laini Taylor, Holly Black, and Rainbow Rowell ALL IN ONE COLLECTION.

I was all set for this to pretty much be the best book ever. A new holiday classic.

And I guess that was my mistake. The book is fine. Some of the stories are actually pretty good. But.

I think writing a short story is a very specific talent. And a bit of a lost art. Especially for authors who specialize in trilogies that never seem to end. Stephen King is really good at it, but Stephen King works very hard at it. He constantly works on short stories to keep himself in fighting form. I’m not so sure that David Levithan is following quite the same writing regimen.

I’ll cut the book some slack. None of the stories are outright terrible.

My least favorites were  Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” (about a human girl raised as an elf at the North Pole), and Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa” (a gay, jewish kid dresses up as Santa for his boyfriend’s little sister?).

In the next group, stories that I thought were fine, were Link’s “The Lady and the Fox” (Link is really just too weird for me, but she is great at managing the short story format), “What Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman, “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire, and “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter. They were all just fine. Lonely girl meets magical spirit in the woods every Christmas. Jewish girl and black boy at really WASP-y college bond over Christmas. The town Christmas pageant is saved by the least likely suspect. Hannah Montana escapes the horrible celebrity life and finds Christmas happiness in Oklahoma.

The last bunch were pretty darn good, actually.

I hadn’t heard of Matt de la Pena before, but his story “Angels in the Snow” was quite lovely.

My favorite in the book was Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” A simple story about picking out a Christmas tree that made me care and want to know more about the characters. I hoped they would end up happy.

Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf” was weird and fun, and I liked most of it. I preferred the parts of the story that were about normal events, not the supernatural.

“Welcome to Christmas, CA,” by Kiersten White was everything a holiday story should be. Christmas miracles, love, family togetherness, communities coming together. Very nice.

Laini Taylor’s “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” was very Laini Taylor-y. Like an old-fashioned fairy tale that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. It was dark, yet romantic. I’m not sure I liked the story, but I loved the writing.

Lastly, we have Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”. I liked the story of these two friends and how their relationship progresses over the years, checking in on them on New Year’s Eve every year. I wanted to read more about them. My issue with it was that as a short story, it felt incomplete. It seemed more like a chapter out of an unfinished book to me. I would definitely read that book, if Rowell wanted to write it. It just didn’t really work as a 20 page story.

I love the idea behind this book, I just wish I had enjoyed it a little bit more.


Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 33: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

imagesThis has never happened to me before. Never have I finished a book and wanted to read it again, RIGHT AWAY. But it happened to me last night when I read the last page of Landline.

I picked it up yesterday morning, after waiting forever on the library list, and drove to the Toyota dealership to get my car fixed. And I started reading. And I didn’t even notice that I was stuck in that disgusting waiting room for two hours, because Rainbow was with me, and everything was OK.

Was this my favorite of her books? I have no idea. Do I prefer sleeping or eating? Both are things I need to do to survive, but it’s hard to choose one that you like better. That’s how it is with me and this small collection of books, all written by an author I hadn’t even heard of two years ago.

What’s Landline about? A magic phone, you say? Harumph. That sounds so silly!

I know. It does. But it isn’t. Not at all.

It’s about growing up, and love, and family, and the mistakes we make along the way — some of which we can fix, and try to make better, and some of which we can’t. It’s about the beginning of relationships, when everything is shiny and perfect, and you can stay up all night, just talking. It’s about the middle of relationships, when you might be in a bit of a rut, but you can still see the shiny bits sticking out once in a while. And it’s about the end of relationships, when you feel like you’re drowning — and bringing your partner down with you — and don’t know what to do.

Georgie and Neal have been married for 15 years and have two daughters. Georgie is a pretty successful TV writer, along with her partner, Seth. Neal stays home with the girls and Georgie’s work has become all-consuming. She and Seth are about to sell their own show to the network, and need to work non-stop for the next few weeks. Oh, and it’s Christmas, and they are supposed to be taking the girls to Nebraska to visit Neal’s mom.

Of course Georgie stays home with Seth, and of course Neal flies off, and doesn’t even look back at Georgie when he leaves.

But then, Georgie finds out that she has a magic phone. A phone that can call her husband in 1998, right before they got married. Presently, he isn’t even speaking to her, and won’t answer any of her calls on his iPhone. But in 1998, he’ll answer his landline and talk to her all night, about anything and everything. And these conversations with the Neal-of-the-past open Georgie’s eyes to the way things have been going for the past 15 years, and the way that things might be if she doesn’t change something about the present.

Yes, yes, the story is wonderful. But it’s the language, the characters, and the writing that really get me. That’s why I need to read it again, right now, to go back and savor all of the bits that I might have missed because I really just needed to read it and put it into my brain as quickly as possible. How can you not love a book that describes that a new haircut might “feel like velvet one way and needles the other”? And a heroine named Georgie McCool? And these fully-realized supporting characters, like Kendrick, and Allison the pizza girl, who don’t have a lot of page-time, but make the most of it with little bursts of amazingness? Awesome.

Last night, when I was going to bed, I told my husband about the book. And then I told him that I was jealous of all the people out there who haven’t read any of Rainbow Rowell’s books yet, because they can still experience them for the first time. He isn’t a fiction guy, but I have him convinced to give one of them a try. (I think it will be Eleanor & Park, if only for the music references that he’ll really relate to). And I’m jealous that he doesn’t know what’s about to hit him.



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