Lola and the Boy Next Door

(Yes, the whole world’s probably read it by now, but GAHH I’m going to talk about it anyway, because, hey, Stephanie Perkins. Enough said.)

Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins
Release date: September 28th, ’11
From Goodreads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion…she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit–more sparkly, more fun, more wild–the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket–a gifted inventor–steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

A word about the cover: I love the wig. And the cover in general coveys the same cheeriness that Anna‘s cover does, although the latter had a mysteriousness about it since you couldn’t see the guy’s face on it and hey, we had a good time imagining Etienne, didn’t we? But Lola has a new cover, too (like all the books in this series) – more city-centric – and I think it’s gorgeous. Also, mature.

My thoughts:

This book is a big glob of happiness. I mean, there are a lot of sad and not-so-kind and heartbreaking stuff, too, but overall, it’s such a happy book it makes you feel hopeful about things, irrespective of how you’re feeling.

It’s been a few hours since I finished reading this book and I still can’t stop grinning about it. Stephanie Perkins knows, you know. She REALLY knows how to write a good, believable romance. She knows how to build up a believable friendship-that-is-more-than-just-friendship and turn it on its head so that even though you kind of know that in spite of everything this will end up with a happy ending, you can’t discard the book with a smirk because the characters are sitting there with your heart and you’re squealing and gahh-ing over whatever’s happening and you know you need this.

Yes, that’s what a Stephanie Perkins book feels like. And that’s what Lola and the Boy Next Door feels like, too.

I’ve heard a lot of people didn’t really like Lola’s dangling-two-boys act but c’mon, she’s only human and nobody’s perfect. Oh, well, Cricket is. Like reallyreallyreally perfect. Dude, where do guys like him live? (Okay, okay, I know San Francisco and all that, but really) Remember Etienne from Anna ? Yeah, that guy is puurrrfect, but Cricket is sometimes (most times, actually) waaaay too good to be true.

Other things I liked about Lola:
– Lola’s dads! I haven’t read a better, matter-of-fact, un-caricatured representation of a gay couple with a daughter. And Andy and Nathan stand out so well against each other.
– Norah. (I’m not saying who she is if you haven’t read the book – although chances are that you have, still – but I thought she was the most interesting character in the book)
– An obsessive-compulsive costume designer. An Olympic-bound figure skater. An inventor. Aahh, unique hobbies make for such unique characters.
– Also, the thing about Alexander Graham Bell. I liked that bit of inclusion.
– I loved the little unconventional bits the book had. Like Lola’s 5-years-older boyfriend. The biological/adopted family thingy. Heck, the costumes! Less high school, more home scenes (hey, the boy’s just next door – who would even *want* school?) – infact, more COLLEGE (here’s looking at you Berkeley) than high school.
– But my favourite part? ANNA AND ST. CLAIR MAKE APPEARANCES THROUGHOUT THE BOOK.

Okay, so Anna is still one of my favouritebooksEVER. It’s one of the most glorious books written in YA fiction and bringing Lola up for a comparison would just not be fair because Anna is, you know, Anna. Boarding school. Paris. St Clair. Perfection.

But Lola IS a good read. More than good, it’s a happy read and we can all do with a heavy dose of happiness, can’t we? This book had been on my to-read list for a very long time but I’m overjoyed I finally could get around to reading it because the reading experience has been worth more than I had expected. I’m convinced now. Stephanie Perkins has the gift of writing happy. You know that when you’re feeling the blues, all you need is to pick up a Perkins book. Works like magic.

Do you like Anna or Lola better?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell

Release date: September 10th, ’13
From Goodreads:

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?
Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

A word about the cover:  I think it’s perfectly adorable. I love illustrated covers and this one is so pretty and sparse and clean it totally gets you into the mood. And I LOVE the blue! Also, the font. And the thought bubbles. And the lanky guy and the nerd girl. It IS perfect.

My Thoughts:

Guys, this book made me feel so good, I can’t even tell you how much. Even thinking about it makes me smile, such heartwarming goodness it was.

When I saw this one up on netgalley I just knew I had to read this. I mean, fandoms (Harry Potter/Supernatural/Game of Thrones, ftw!) and fangirls – such nerdsomeness – what could get better than that?

