Kindred Spirits

What do you get when you combine Rainbow Rowell with Star Wars? Something absolutely wonderful, that’s what. Kindred Spirits may only be 41 pages long, but it hit me right where I live. Yes, I am a Star Wars fan (something of an understatement there).

Like the characters in this novella, I’ve been part of a Star Wars line. When tickets went on sale for Episode I in 1999, I waited 13 hours to buy tickets. (To be fair, no one knew at the time just how bad that movie would be. I still shudder every time I see or hear Jar Jar Binks.) Like Elena, Gabe, and Troy in Kindred Spirits, I wondered how I’d deal with going to the bathroom, making conversation with my fellow nerds, and handling boredom. (Waiting in line for a movie isn’t all glitz and glamour, folks…even though I did end up on the local news.)

Even with the not-so-great parts of the Line, however, I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything. I was part of something–part of the Star Wars experience. I talked to people I never would have otherwise met, I enjoyed pizza delivered to those of us in line, and I played Star Wars trivia games with people who could actually compete with me. No, I didn’t wait days like some people, and I haven’t exactly repeated the experience (thanks to the beauty of online ticket sales), but I can say that I was there once upon a time, and Kindred Spirits brought all of those warm, fuzzy feelings rushing back.

Elena is excited about waiting in line to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She just knows it will be everything she’s ever imagined–great, big, nerdy fun. Only it’s not. She’s the third person in a line of only three people. The first person is Tony, a guy who takes his Star Wars seriously. He’s waited in every line since Empire, and he has stories about everything. The second guy is Gabe, and he shows absolutely no interest in being part of Elena’s ultimate line experience. And Elena makes three.

Elena thinks about leaving her spot in line and going home, especially when the temperatures drop, boredom sets in, and her bladder rebels, but she just can’t do it. She can’t abandon her post and her love of Star Wars…and she can’t prove her mom right. So Elena stays and tries to make the best of things with Troy and Gabe.

As this dedicated trio get closer to movie time, they come to find the sense of camaraderie they’d been hoping for. Sure, there are only three of them, but that’s becoming more and more okay. Even Gabe is opening up a little, and Elena soon realizes just why he’s been so cold to her. She sets him straight, and the two really begin to talk to each other. No preconceived notions, no judgments; just a mutual love of Star Wars and the start of what could be a beautiful friendship.

When it’s time to finally see The Force Awakens, will it live up to the hype? And will Elena and Gabe find a reason to stay close beyond their time waiting for Star Wars?


Rainbow Rowell gets what it’s like to be a Star Wars fan in a world that tends to make fun of such serious fandom. She doesn’t come off as someone saying, “Hey, look at those idiotic nerds waiting in line for some dumb movie.” No, she understands that fans care about Star Wars. It’s part of our lives, and sometimes the best thing in the world is sharing our love of Star Wars (or any other movie, book series, TV show, etc.) with other people who get it. Speaking for myself, an extreme introvert, the best way to get me out of my shell is to talk to me about something I obsess over. Star Wars is at the top of that (extremely long) list.

In my most humble opinion, Kindred Spirits is a must-read for Star Wars fans. Yes, it’s sort of a romantic tale, but the Star Wars references alone make this story worth a fan’s time. The budding relationship between Elena and Gabe is just a bonus.

If you’d like more information on Kindred Spirits and the many other wonderful books by Rainbow Rowell, check out her website. You can also connect with this fabulous author on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook.

Happy reading…and may the Force be with you!

Famous Last Words

Today, I bring you one of next year’s nominees for the South Carolina Junior Book Award, Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. The SCJBA nominee list is primarily intended for middle grade readers, but I think Famous Last Words–and probably several others on the list–is a great read for older readers as well. It is an engrossing murder mystery with a supernatural twist that many tween, teen, and adult readers will enjoy.

Willa, a girl struggling with her past, has just moved from Connecticut to sunny Los Angeles. Her mother recently married a movie producer, and now Willa must adjust to an entirely new life. It doesn’t help matters that there’s a serial killer on the prowl in LA, a killer recreating scenes from famous movies. But surely Willa is safe from harm, right? (You can probably guess the answer to that question.)

It doesn’t take long for Willa to realize that something isn’t quite right in her new home. A strange presence tries to drown her in the pool. She sees words and numbers on the walls, and dead bodies and rose petals appear in the bathtub. No one else sees these terrifying images, and even Willa is starting to think she’s crazy. That feeling only increases when she begins to get visions of the Hollywood Killer and his victims. Who is haunting Willa, and what is this being trying to tell her?

As a newcomer in this strange city, there are few people that Willa can go to for help. Her mom and her new husband would never believe her. They’d probably think she was crazy and send her to a mental hospital. Her new “friend” Marnie is a pathological liar and can’t exactly be trusted with something like this. Maybe her stepdad’s cute assistant, Reed? Possibly. What about Wyatt, her sullen lab partner who has a strange obsession with the Hollywood Killer case?

