Synchronized Reading: Fangirl Post # 2 Fan Fiction and Fandoms

As you know readers Miss Print and I are in the midst of a synchronized reading of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Besides reading (of course) we also thought it would be fun to extend the reading and schedule some posts (we also decided that this will be a regular feature on both of our blogs).

So without further adieu, post # 2:

It’s no big secret that Rainbow Rowell’s leading lady for her upcoming YA novel, Cath, is a total fangirl. For those of you, dear readers, that do not know what a fangirl is, according to Dictionary.com “a person obsessed with an element of video or electronic culture, such as a game, sci-fi movie, comic or anime, music, etc; a person obsessed with any other single subject or hobby.”

Cath is obsessed with Simon Snow – a Harry Potter-esque type book. But Cath isn’t only obsessed because the books are awesome! She’s obsessed because she’s created a Simon and Baz all of her own, she’s created a plot line all of her own, she’s created a following all of her own through FanFiction.

I’ll be honest readers, I don’t write Fan fiction. I never have, even though I’ve been very curious about it.

With the exception of the whole fan fiction writing thing, I really got Cath. I felt like a part of her was living inside of me. Why? Even though FanFiction isn’t a part of my life as it is Cath’s, I still understand the devotion, the obsession. You see readers, I am a music junkie! I love music (thought admittedly not all music – I like certain genres and I stick with it for the most part).

In other words I get fandom, and I get being a fangirl.

When I was in high school I was a HUGE fan of the band Good Charlotte. This is when they had just started out, and were still pretty unknown (to the point that when I first saw them in concert, they actually had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage). After seeing them in concert, I ran out and bought their CD, spent countless hours listening to said CD, poured over and over the lyric book, and found myself day in and day out on their website, yahoo fan groups dedicated to the band, and any other website that I felt would bring me one step closer to getting to know the band members.

A perfect (perfectly embarrassing) anecdote to stress my knowledge of fandom takes place during pep week my senior year of high school. I went to an all girl Catholic high school and every year, we had pep week – a week long event where we got to dress up, partake in very cheesy skits, and have a little bit of fun.

One of those pep days was Miss Fill in the Blank day. We were allowed to dress up as anything, so long as we had a Miss America type sash showing what we were. For example, if a girl wanted to dress up as the solar system, she would be Miss Solar System. Readers, I bet you could guess what I was dressed up that day!

Yes. I was Miss Good Charlotte. – a costume made up of jeans, a white tee-shirt that I spent hours and hours creating, writing my favorite lyrics all over the tee shirt with multicolored fabric marker. Crazy, I know. But back then, it was a lot of fun. It also felt like, for the first time, I was being myself. Not some guarded version of myself.

Beyond the Miss Good Charlotte costume, I had seen the band over 20 times in concert. I had met the guys in the band equally as much (yes, I still have the pictures tucked away as proof), scrapbooks full of concert photos, miles logged traveling back and forth to those 20 plus concerts (one was in Ohio). I had posters, pictures, guitar pics…. you name it I had it. (A very good friend even made me a Benji Madden near, complete with pink Mohawk and piercings!)

But before long I grew up and I changed. As did the band members of Good Charlotte, and as did their music. My fandom for Good Charlotte was coming to a close. It was bittersweet. I was okay letting go of the music, because honestly I wasn’t loving the newer stuff. But I wasn’t okay to let go of that part of my life. Because they were a big part of it, and like Cath I knew a part of me would be missing if I completely let that part go.

It was through that moment in my life, through that fandom that I ultimately figured out what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a rock’n’roll journalist. And the way to start was by creating my own, independent magazine, or zine.

Once I started my zine a million different opportunities opened up to me. I had the chance to write about my favorite kind of music. I had the chance to review albums before the were released. I had the opportunity to sit down and actually interview bands I look up to! Who gets to say these things? I do! And it’s all because of my fandom, my obsession with music and specific bands.

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In Lieu of a Review, Read -A – Thon …. Of Sorts Update

Even though Thursday’s are specifically reserved for reviews I thought, for today only I thought that I’d update you dear readers on the progress I’ve made on my read -a- thon of sorts.

Going into this I intended to read a total of 5 books:

Falling in Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint – Exupery
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Top Secret Book
Lust by Robin Wasserman

I’ve read the top four above mentioned book. And as it is now the last week of August I should be, hopefully, on my way to finishing Robin Wasserman’s Lust. But because it’s the last week of August, because it’s the second to last day of August, because I’ve slacked off this week, I honestly do not think I am going to finish Lust. Besides time and life restraints, there are other reasons (which I’ll explain when I review Lust) of why I may not finish it in time.

