On the Shelf: Fangirl

On the Shelf: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell.
Published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2013.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I'd be shocked if anyone reading this hasn't heard of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The book made its rounds on blogs and websites quite some time ago, so this post is really late to the party. I read the book a couple months ago, but I've been mulling over just what to say about it. It took some convincing before I picked up the book (months after its release; months after what felt like the whole world was talking about). I was worried that the subject matter wouldn't be dealt with appropriately: there are a ton of negative stereotypes surrounding fandom and fanfiction. Thankfully, Rowell knows what she's talking about.

I knew Fangirl was special the moment I started reading it. I saw so much of my University self in Cath. It's no secret that I've dedicated hours of my life to fandom. I understand what it's like to lose track of time while writing fanfiction, to prefer the company of "online" friends to "real-life" friends. Reading about Cath's journey reminded me so much of my own – growing up often means letting go.

What I love about Fangirl is that it's a character portrait more than anything else. There are great things about friendships and relationships and learning how to survive life on your own, but by the end of the book I realized that the true story is how Cath learns to balance fandom and reality. The truth is that the two are so often combined – there's no need to choose sides.

Rowell's writing is fantastic. The dialogue is clever. The excerpts of fanfiction make this book truly unique. If, for whatever reason, you still haven't picked up Fangirl, you need to change that. For those of you who grew up with fandom as part of your life, you'll connect with Cath on a personal level. For those of you who have never even heard of fanfiction before, hopefully Fangirl will introduce you to a whole new part of online life that deserves a little more attention.


10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read

My to-read pile is never-ending. I love getting book recommendations from people, especially when they read a category or a genre I'm not too familiar with. Out of all the recommendations, there a few that come up over and over again. So, as part of Top 10 Tuesday, I present: the ten books people keep telling me to read.

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> 10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read
#1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell >> I'm not usually one for love stories, but I've been told this one is a necessary read. I really love Fangirl by Rowell (a review of that book will be on the blog later this week), so I may have to try out E&P.

#2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez >> Not having read this one yet pretty much makes me a fraud. I adore magical realism, but have never read this novel. I know deep down in my bookish heart that this is a fatal error.

#3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn >> This is one of those books I've avoided for so long because of the hype. It feels like everyone has read this book, and everyone is always telling me how great it is.

#4. All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman >> I've been told many times that I will love this book, based on previous book preferences. I need to bite the bullet and buy it already!

#5. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe >> Too many of my friends have been talking about this comic. I actually started reading the frist trade paperback this week, so hopefully I'll be caught up soon.

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> 10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read
#6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer >> I love fairy tale retellings, and I've been told many times that this one is worth reading. I'm still apprehensive, but it might finally be time for me to give it a chance.

#7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott >> I've read a lot of classics, but this one has never crossed my radar. It's one of my good friends' favourite books, so I hear about it quite often.

#8. Friendship by Emily Gould >> I still have no idea what it's about (I can only assume friendship plays a part), and it may be only recently published, but a lot of people have been talking about this book.

#9. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso >> I like kickass women who do kickass things, so it makes sense that this book has been recommended to me multiple times since it was published in May.

#10. Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson >> Another comic series that I've been told is phenomenal. I'm not typically a big fan of superhero comics, but this one does sound appealing.

>> Have you read any of these books? Which one would you recommend I move up in my to-read pile? Let me know in the comments!


Charlie and the Creepy Chocolate Factory

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> Charlie and the Creepy Chocolate Factory
The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book cover is sort of creepy. This doll-like image of a young girl was the center of attention this past week. Most people don’t like it. Some people have complained. Why? I have no idea.

I actually like the new cover. Yes, it suits the aesthetics of Penguin’s Modern Classics series – but it also reflects the style of Roald Dahl. A beloved writer of classics like Matilda, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, Dahl is known as an author of children’s books. But Dahl’s style has always been slightly sinister. His adult work is quite dark (most of his short stories are great horror tales), and even his children’s books have a touch of evil. There are unsettling plots and characters in every Roald Dahl book, and I think this new cover really touches on his ability to write children’s books for adults.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who likes the cover. Penguin is definitely standing by the company’s decision to use this unusual artwork: “This design is in recognition of the book's extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children's books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list. This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl's writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.”