Who can Willa trust to believe her and help her deal with the horrors she’s facing? And can she discover what the ghost in her house is trying to tell her before she’s a deranged killer’s next victim?


I’m going to stop before I give too much away. The fun of a murder mystery is discovering all this stuff for yourself, am I right?!

If I had one problem with this book, it would be the somewhat forced love story. It just didn’t make a ton of sense to me, and, honestly, I’d love to see the occasional book with a strong platonic relationship between a girl and a boy. No mention of lovey-dovey stuff. (Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?) For me, this book would have been more believable–even with the ghost story elements–without the romance. Maybe I’m alone in that. Then again, maybe not.

All in all, Famous Last Words is a a quick, easy, entertaining read that will definitely appeal to anyone looking for a good mystery. It kept me hooked from the first page, and I couldn’t wait to figure out if I was right about “whodunit.” (I called it early on. Let me know if you do, too!)

For more information on Famous Last Words and Katie Alender, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Happy reading!

Happy Again

If you haven’t read Jennifer E. Smith’s This Is What Happy Looks Like (which is a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), do so before reading this post or Happy Again. Spoilers ahead!

So, last year, I read This Is What Happy Looks Like, a great contemporary YA romance by Jennifer E. Smith. After that last page, I wondered where things would go with Ellie and Graham. If you’ve read the book–and, at this point, I’m assuming you have–you know that things weren’t tied up in a neat little bow for them at the book’s conclusion. Well, now we have Happy Again, a sequel novella, to help clear things up a bit. Let’s dive in, shall we?

It’s been over a year since Ellie O’Neill has seen Graham Larkin. After they said their goodbyes on the beach in Henley, Maine–and Graham jetted off to finish his latest film and press tour–they stayed in touch for a while. Phone calls, text messages, and constant emails. But eventually, their emails stopped being personal and started to seem sort of emotionless, and they faded to nothing after a while.

Now, Ellie is a freshman at Harvard, and she only keeps up with Graham by glancing at the tabloid headlines. One weekend, Ellie uncharacteristically joins her roommate on a trip to New York City. When she sees a commotion near the Ziegfield Theatre, without even really knowing what’s going on, something tells Ellie that Graham is nearby. And she’s right. As fate would have it, she’s stumbled upon the premiere of the movie that brought them together.

Almost immediately, Ellie has the urge to run. Part of her desperately wants to see Graham, but another part is scared of what might happen if she comes face-to-face with him once again. As it turns out, that decision is kind of taken out of her hands.

Ellie and her friends are invited into the premiere, and, soon enough, there he is. Graham Larkin. He finds Ellie in the crowd, and insists they talk about the past year. What follows is a spontaneous trip through Manhattan, a trip where Ellie and Graham clear the air about why they stopped communicating, what’s been happening in their lives…and where they go from here.

Can Ellie and Graham find the happiness they felt last year in Henley, or has too much passed between them? Does this one extraordinary, fateful meeting have the power to bring them back together, or will this be their final goodbye?

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If This Is What Happy Looks Like was a little too open-ended for you (as it was for me), Happy Again definitely gives a bit of closure. But even this story leaves readers with some questions about whether Ellie and Graham will end up together. The ending in this one isn’t completely nice and neat, either. I like to think that things will work out for Ellie and Graham this time around, that they’re willing to work to be together, but that’s not crystal clear. And that’s okay. This gives me–and other readers–the opportunity to continue the story for ourselves, in whatever way we like.

All in all, I found Happy Again to be a pretty satisfying conclusion (?) to the unlikely love story of Ellie and Graham. Will we hear more from this duo? I have no idea, but I like to think that, whether their story continues in print or not, that they’ve found happiness together once again.

If you’d like more information on Happy Again, This Is What Happy Looks Like, or other books by Jennifer E. Smith, visit the author’s website and Twitter. For what it’s worth, I’ve yet to encounter a book by this author that I didn’t like. I hope you feel the same way.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

People often ask me what my favorite movie is. Most of those people expect me to name The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, The Avengers, The Goonies, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail as my all-time favorite. And while I do adore those movies (and many others), there is one that leaves them all behind.

The Princess Bride. My feelings about this movie (and the book) go way beyond adoration. I can (and often do) quote entire passages from the film, much to the dismay of those around me. Even my three-year-old niece has told me to be quiet while we’re watching The Princess Bride together. (She loves it, by the way. The kid has good taste.) I have a framed poster of Buttercup and Westley hanging in my bedroom. I have several t-shirts featuring quotes from the book/movie. I watch the movie at least once a month, and I try to reread the book every year (and this has been my pattern for the past 20+ years). So, yeah…I LOVE The Princess Bride.

I tell you all of that to explain why I picked up my latest read, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. This book, written by Cary Elwes (better known as Westley) and Joe Layden, takes a peek behind the scenes of what I would argue is one of the greatest–and most underrated–movies of all time. (I was even reading this book while I had The Princess Bride on in the background. I may have a small obsession.)