BUT!

I did read Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming Fangirl!

Fangirl wasn’t part of the original plan, but it was an awesome diversion. And yes, it makes up for the fact that, technically speaking, I did not reach my goal by finishing my challenge.

And even though I technically didn’t finish, I’m still happy. Going into this I didn’t think I’d be able to finish 2 of the 5 books! Let alone, 4 books!

I really enjoyed this read -a- thon challenge. So much so that I’m leaning towards making this an every so often feature. What do you think readers, should I make it a feature?!?

Book of the Week: Bugs in My Hair

Bugs in My Hair by David Shannon (Received Advanced Copy from Publisher at BEA 2013)

Published: 2013 by The Blue Sky Press

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

This book took me by surprise, it wasn’t what I expected (and I mean that in a good way).

So what surprised me about this book: it was about head lice – a subject you don’t see often in children’s picture books.

It’s an important subject, a serious one and author/illustrator David Shannon handles it with a mix of seriousness and humor.

Lice are very tiny bugs that latch on to one’s strands of hair and lay eggs.

They make your head itch like CRAZY!

I love how this book is a learning lesson, there are facts and little tidbits of knowledge hidden on each page. For example, readers will learn that lice eggs are called nits, and part of the treatment is picking those nits. Have you put two and two together yet: that’s where we get the term nitpicker!

The lice made the main characters so much he thought they were partying up there in his massive reddish/orange curls.

They were having a concert: lice-a-palooza!

And in the image of lice – a – palooza they are dancing, singing, and playing the banjo.

It actually makes them look … cute (almost, I’m not a bug lover).

Instead of partying, they are feasting. On blood. The main characters blood. They’re like teeny tiny vampires.

And author/illustrator drives that point home, by illustrating lice in a Dracula costume.

The book also discusses  the feelings that come with having head lice: shame, humiliation, and embarrassment.

But young readers it’s important to remember that it may be embarrassing and humiliating, but a lot of other kids have head lice and they feel the same way. It’s also important to remember that head lice is curable.

Louse is where we get the word lousy.

Lice, when latched onto one’s hair often feel as if they are on top of the world.

Where to dead lice come from? From anywhere. As author/illustrator Shannon points out, it can come from a hug, a hat, a sofa, at school, or at the movies. But it can never, ever come from your dog. Dogs do not get lice.

Sometimes, even those who don’t have lice will get itchy. It’s sympathy scratching.

But really the problem isn’t on their head, it’s really in their head.

There are a lot of ways to “cure” lice, some work and some do not.

But the lice do need to be cured before they take over the world. Bug-zilla style.

So how do you cure them: by using stinky stuff that will make them want to leave your head, by combing your hair with a nit comb to pick out the lice eggs, and by going to the doctor.

But even though you take all the right steps to get rid of them, and all the right precautions to stop them from coming back, sometimes they do. Come back that is. And those steps and precautions will have to be repeated to get rid of them permanently.

Even though I agree fully with the main character, that bugs are “ick” I enjoyed this book. I learned a lot without feeling like I was learning. This book is far from boring.

I love Shannon’s illustrations. Through them he makes a scary subject not so scary.

His writing is also the driving force of the book. I love how Shannon doesn’t overwrite – he says what he has to without too many unnecessary words getting in the way.

This is a great read for the younger, school aged audience.

After reading on book by David Shannon, I am always left feeling like I want to read all of David Shannon’s books.

Synchronized Reading: Fangirl Post #1: The Dining Hall Experience

By now you should know, readers, that BFF and fellow blogger Miss Print and I are in the midst of our Fangirl synchronized read. Yes, even though we technically finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming novel a few days ago, we still moving forward with our “read” and with all the posts we had planned.

This week Miss Print and I will be talking about our own college experiences in relations to Cath’s (Fangirl’s leading lady). So, readers, you should totally check out Miss Print’s blog after reading this.

If you’ve read Fangirl that you already know all about Cath and some of her quirky anxieties. If you haven’t than that last statement doesn’t reveal any kind of spoilers… really (just kidding)

One of those quirky anxieties was dealing with the dining hall.

For a brief moment in time I, like Cath, lived in a cramped dorm room with a roommate (two actually) that I wished, looking back, were more like Cath’s roommate Reagan. As an only child, I had to adjust to dorm life – sharing a room with a perfect stranger, using very public bathrooms where I was expected to, not only use the toilet, but also wait in line (literally) to shower each morning, and basically adjust to a life I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I was cut out for. Amongst the home-sickness, I adjusted eventually. But there was one thing, one aspect of college/dorm life that just … made me anxious. The Dining Hall.

