Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

I was so excited for this release today! I went to the bookstore and treated myself to it and came home and promptly read it in one sitting. (the only disappointment here is that I wish it was long, even though the story perfectly suited the length.)
This is a bit of graphic novel dream pairing for me and ever since it was announced I’ve been eagerly awaiting this.
I really, really enjoyed everything about this: the charming pumpkin patch setting, the clever chapter titles, the fudge nicknames, how the characters are drawn, the snacks, and how you could see the characters realizing things just by their eyes.
Perfect timing-a treat to read on the brink of fall.
And now I just have to hope for a sequel showing Josiah and Deja in college!

My True Love Gave to Me ed. by Stephanie Perkins

trueloveThis was a terrific collection. I adore Christmas story collections and each year try to find one to buy or check out (I’m partial to Christmas Regency romances.) This year I bought a YA collection, as well as got this new one from the library. A couple were just ok for me, and I skipped two, but these were the standouts I really liked:

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell-solid Rowell story. I liked checking in with the characters on each New Year’s Eve

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han-I can only describe this as “girl Elf.” A human child who Santa found as a baby and raised at the North Pole? Except she’s sadly aware that she’s human and everyone else is not. I loved the details about the elves and life with Santa (aka “Papa”).

It’s a yuletide miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins- you know how in Anna and the French Kiss and the other two Perkins book I say that her characters are so ridiculously talented in interesting and quirky ways that you can’t help but be jealous of these make believe people? I felt this story had that hallmark because Marigold is a super talented animated video creator. But beyond that I just loved this. Her hoarder like apartment (not hoarding-just the entire contents of a house left by movers in the same spot for over a year), the hunky guy and his family’s tree farm, it was all just lovely.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White-like a Hallmark Christmas movie! Seriously, this should be a tv movie. A tiny town that’s not even a town it’s so small, a teenage girl who can’t wait to get out and leave her mom’s annoying boyfriend, they’re poor, everyone is crabby, and then a new cook comes to town who somehow knows just what people need to make them happy and cooks it. And then the wonderfully touching ending that, if you’re sappy like me, brings a tear to your eye.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter-also ripe for a tv movie. Swapping identities on the spur of the moment and going to a small town in Oklahoma where everyone thinks you’re an Icelandic exchange student but you’re really a superstar hiding out. Away from fame and your creepy manager you love the warm and big family that welcomes you. The perfect ending. This was like watching a wonderful and funny tv movie.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor- initially I thought this was a terrible choice for the last story in this holiday collection. It’s very fantasy and dreamy and really not Christmassy at all. Very different from the Hallmark Christmas movie entries. But! Laini Taylor is an awesome writer and you get so caught up in this beautiful and strange story that who cares where it is? I really liked it. It was like a magical fairy tale.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineThe entire concept of this book was so appealing to me as it verged on time-travel. A woman  picks up the old phone in her mother’s house (in her old bedroom) and calls her husband, who is visiting his parents at their house, but when her husband answers it’s her husband 15 years ago who answers!  Georgie is a tv writer in LA. She’s got her wonderful husband Neal, who is a stay at home dad to their daughters. Her writing partner is Seth, and she’s been with him since college. Seth and Georgie are pretty successful but they are on the brink of getting the green light for their own show that they’ve been developing and dreaming of since college. The only problem is they need to get 4 scripts ready for a December 27 meeting and Georgie is supposed to go to Omaha with Neal and the kids for Christmas. Neal goes, she stays, and the cracks in their marriage loom large. Georgie ends up at her mother’s house where she calls Neal to say hello and that she still loves him, but that’s when she gets 15 years ago Neal, which was another turning point in their relationship.  She’s not sure if she’s going crazy or what, but she can’t stop talking to him and trying to pre-emptively make things better in their marriage.
For a book that could have been nothing but boring gloomy relationship talks, I found this actually quite fast paced and I really liked it a lot. The concept was enchanting, I was rooting for Georgie and Neal, the tv business is like catnip to me, and Georgie’s mother and sister are hilarious characters (her mother has a penchant for younger men, has a 40 year old husband, and tells her daughter she is sensual.)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlI loved this!  Cather and her twin, Wren, are off to college in Nebraska. There are all kinds of things going on. Their dad is a manic-depressive ad-man (totally like Robin Williams’s character in that recently axed tv show, leading me to believe that all creative advertising people are totally manic) and she’s worried about how he’ll get along with his daughters gone. Their mother left them all when the girls were only 8 years old. Cather and Wren are tight and of course Wren drifts away from her as soon as school starts, opting to go for the college drinking and partying experience. Cather is nearly socially phobic and happy to spend all her time in her room, writing. You see, she is an incredible writer and widely known in certain circles of fan-fiction writing. What totally impressed me in this book was how Rowell created first the world of the book series of Simon Snow, then Cather’s own writing about Simon. The series is somewhat Harry Potter-esque and Cather has been writing for years. She is now writing her own final book in the series in anticipation of the series’ real final installment, due at the end of the year.  She gets tens of thousands of hits on everything she writes. But no one really knows who she is! That’s really what I found so interesting-she’s basically famous, and an amazing writer in her own right. Honestly, despite the craziness going on around her I found myself envying her and wanting to point out that she just doesn’t know how good she has it. And her roommate’s darling ex-boyfriend is cute and charming and falls for her. And her roommate is hilarious in a strange and brusque way. Cather navigates this new world of college, finds her writing voice, copes with her family, and copes with change in a unique story.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

parkIt’s been a couple of weeks since I read this, so I hope I can capture how I felt when I finished. I truly thought about this book a lot in the days immediately following. It’s gotten a lot of hype, I had it checked out twice and didn’t read it, and then after a friend told me she loved it and I really had to, I got on board and zoomed right through it.
This was flat-out wonderful. I think one of the reasons I wasn’t initially that interested is because I thought the book was simply about two teens falling in and out of love. And don’t get me wrong-that’s a fine story right there. But it turns out I was really all wrong and I loved what the story was about.
Park first sees Eleanor on the bus, where since she’s a new girl in high school and funny looking, she is immediately shunned. Park lets her sit next to him but they don’t talk.  After a while he notices that she reads the comic books he is reading by looking over his shoulder. And eventually, Park gives her one to take home to finish.  I loved this growing shared bond over reading and Eleanor’s introduction to the world of comic books. Now, while this happening the point of view shifts being Eleanor and Park and we find out that Eleanor’s stepfather kicked her out a year ago and she has only just come home.  She has four younger brothers and sisters and all five of them share a tiny bedroom in a tiny house that only has a doorless bathroom in the kitchen. Eleanor has to bather when her disgusting stepfather isn’t at home and her mom watches out for her. There was such a growing tension and fear in the book as you (and Eleanor) became afraid that Richie would find out about her relationship with Park, that he would rape her, that he would kill her mother, that he would beat the kids, etc.  I was so horrified and disgusted by Eleanor’s mother’s role in her life and allowing her husband to treat her children like that.  And for that matter, Eleanor’s father makes an appearance and that’s horrifying too. What kind of people allow their children to not even have a toothbrush? So, I thought this was just a love story, but as much as Eleanor and Park’s love story is beautiful and sweet, I felt the bigger story was would Eleanor escape? I also really liked seeing into Park’s life-his mother was Korean and his dad met and married her when he was overseas. It’s the 1980s in Nebraska, so they kind of stick out.  I wondered why the author wanted to set this in the 80s-because stories are better when we don’t have the convenience of cell phones? Because she wanted to include all the music that Park introduces Eleanor to? (i.e, the Smiths)
It was a terrific story and I will absolutely go read her prior book, Fangirl.