Now, I’m not going to go into the plot of The Princess Bride here. No, you really must experience that for yourself. Instead, I’ll discuss As You Wish just a bit in the hopes that those who enjoy this movie as much as I do will find something to fall in love with all over again.

In As You Wish, Cary Elwes–better known as Westley or the Man in Black–takes readers on a journey. We see the earliest days of this movie, which many studios did not want to touch. We see Rob Reiner work to get a film close to his heart to the big screen. We see amazing casting decisions that would play a large part in vaulting the film to cult status (eventually). Through it all, we see that each person who had a hand in making The Princess Bride knew it was something special.

As You Wish gives readers a look at the intense training that went into the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, the laughter that took over the set whenever Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) opened his mouth, and the awe generated simply by being in the same room as Andre the Giant.

Cary Elwes shares some very personal, funny, and often poignant memories with fans of The Princess Bride, but we also hear from such notable figures as Rob Reiner (director), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdink), Carol Kane (Valerie), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), William Goldman (author/screenwriter), Andy Scheinman (producer), and, of course, Billy Crystal. Their contributions to this book make it so much richer than it may otherwise have been.

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I can’t possibly touch on everything that is covered in this book, but I can tell you that I laughed, I teared up a bit, and I reminisced about The Princess Bride‘s place in my own childhood (and my adult life). As You Wish is a gentle reminder that this movie means as much to those who brought it to life as it does to the fans who love it so much.

If you love The Princess Bride as much as I do–or even if you’re just a casual fan–I strongly urge you to read As You Wish. Having this small glimpse behind the scenes makes me appreciate this beloved film even more, and my hope is that you’ll feel the same.

If you’d like to learn more about all things Princess Bride–and find your own bit of tweasure–I urge you to visit princessbrideforever.com. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Last night, I finished a truly captivating book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  I must admit that I may not have read this book had I not recently seen the trailer for the movie based on this book.  The movie, Hugo, looks entrancing, and I knew that I just had to read the book before I could allow myself to see the movie (which opens on November 23rd).  Even though the book is an intimidating 533 pages, I flew right through it.  (Of course, it helped that half of the pages were filled with illustrations that both moved the story along and made it come alive.)  It also didn’t hurt that this book has a kind of steampunk feel to it, and I am quickly becoming enamored of all things steampunk.

In The Invention of Hugo Cabret, we are introduced to Hugo, an orphan, timekeeper, thief, and wonderer.  Hugo spends his days and nights in a busy Paris train station, keeping the clocks in working order for his uncle, who has seemingly vanished.  No one notices Hugo, and he does his best to keep it that way so that he doesn’t end up in an orphanage or someplace even worse.  He simply keeps the clocks running, pilfers food where he can, and works on the mechanical man, or automaton, that provides a connection to his father.

In Hugo’s quest to get the automaton working, he steals parts from toys.  As is usually the case, Hugo gets caught in the act by the toymaker.  But the old toymaker doesn’t react to Hugo’s thievery the way one would expect.  In fact, he grows sad when he sees Hugo’s precious notebook, and, after a bit of drama, he even lets Hugo help in the toy shop.  Could the old toymaker be keeping secrets of his own?  Hugo and Isabella, the toymaker’s goddaughter, soon join forces on a quest to find out about the toymaker’s past and his mysterious connection to Hugo’s mechanical man.

Can Hugo and Isabella uncover the mystery of the mechanical man?  What will they discover about Isabella’s godfather?  Join them as they travel through walls, a train station, movie theaters, libraries, and the streets of Paris to unlock the truth.

I haven’t come close to describing how wonderful this book is.  The narrative is as enchanting as the illustrations.  It’s no wonder that The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal.  I just hope the movie is just as awesome as the book.

If you’re interested in seeing the movie adaptation, Hugo, here is one of the theatrical trailers.  I’d love to hear from you about how the movie stacks up to the book.

Twilight movie!!!!

So, the new Twilight movie has been out since midnight on Friday (and I was there for the midnight show), and I have already seen it twice.  Yes, it is that good.  I LOVED it!  Although some things were changed, and some stuff was left out, I thought the movie stayed true to the book’s message.  No, it’s not as good as the book, but movies rarely are.  I thought Robert Pattinson was the perfect Edward, Kristen Stewart was an awesome Bella, and the supporting characters were great (particularly Nikki Reed as Rosalie and Billy Burke as Charlie). 

As my friends could tell you, I have always had a thing for Emmett.  That is even more true now that I have seen Kellan Lutz in the role.  He was HOT!  I love his little smirk and the sideways cap.  Emmett is my man!

Anyhoo, I love this movie, and anyone who has read Twilight should definitely see it.  Check out the soundtrack too.  It’s great, and the music is perfect when you need to scream/unwind on the way home from work or school.  Also, check out the cool Twilight merchandise at Hot Topic!