I was a college freshman, in a strange state, where I knew absolutely no one. I also felt like I knew absolutely nothing (it took me weeks to figure out I had a school e-mail account, case and point of knowing nothing).  So the first time I went to the dining hall I was overwhelmed to say the least. Who are all of these people? Who am I going to sit with? Maybe, I’ll just sit by myself, but where would I sit? Can I just pop a squat at someone’s table, eavesdropping on conversations and people’s lives? Where were my people – you know the equally lost and overwhelmed freshman?

As I was reading Fangirl I identified immensely with Cath. I felt like I was transported back to that brief moment of my life, where I had to face the dining hall day in and day out. And like Cath, I had a lot of the same questions – about the unidentifiable food (I went to school down South so everything was smothered – literally smothered – in chunky white gravy…yuck!),  the social hierarchy of the dining hall, and if and when it’s appropriate to just sit at some random table with a ground of random people you may or may never see again in your whole college life!

High school was simple, for nearly four years I sat with the same group of girls (always girls, being that I went to an all girl school), at the same table – the one closest to the exit. I never had to worry about unidentifiable food, social hierarchies, or whether or not it was appropriate to just sit any old place. Why? Because I had my own place, my own circle of friends, my own table, and my own seat at the table.

Cath is one hundred percent right: change is hard. Hard to deal with, hard to implement. And I found out very quickly, at the time, I didn’t like nor did I appreciate change.

I avoided the dining hall like the plague that it was. I didn’t want to deal with … any of it. The food – which I found out I really didn’t like, even gravy-less, the hordes of unfamiliar faces. Instead I lived on apples and peanut butter (that is, during the week. Weekends I went to my grandparents house where I loaded up on what I considered “comfort”) The only time I ventured into the dining hall was if I was invited by any of my fellow residents, people I had become friendly with during my (brief) time at that specific college (I went to three different colleges … crazy I know), or during my weekly outing with my RA (resident advisor) and my floor of girls. At least then I knew who I was sitting with, and didn’t have to stress unnecessarily about social hierarchy.

The very times I did venture into the dining hall I did find people to sit with, either people I had a class with, someone from my freshman peer group, someone I lived in the dorm with. Even though I figured out what food was actually hiding underneath  the white chunky gravy, and I figured out that whole sitting/table situation I found out that communal eating amongst people I barely knew wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. It sure wasn’t as fun as Cath’s experience. At least she had Reagan to goof on people with.

Looking back,  I was young and not as comfortable in my skin, and stressed way too much on issues that I didn’t need to stress about. I wish I had a Reagan of my own to force me out of my shell, or at least to goof on people with. Someone like her would have made the dining hall a bit more bearable.

Now, with or without a friend like Reagan, I don’t think I would fear the dining hall as much as I did while I was in college. I’m a different person,  one who,like Cath, learned to not only accept and embrace change, but who also learned how to roll with the punches, taking the good with the bad.

Maybe one day, I’ll get the chance to pay a visit to a college dining hall, and this time I won’t be afraid.

Shootin’ the Breeze With Amy Spalding

A few months ago, friend and fellow blogger Miss Print and I went to the Teen Author Festival Mega Signing at Books of Wonder in NYC. There, it was our chance to meet some fave authors and some that would soon become our fave authors.

It was there that I first picked up The Reece Malcolm List. It was there that I met author Amy Spalding (and decided right then and there that she was awesome! and that her book would be too!).

I had planned on reading The Reece Malcolm List early on, but do to other responsibilities and life it was (temporarily) put on the back burner. Until now. Obviously, if you follow/read this blog you know from my review just how much I adored this book. So much so that I just had to reach out to Amy Spalding to see if she’d answer some questions.

Luckily, she said yes!

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me about yourself, and about your journey as a writer?

Amy Spalding (AS):  Ever since I was little (seven or eight) I’ve wanted to be a writer. I loved reading, but even more I liked daydreaming and the “what ifs” of wondering what characters would do or how certain kinds of people would interact or why certain situations brought out drama and change. I worked at writing all the time, but it wasn’t until about five years ago when I really got serious about it and began working toward publication as a goal. That led to finishing a real project and finding my agent.

BB: What was the inspiration behind your debut, The Reece Malcolm List?

AS: I’ve always loved long-lost family stories so I wrote one of my own. The musical theatre element ended up there because I wanted to give Devan something she was gifted at that had nothing to do with either of her parents, that was just her own.