The first thing for which Fangirl won brownie points from me was the setting. Guys, guys, guys, this book is set in college and I LOVE that. Why aren’t there more books set in college that don’t become just this huge flesh-feasts? Not that there’s anything wrong with that but you know, there’s more to college than just sex. Like, um, classes and roomies and friends-who-aren’t-potential-love-interests and maybe, sometimes, fandoms. (Okay, so maybe I’m being biased about the last thing, but you get what I mean, right? You need things like Harry-Potter-talk because HOW DO YOU SURVIVE OTHERWISE. Okay. I’m going to shut up right now)

My favourite thing about this book was the characters and their relationship with each other, which altered and wavered and stabilised and developed in so many ways throughout the course of the novel. That’s the other thing I really liked about this. The pace. No quick-mode, no insta-anything, nothing overtly dramatic. Fangirl was a leisure ride with things taking place at a realistic pace and in such a believably real-life way.

The characters were so well-rounded. Cath and Wren. Levi. Nick. Rowan (damn, I loved Rowan!). Cath and Wren’s dad! It’s really nice to read books where the parents matter, for a change, and where they aren’t the devil incarnate. And it’s even nicer when the dad is an adorable creative genius.

So this is the first YA book written in third person past that I’ve read in quite a while and it was so well done! The writing was so good that I was inspired to write the next whatever-I-write in third person (and no, I’m never inspired to try third person) – it’s just THAT good.

Read this book, okay? It doesn’t come out till September but pre-order it if you have to, just read it. It doesn’t matter what your reading tastes are, Fangirl, I’m sure, will appeal to everybody.

You know, the kind of coming-of-age that happens in college is different from the coming-of-age that happens before that. It’s just this whole other thing – this living away from home, actually having to take things into your own hand (whether you like it or not) and Rainbow Rowell captures all that in her book with subtle brilliance. Read it for the feels. And the fandom.

Did/do you write fanfiction?

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

(Hardcover/Australian Paperback)

Imaginary Girls
by Nova Ren Suma
(Author blog)
Released: June 14th, ’11
From Goodreads:

Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

A word about the cover: That hardcover version is the Most. Brilliant. Cover. Ever. Period.
And that paperback below? Hauntingly creepy. But the hardcover wins, hands down.

My Thoughts:

This is quite possibly the most gorgeous book I’ve owned. I doubt I can be coherent at all while talking about this because, honestly, it blew my mind. Wow. Just WOW.

(Paperback)

If you ask me right now which author I so wish I could write like, I’d say Nova Ren Suma in a heartbeat. Not only is the writing oh-so-breathtaking, she blends it in with a story that will sometimes make your heart ache, sometimes put your heart in your mouth and hang on to you even months after you’ve read it (I speak from experience. Yes, it’s been months that I’ve read it. I just didn’t know how to talk about it. Still don’t, but you get what I mean).

This is a story about sisters and obsession, about dead girls and lost towns, sibling love and sacrifice, destruction and resurrection. This is a story about magic. Magic that will make your toes curl yet keep you captivated. This is magic realism at it’s best. The best I’ve read in years.

At it’s heart, Imaginary Girls is a mystery. There’s mystery in every page, in every character, in every action undertaken by a character. Ruby, Chloe’s older sister, is perhaps the biggest mystery, which also makes her the most enticing character of all. Ruby is complex. So complex that sometimes sometimes it’s scary. But she’ll hold you entranced, like she holds Chloe and the rest of the town. Yet in spite of the power she wields, there will never be a time when you even remotely associate her with being bad. That’s the kind of magic Suma crafts with Imaginary Girls. Her characters will make you wonder at their strangeness, yet you get where they are coming from. You might drown in the terror of the situation, yet you’ll have your heartbroken in pages.

It isn’t just the characters. The setting is stunning. I kid you not when I say it’s perhaps the most vividly atmospheric novel I’ve read since Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights. The reservoir which holds a size-able amount of the mystery of Imaginary Girls takes on a life of it’s own. It’s so richly evocative, sometimes I felt myself drowning in it or listening to it breathe in the night, like Chloe did.

