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My Favorite Books That I Have Read in 2014

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Up until now, I have told you my favorite music and movies I’ve encountered this year. Here is my final favorites of 2014 blog post, my favorite books I’ve read in 2014.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell- I loved reading this book because I can totally relate to Cath, the main character. She loves reading and writing fan fiction (albeit slash fan fiction) about a Harry Potter-ish book series called Simon Snow. At the same time, she is a college freshman who has to learn to get out of her comfort zone as a writer and a person.

I loved that the author understood why some people enjoy reading or writing fan fiction and how she captured the glory days of the Harry Potter fandom with a fictional book series. I also loved how she showed that anybody can geek out over something, not just a particular type of person. In addition, Levi was a thoughtful and sweet love interest for Cath and he is my favorite love interest in teen fiction.

Blackanese Boy by Ramon Calhoun- This is the first book I’ve read that was written by a black and Japanese author. It is also the first book I’ve read featuring a black and Japanese protagonist and the first book I’ve read that discusses what it is like to be bi-racial in the 70s and 80s. A remarkable aspect of the book is that the main character Rafael encounters different cultural experiences and is viewed through the eyes of black, Japanese, white, Arabic, and Muslim people.

Despite taking place years before I was born, I could relate to this book because I am black and asian and have experienced events similar to Ramon’s. I loved how honest this book was and how historical events like the atomic bomb scare and the birth of hip-hop were woven into the storyline.

Of Minnie The Moocher and Me by Cab Calloway and Brian Rollins- This autobiography has Cab Calloway telling about his life from his childhood until the early 70’s. It was a great read because you see how he became a bandleader, how he developed certain songs, what it was like touring with his band, and more. It was just as entertaining as any of his music.

I liked how he said that the point of him being a bandleader was that it was his way of saying, “I know it’s rough out there, but let go of your troubles for a little while.” I also liked that he revealed that he was an introvert offstage.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson- I’ve been a fan of Jacqueline Woodson’s teen fiction for a couple of years, but this autobiography has become my favorite book of hers. I loved how she wrote about her childhood in beautiful free verse poems with vivid sensory detail. I also loved that she also wrote haiku poetry in order to tell about the lessons she learned. Finally, I loved how you can see her writing voice developed in certain poems.

Various Black Speculative Fiction Books- I did a separate post on my favorite black speculative fiction books that I read this year. Since people of color rarely get noticed in fantasy fiction, I decided to promote them as much as I can on this blog and the site Black Girl Nerds. Read about my favorite black speculative books on Black Girl Nerds here.


Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Source: Rainbow Rowell’s website

Plot Summary: Cath Avery is a huge Simon Snow fan. She writes lots of Simon Snow fan-fiction and has the Simon Snow book series and lots of Simon Snow memorabilia. She’s also a twin and a fresh-out-of-the-box college freshman. Suddenly, things are changing.

Cath’s twin sister Wren is also a huge Simon Snow fan, but is pulling away from Cathy and from the Simon Snow fandom. Cathy now has to deal with an irritable roommate with a nice boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who doesn’t understand fan fiction, a  new writing partner, and a mentally vulnerable Dad who’s never been alone.  Cath must learn to come out of her shell and live her life without sacrificing what is important to her.

My Review: One of the best thing about this book are the characters. The main characters and secondary characters each have a personality that brings something different to the story. They also develop by themselves and with each other gradually.

In addition,  the author did a good job of showing how almost anyone can be geeky, not just one type of person. Furthermore, the tougher topics sprinkled in the book (mental illness, learning disabilities, drinking dangers, and divorce) are handled in a realistic and non-preachy manner with the characters they are associated with.

Besides the characters, the author’s writing style is great. Some lines of dialogue are hilarious. A favorite is, “But it’s like John Lennon writing with… Taylor Swift instead of Paul McCartney.” says Nick. “Get over yourself,” Cath said. “You’re not half as pretty as Taylor Swift.”

Other lines are thoughtful and touching. There are several lines about writing fiction that may spark some ideas or thoughts in readers who are also writers. Also, the author has a way of describing Cath’s feelings in a way that makes you feel them on a deeper level. An example of this are the lines, “She just needed to settle her nerves. To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her stomach where it belonged- where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.”

In addition, the lines that appear when Cath finds the boyfriend she loves are adorkable. Some favorite line are, “In the right light, you are such a nerd.” and “You’re magic.”

Furthermore, the author’s treatment of fan-fiction was respectful and well-rounded. Cath writes slash (gay coupling) fan fiction. Bits of Simon Snow fan fiction that are written by Wren and Cath on a fictional fan fiction site under clever pen names are at the end of each chapter.

Also, the author sums up the meaning of fan fiction with one sentence, “The whole point of fan fiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them.” Lastly, she shows what it is like to read fan fiction through more than one character. A favorite is a conversation between Cath and a random Simon Snow fan who is a fan of Cathy’s fan fiction.

The only flaw I had with the book was the pacing. At times, the book could be too slow. Even though this was good for the character development, there were times the author should have cut some months out.

Overall, this book was fantastic (no pun intended). I recommend it to anyone who reads or writes fan fiction, anyone who has a geeky hobby, and anyone looking for an adorkable story.

Post Review Authoress Notes: I am so happy I finally got this book; I’ve been wanting to read it all freaking year! I used to write fan fiction in high school and while I don’t write it anymore, I still read it. I’m also sad that the book is over and find it cool that I finished it on the last day of 2013.

Furthermore, I’m also happy The Outsiders (my favorite teen fiction book ever) was mentioned in the book… although I don’t like the way the author spoiled it a little.

I wish I could tell a certain character from Fangirl that yes, there is Outsiders fan fiction. I personally think the amount of Outsiders fan fiction increases every year. I’m not sure because I don’t read that particular fan fiction anymore, but the fact that it has thousands of fan fics is great because the book is a timeless classic.

Lastly, I loved the way the author parodied the Harry Potter fandom, especially at the very end of the book. It reminded me how I felt when I got the last Harry Potter book and turned the final page.

Written by Serena Zola

December 31, 2013 at 1:42 PM

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