BB: I have to ask this: what is your favorite musical(s), and why?

AS: Merrily We Roll Along is one of my favorites for how hard it looks at friendship and career and art and commerce. I love Evita because Eva’s a great anti-hero and the music’s all really ballsy. I love Hedwig & the Angry Inch because the story is original and yet extraordinarily relateable. I love Chess for all its flaws because I could ponder Florence and Anatoly and Freddie nonstop (and have). I love Hairspray because the fat girl wins. I love Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for the tight tight pants.

BB: There are so many great moments in The Reece Malcolm List. Which parts were easiest to write? And which were the most difficult?

AS: Thank you! The easiest part was actually the ending, starting with the first of the big fights. I love writing fights, and they flow really easily for me. In general if I have even the vaguest sense of where a story’s going, endings are easy for me, and it’s fun and satisfying tying things up.

The most difficult parts to write were all the early moment in Devan’s relationship with her mother. I tend to write really loquacious characters (probably because I myself never shut up) so it was a struggle figuring out how to deal with two characters who were bad at talking to each other. Reece in particular was a hard character for me to take from my brain to the page until I figured out some tricks for writing her more clearly.

BB: If you were to create a musical playlist to describe Devan’s relationships with her mother Reece, with Sai, with Travis, what songs would be on there?

AS: I think any song Devan would relate to would be something big and belty and earnest, no matter who she was struggling with in her life. There’s probably lots of “Nobody’s Side” from Chess and while she wouldn’t want to admit it, “On My Own” from Les Miserables.

I created a playlist of the songs/musicals mentioned in the book, which you can find here: http://theamyspalding.com/books/the-reece-malcolm-list/the-reece-malcolm-playlist/

BB: If you could choose one character, which would you say you identify most with?

AS: I definitely couldn’t choose only one! There’s some of me in every single character in the book. It’s one of the best parts about being a writer; I can play with a lot of aspects of my personality and yet not feel like a crazy person.

BB: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

AS: My second book Ink Is Thicker than Water comes out December 3! It’s about sisters and college boys and tattoos. My third book Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) will be out in Spring 2015, and it’s a romantic comedy about bands and boys and friendship.

BB: If the Reece Malcolm List were to be made into a Broadway musical, who would you want to see cast as Devan? As Reece? As Brad? As Sai?

AS: In general I want readers to make up their own mind about how my characters look, but I will say if Arthur Darvill wasn’t Brad I’d be pretty sad.

BB: What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

AS: Write what you love! Ignore trends (unless someone hires you to write one)! Find critique partners you trust, but don’t be afraid to have your own opinions! Don’t worry if sometimes you hate writing! Don’t assume if someone successful does things differently that you’re doing it wrong! Find inspiration wherever it strikes you! Remember that if you want to be published and make money doing this that it’s not just art, it’s a business! Don’t be ashamed to want to make money! Have stuff in your life besides books and writing! Don’t be ashamed if you never quit your dayjob! Know when to back away from your computer and pet a puppy or hold a baby or eat a muffin or have a whiskey or drink a latte!

—————

Guys, didn’t I tell you she was awesome!

Amy Spalding, THANK YOU for taking the time to answer a few questions for this blog! You’re awesome and so is your book!

For more information about Amy and any of her books, please check her out online!

The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
Adobe Photoshop PDF

When Devan’s father dies, her world is turned upside down. Not because they were exceptionally close, but because he was the only parent she had, the only parent she knew. That is, until  she receives a notice telling her to pack her bags, and jet set to California where she’ll live with Reece Malcolm.

Reece Malcolm, who graduated from New York University and a best-selling author, is Devan’s biological mother. Devan doesn’t know much, anything really, about Reece.  Before she knows it, Devan’s life revolves around a top-notch school of performing arts, a whole new set of friends, and even a few romantic escapades – but not around the mother she so desperately wants to know.

In the hopes of getting to know Reece better, as a friend and as a mother, Devan takes matters into her own hands. She collects tidbits and factoids about her mom and starts The Reece Malcolm List – a list of all the things she knows about her mom.  But besides the list, Devan snoops around looking for any clue of who this slightly older version of herself truly is. But the most she snoops, and the longer the list grows Devan realizes that she’s no closer to cracking the hard shell that is her mother.

The Reece Malcolm List, written by author Amy Spalding, is a fun debut full of lots of dramatics and lots of heart.

Spalding’s writing is simply strong. Seamlessly, she weaves a story that isn’t bogged down by over the tops words and over the top descriptions. Instead, she weaves a story that is contemporary, realistic, and highly relatable.

