Bookish Event: Worlds Collide Tour with Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo

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Worlds Collide Tour… Yes, it happened. And I went. Still rather surreal because the London event sold out in record time – this is totally unsurprising though because this tour brought together two huge stars of the YA ‘verse. Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo are both New York Times best-selling authors and BFFs in real life. It was Rainbow’s YA novels, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl which rocketed her to fame and she returned to the Fangirl ‘verse to write Carry On. Leigh Bardugo meanwhile has two series under her belt already. The Grisha Trilogy books were published between  2012 to 2014 and she returned to the Grisha ‘verse with her Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology.

I’ve met Rainbow Rowell before during her last UK tour in 2014 but this was my first time meeting Leigh so I was super excited! I bought a new copy of Fangirl (my third… #noregrets) and Ruin and Rising to get the exclusive tour t-shirt. The event started with Rainbow and Leigh chatting about how this event compared with their first ever promo events: Leigh’s was in a basement whilst Rainbow’s was in a bar and they agreed she’d come full circle with this one being held in a church! Leigh also shared that Kaz was originally called Baz but she changed it after Rainbow’s Carry On. Leigh even managed to squeeze in a Hamilton reference within the first ten minutes and it set the fangirl tone of the rest of the event!

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Rainbow and Leigh kicked off the event with dramatic readings from their two most recent books which seriously made my life. We started with Carry On – the scene in the catacombs. Rainbow was Simon and Leigh, a brilliant Baz. I cannot overstate how hilarious this entire section was. One moment that pretty much sums it up is when Rainbow hesitated to swear, and then Leigh pointed out she’d be swearing in a church no less! So Rainbow plucked up her courage and belted it out. Next they read from Crooked Kingdom – the scene where Nina explains the Princess and the Barbarian story to Matthias with Leigh as Nina and Rainbow as Matthias. I love this scene because of its wonderful cheekiness and awkwardness and these two had it down pat.

We then moved onto the Q&A section of the event and there were some interesting questions all around. I’ll summarise a few here for you guys.

1.What do you both think of diversity in YA? Leigh said YA authors tend to have experienced marginalisation growing up and their books are like giving the marginalised a voice. However, she also said that although YA often has lots of diverse characters, we need more diverse authors. Rainbow agreed that she wanted to write real and true stuff that was reflective of reality.

2. Is Kaz based on Al Capone? This elicited a brilliant response from Leigh – she said Kaz is the hipster Al Capone! “He was pulling eyes out before it was cool.” She also said The Untouchables was a huge inspiration for Six of Crows. 

3. What is the inspiration for your characters? Rainbow said her characters don’t come to her fully formed – often it’s a train of thought that leads to a plot. This is how Fangirl came about, when Rainbow wondered what it would be like if she went to university now. Leigh said some of her characters come fully formed like Matthias. She compared the first draft to an awkward first date where she figures out if she likes the character (brilliant analogy!) One thing she does is to write lots of dialogue to ‘find’ the character.

4. What are your thoughts on the revision process? Rainbow said her first response was to question all of the edits (whhaaat, you don’t understand my genius!!) but that upon reflection she values it as it means someone is paying attention. Leigh said she dealt with critique by taking a walk, a shower, a shot (haha!)

5. What are your thoughts on taking part in NaNoWriMo? Rainbow said that Fangirl was a 2010 NaNoWriMo novel and talked about the myth of NaNoWriMo is that you have the perfect novel at the end. She said it was rather about coming up with a really good first draft to work on beyond November. Rainbow said she carried on working on Fangirl nine months after NaNoWriMo. Leigh said Ruin and Rising started out as a NaNoWriMo novel too!

6. Which of your fictional world would you like to live in? Leigh was reluctant to choose because the Grisha world is dangerous but she would choose Ravka and be a Fabrikator because she wants to live. Rainbow said she wanted to live in the Mage world because magic duh but that she’d want to hang out with Cath, Levi and Regan.

7. How did you write your books and do you have a day job now? Rainbow said she had to stop doing housework (which got a massive round of applause!) She said “If you’ve got kids that love you and a novel, who cares if your house is dirty?!” (Preach sister!)