Imaginary Girls is the kind of book that is built on paradoxes. Of reality distorted to suit personal interests. The kind of book that manages to be both startlingly beautiful and hair-raisingly disturbing. The kind that makes you wonder what the author feeds on to have come out with such an extraordinary piece of work. The kind that makes you want to give out copies of it to every person you come across just so they can have a piece of its magic too. The kind that makes you pull out your pen or laptop, if only to make you aspire to create something as marvellous.

Do I recommend this? YES, YES AND A THOUSAND TIMES OVER. And then some more.

And just so I can make you a li’l jealous,

OWNED!
Author signed! See? 😀
(I won this at a giveaway)

Glimpse a little of the magic through the trailer:

How often do you read magic realism?

The Hunger Games. OMFG.

Yes. It happened.
I watched. The first show in the city, in the wee hours of the morning.
Did you? Did you? 15+ hours later, I’m still overwhelmed.

And…WOW. It was SO good. The book came alive and there was Katniss with her bow and arrow and the Capitol and – OH SHUCKS, I’M JUST GONNA LIST IT COS I CAN’T HELP IT. (This might get spoiler-ish, so be warned).

  • JENNIFER LAWRENCE. She was born to be Katniss. No exaggeration. How could I EVER doubt her? She was amazing. I can’t imagine anyone else taking her place. Oh God. I think I’m pretty much in love with her. Who cares about the boys – yes, they were delectable, but heck, TEAM KATNISS!
  • The Capitol and it’s clothes. It was like an avant-garde rainbow parade. And holy moly, THOSE EYELASHES.
  • Effie’s appearance reminded me of the Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland. Elizabeth Banks is a delight to watch. I was a little bummed that she wasn’t as despicable as I found her to be in the first book, but, oh well, she’s very watch-worthy.
  • If beards can give you boners, watch out for Seneca Crane’s. His is the shizzle. And that scene with him in the end? Perfection. I wish he didn’t have to die, so I could drool over his beard some more. (WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?*shakes head*)
  • Also, WHO KNEW CATO WOULD BE SUCH HOTNESS? By God, the Witch Mountain kid grew up and how. Major. Swoon. Alert.
  • I was wrong about Josh Hutcherson. He made an adorable Peeta. I wanted to bring him home with me the entire time. And he should go blond permanently.
  • Liam Hemsworth as Gale? STUDMUFFIN. Keep that black hair dye on. You lucky girl, Miley!
  • And no, I’m not going to go into the whole Team thing ‘cos I like both boys but I also think Katniss made the right choice. The only thing that bothered me about the movie is that Real/For show love between Katniss and Peeta didn’t seem to be emphasized upon much. A non-reader of the books could easily miss the fact that Haymitch uttered a couple of words about putting on a ‘show of love’ to  make an impression on the sponsors and the gamemakers. I thought that was a very important aspect of the Katiniss-Peeta relationship – how that Love For Show becomes Love For Reals – so the underplaying of that was a little, um…jarring? If I think of it independent of the book, though – which I can’t, the obsessive fan that I am – I guess it works well.
  • I bawled my eyes out when Rue died. My brother cried, too, I know, although he had his hands over his face. A 15 year old boy crying in the theatre should tell you there was a lot of perfection involved in the shooting of the scene, in spite of the whole thing about the little kid dying being so very, very wrong.
  • The other tributes? I don’t know how many times I have to repeat the word ‘perfection’ in this post. Yes, that. Special toast for the Careers. You’ve gotta agree they’ve got style.
  • District 12 and Katniss’ home. EXACTLY how it should’ve been.
  • Yes, there were a few things I would’ve liked to see. Like, you know, Madge. Even though she’s probably not that important but – she gave Katniss the mockingjay pin! And that had a lot of significance which was kinda lacking in the movie. Umm, yeah. And I thought that President Snow would be more sinister and not look like a dystopian-Dumbledore-with-a-shorter-beard. And Haymitch would be, well…drunker. STILL. It turned out to be a really good movie with a cast of uber-talented actors. And guess, what? I, for one, cannot wait for Catching Fire. (also, that happens to be my favourite book of the series).
So.
Have you watched it yet? Are you going to?

On a drool-worthy note, I’m gonna leave you with a photo of the beautiful cast of tribute when they aren’t at each other’s throats. Psssst, look at that sexy blond in the middle!