As strong as the writing is, what really makes The Reece Malcolm List such a great read are the characters that fill the pages. Devan is a great leading lady. She’s grounded yet dramatic. She’s inquisitive to the point of being sneaky. But what makes her so super relatable is the fact that she’s unsure – of her surroundings, of her new school, friends, and life, of her mother, and even of herself. We all know what that feels like, to be so unsure of something it’s actually scary.

Besides that, I really enjoyed how Devan was a true shining star. I loved how she had a talent that was all her own, not passed down from either one of her parents. And it’s that talent that helps her stand on her own two feet, despite the many setbacks she encounters.

I really liked Reece Malcolm despite the many reasons not to. She was a quirky character who, just like her daughter, is still trying to figure life out. Reece wasn’t a perfect character, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was real. As much as my teenage self easily identified with Devan, my adult self identified with Reece.

I loved the setting of The Reece Malcolm List. Even more than this, I loved how author Spalding’s not overly done descriptions transported me right into the center of the Devan’s life.  And I thought that Devan’s performing arts school was a pitch perfect backdrop to Devan’s life and her thematics.

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding is a great satisfying read that isn’t only contemporary, it’s real.

Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Things That Make Reading and/or Blogging Easier

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(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The above photo was taken by me*.)

There are things in this world that were created to make our lives simpler and better. Therefore there are things (and also people) in this world that make my job as a reader and blogger way more simpler.

1. Goodreads – I’m sure most readers by now know what Goodreads is. I’m even willing to bet that many readers and blogger alike use it. But for those who may not know, Goodreads is a social media – esque website that allows users to, not only friend one another, but to share what books they’ve read and reviewed. Personally, I like to use to it to keep track of what books I’m reading, what books I want to read, and what books I’ve already read.

2. Pinterest – I’m stil new to the world of Pinterest. And admittedly I thought it was nothing more but a really fun time waste. Yes, I am one of those people who are lurking about pinterest for hours on end – mostly posting pins of Gwen Stefani. But I found that Pinterest is a great tool for readers and/or bloggers. For instance I have a board that solely focuses on the books I reviewed during a certain year. Beyond that, let’s just say you follow other bookish people or websites (like Goodreads! Yes, even Goodreads is on Pinterest) you may just discover other books, books that you’ve heard nothing about, to be added to your ever growing To Be Read pile.

3. The Library – ah! my home away from home. The Library. Where else could you go and pick up an armful of books for FREE?! Oh, and let’s not get me started on the InterLibrary Loaning! I don’t think the library needs a long winded explanation.

4. Google Docs – I’m borderline obsessive with keeping track of the books I read each year. Every year, beginning January 1st I decide on a number of books I hope to read in this given year (this year, it so happens to be 125 books, and I’m 71 books in at the moment!) Google Docs (since I don’t have open office or word) is a good way to say this yearly book lists. P.S. I also track my yearly book reading challenge on Goodreads as well.

5. My friend and fellow blogger Miss Print – when I first started blogging I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing! Miss Print was a great resource to me – she answers my many questions, she reads over reviews I’m not very confident in, and overall she’s a great friend who *I hope* likes to hear my bookish ramblings! Thanks Miss Print for being such a great help and an even greater friend to me!

6. Twitter – Do I really need to explain? Twitter is a great place to connect with, not only other bookish folks, but author and publishers. It’s also a great tool to help spread the word about your blog. Take advantage of it!

7. Bookmarks – They hold your place in a book. Enough said!

8. YouTube – I know, I’m obsessed. But through youtube I found a whole other community of bookish folks! Booktubers! Even though I am not brave enough to video record myself talking about my fave books (I don’t like being in front of the camera, and oddly enough I don’t enjoy how my voice sounds recorded – I sound like a very small child with a bad accent of some sort – trust me on this!). Through booktubers, not only have I found new books, but I found new features (check out my self imposed read – a -thon challenge)

9. Good, old fashioned pen and paper – Sometimes writing reviews, for me, is a real task. And sometimes I don’t like to type them on my computer. Sometimes, for me, it’s easier to get the creative juices flowing with a piece of paper and a pen to record my thoughts.

10.  You, my readers – The BookBandit Blog wouldn’t be what it is without you readers and you subscribers! It means a lot to me that you take the time to read these posts, these reviews, these thoughts that swirl about my head. Thank You!

(*The above picture was taken and altered by me. Please do NOT steal it. If you want to use it for whatever reason, please ask and give credit first. Thank You!)