8. How do you write evil but hot villains? Leigh answered that it wasn’t difficult as we’d think because ladies love evil (yaas indeed!) She said she got flak for the Darkling but she had no regrets because she wanted to show that all people who come into your life and appear charming aren’t always good and vice versa.

9. Which Harry Potter house and Patronus are you both? Rainbow said she identified as a Ravenclaw so was in denial when she was sorted into Slytherin. She also said she hasn’t taken the Patronus quiz because that’s not something that is assigned in the book. Leigh said she was Slytherin all the way and her Patronus is Stevie Knicks!

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Although we were waiting for the signing for some time, it is testament to the success of these two ladies that the queue was still out the door at 10pm! Worlds Collide was easily one of the most fun events I’ve been to in a long time. Rainbow and Leigh are obviously BFFs and it came across in how comfortable together and played off each other really well. They’re also the loveliest people and wanted to talk to their fans even when being rushed. If you haven’t read *ALL* of their books I highly recommend you go and read them now. Go, now. Seriously 🙂

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Bookish Review: World Book Day 2016

    

World Book Day is exactly what is says on the tin – an annual celebration of books across the globe. A host of famous authors pen special short stories as part of the event and these WBD reads are short, sweet and cheap but always high quality.

For World Book Day 2016, two authors of YA Royalty, Rainbow Rowell and Juno Dawson, offered up the older reads and so you can imagine I was excited to get stuck in.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Published: February 2016 by Macmillan Kids UK

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Short Story

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

I will literally read anything by HRH Rainbow Rowell – seriously she could write about watching paint dry and I would still devour it 😀 True to her style, Rowell’s Kindred Spirits took us on a fangirl journey that was just charming and adorkable.

Elena is a Star Wars fan. No, you don’t understand, if you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So she decides to camp out at her local cinema for the new movie. Elena imagines a 3 days of glorious fangirling with people just as obsessed as her so she’s a little disappointed when the reality turns out to be a queue of two other people. However, over the course 3 days Elena finds that the bonds of fandom can overcome even the most awkward situation and lead to the discovery of the best kindred spirits…

Gosh this book was just so darned cute – like grinning-ear-to-ear cute. Kindred Spirits is infinitely quotable and relatable. I found myself laughing out loud at Elena’s mother’s response to her intent to camp out for the movie (“You don’t even know these men. They could be sexual predators.”) Also the whole Asian, petite, looking like a 12 year old? Yeah I could totally relate.

For a short story, the characters were wonderfully developed (skills, Ms Rowell *tips hat*). Troy was hilarious and so realistic whilst Gabe was brilliantly polite and genuine. I always appreciate how Rowell never makes her characters into caricatures when she writes about fangirling and fandom. Elena, Gabe and Troy covered the wide spectrum of different levels of obsession and helps us to realise that we should all be uniting rather than competing over who is a more devoted fan.

The ending was perfect – it was adorable and I really hope Elena and Gave get a full length novel of their own. I’d love to see their friendship and relationship play out as well as find out more about each of the characters and their back stories.  My final takeaway from this book? If you find a guy who can help you pee under fraught circumstances, he’s a keeper!

Spot the Difference by Juno Dawsom

Published: March 2016 by Hot Key Books

Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Short Story

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

It was fitting that the Queen of Teen would be penning one of the YA WBD offerings and I went into Spot the Difference with no idea about the issues it dealt with.

Avery, and her best friend, Lois are distinctly Z-list at Brecken Heath High where the social pyramid is pretty rigid and defined. relegated by Avery’s severe acne and Lois’s “funny little arm”, Avery’s life is pretty grim. That is until a miracle cure comes along which seems to improve both her skin and her social status. But Avery soon finds perfection isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…

Spot the Difference was very different to Kindred Spirits. It deals with the issue of acne and explores it really well. I found it totally original and, as far as I’m aware, a main stream YA book has yet to deal with the issue with the focus Dawson does in Spot the Difference. Acne is a really prevalent condition and one that affects many young people from their teens and sometimes even into adulthood and so that was by far the best thing about this book.