I even found some allies on Twitter who appreciate the cover design, albeit for very different reasons. Whether it's because the cover fits thematically with the book, represents Dahl's unusual style, or is a clever marketing ploy, there are reasons to admire the new cover art.

I love that new editions like this—even when controversial—breathe new life into classic books and introduce them to new readers.

>> What are your thoughts on the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover? Let me know in the comments!


An Introduction

I Believe in Story went on a summer hiatus. And then it was hacked. While I was able to restore a handful of blog posts, most of them are gone. So we’re starting at the (very nearly) beginning. This frustrating experience will be helpful in the end, for both me and you. I Believe in Story is now a conversational blog where I discuss books and other literary things (the fun things), whereas my website will host my articles about writing and publishing (the business-y things). I hope this simple distinction will help you decide which website to follow. (FYI: the correct decision is to read and discuss with me on both sites.)

It has been a while since the last post on I Believe in Story, so a proper introduction is in order. Luckily, Lindsey Reeder (of Reeder Reads) nominated me for a Liebster award earlier this year. I’m hoping Lindsey will forgive me for waiting until now to publicly thank her for the mention, but I’ll make up for it with some interesting answers to her bookish questions.

What is the one book you could never ever part with or get rid of?
>> I’m preparing for a move across the country, which means getting rid of a lot of books. Going through my bookshelves and choosing the books to donate to my local library is not an easy task. But when push comes to shove, there is only one book in my collection that I would absolutely—100%—never get rid of: my copy of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. This isn’t too surprising (I’ve blogged about this book time and again). My copy is falling apart (the inside cover is completely detached) and there is writing and highlighting all through the pages, but that’s what I love about it. I re-read it every year, and every year it earns more scars.

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> An Introduction

Paper books or eBooks? Why?
>> Always paper books. I really love stories, but I also love design. The final product—the actualy book—is important to me as a consumer. I like seeing books on my shelves, not pixels on a screen. I’m still that person who has to carefully consider the books to bring on a vacation because I refuse to read ebooks even when it’s practical. (Note: I read manuscripts and queries on a screen every day for work, so reading physical books for pleasure is how I can separate the two. I realize this is completely psychological.)

If you could travel to one place in the world (all expenses paid), where would it be and why?
>> I want to visit Portugal. I’m half Portuguese, but I don’t really know anything about my heritage. I’d love to visit and see what parts of the culture are in my blood.

If you could meet one author (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
>> Alive: J. K. Rowling. I just want to shake her hand and hope some of her imagination will transfer on over. Dead: I’d like to travel back in time and share a bottle of wine with Ernest Hemingway.

Do you play music while you read?
>> Not often. Definitely not anything with lyrics – I get too distracted. When I was in school, I listened to the Harry Potter soundtracks when I was studying for tests. I fall back on that habit every once in a while.

If you were given $5000 to spend in one store in the world, where would you do your shopping?
>> A local bookstore. Obviously.

Do you have a favourite quote? Can you share it with us?
“A tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.”

Do you have a bad habit when reading? Twirling hair? Clicking your tongue? Tapping your foot?
>> No. I guess I’m a boring reader! I do write notes in my books though. Some people would consider that a very bad habit!

Who/what is the one author or book that has changed the way you read?
>> Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli completely changed the way I appreciated books. It was the first time a book meant more beyond the words on the page, the first time it sparked a truly personal connection.

Thanks to everyone who has chosen to follow I Believe in Story since it started in 2012. I promise great things are in the works! I’d love to hear your answer to Lindsey’s final question: WHO/WHAT IS THE ONE AUTHOR OR BOOK THAT HAS CHANGED THE WAY YOU READ? Let me know your answer in the comments!


The 8 List: New York City

I Believe in Story | The 8 List: New York City
#1 THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY by Michael Chabon | Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City.

#2 EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer | Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

#3 WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead | By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighbourhood.

#4 THE DARK TOWER SERIES by Stephen King | In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.

#5 TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume | Life with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing.

#6 A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith | The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century.

#7 THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald | A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captures the spirit of the author's generation and earns itself a permanent place in American mythology.

#8 THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger | Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.