Plot-wise, yes, it was a little clichĂ©d with the popular crowd and the reject that pines to belong to said crowd, and the ending that was a nicely packaged “grass isn’t always greener” moral. But despite these misgivings I don’t think this was Dawson’s focus, rather the focus was more about Avery and how her life is defined by the condition of her skin. The broad cast of characters were pretty unremarkable and one-dimensional, mostly defined by their role as A-list or otherwise but I did find Avery’s character and the way she dealt with her issue realistic and well-written. None of us can say we wouldn’t at least consider “going over to the dark side” if we were in her position…

All in all, this is a really impressive go at dealing with an interesting and under-discussed issue in the space of 80 or so pages. Definitely a “realistic contemporary YA” book to read for the issue it discusses rather than for the plot because it’s absolutely worth the very short time it would take to read it.

Bookish Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

downloadCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

Published: October 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Mystery

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Rainbow Rowell’s previous YA books, Fangirl and Eleanor & Park are two of my absolute all-time favourites. So it was a no-brainer that I would read Carry On as soon as it was released. We were first introduced to the characters, Simon and Baz, in Fangirl as Cath, the protagonist, is a huge Simon Snow fan and prolific fic writer. In Carry On, we see Simon and Baz get an outing in their own right.

Simon Snow knows two things for certain: firstly, he is the Chosen One to defeat the Insidious Humdrum, the greatest threat to the World of Mages; and secondly, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch is his arch nemesis and roommate. Going back to the Watford School of Magicks to finish his eighth and final year, he must figure out how to overcome the Humdrum who is growing stronger by the day, whilst also navigate the pitfalls of growing up. Just in case there wasn’t enough on his plate already, Simon gets sucked into a mystery that could turn the World of Mages upside down. Luckily he can rely on his best-friend-not-sidekick, Penelope Bunce, and his roommate’s mirth to keep him grounded. Except Baz is nowhere to be found and Simon can’t stop obsessing over the infuriating vampire and his whereabouts…

Whilst reading Carry On, it is of course undeniable to note the similarities to the Harry Potter series – the prophesied destiny of the Chosen One, the infamous boarding school and wise mentor, and the assortment of friends and arch nemeses. But I found it refreshing that the World of Mages was very distinct to Harry’s world. Rowell’s magickal world was more in tune with Normal life, with much of the Mage population owning mobile phones and traveling by car.

Rowell’s approach to spells was also really interesting, if a little jarring at times because most of the phrases were so familiar. But this only served to make the things even more hilarious – nothing quite like a climatic scene where the hero begins chanting a nursery rhyme with honest and plucky intent to defeat the villain… Rowell’s trademark humour is clear and present in this book and you will adore the bits in brackets  – the internal converstations of the characters are absolute gems!

The characters in Carry On are compulsively likeable and Rowell has fun with the classic fantasy tropes that appear in fanfics everywhere. Simon, the reluctant hero, may not be the most talented magician in the world but his sense of loyalty and goodness is unwavering. Penelope is fantastic as the “brain”, seeming to know Simon better than he knows himself while Agatha gives us a balancing reality check – it was interesting to come across a character who is not as enthralled by the world of magic as the rest of us. Baz is of course deliciously antagonistic whilst nursing what he believes is an unrequited and frankly embarrassing infatuation for the Chosen One. Simon and Baz’s interactions are what make this book and the chemistry Rowell gives them is every fic reader’s dream (slash fic lovers eat your heart out!) Also, kudos to Ms Rowell for taking the classic roommate setup trope and making it classy af 😉

The plot intertwined a mystery alongside the usual overarching good vs. evil narrative. The novel was told from multiple viewpoints with Simon and Baz understandably getting the most page-time. This worked really well as there’s nothing like trudging through the narrative of an uninteresting secondary character amiright? The varied POVs made the mystery more intriguing and slowly revealed more clues as you read on. Although, I’m not entirely sure what happened during the climax, let’s face it, who was really reading Carry On for the plot? I devoured this book because it was the Harry Potter novel that never was, a “Harry Potter and the Alternative Plot Line”, if you like.

In short, this book was excellent. I remember voraciously reading HP fanfics and trying my hand at a few; Carry On will bring back fond memories of the classic fic tropes and make you want to re-read your favourites all over again (The Bracelet by AkashaTheKitty anyone?) I read this book for the Baz and Simon snark-fest ship and numerous Potter references and if that’s what you’re interested in, you will adore this book.

Have you read Carry On? Do you ship Simon and Baz? Any HP fic recs? Leave a comment letting me know đŸ™‚