Roller Derby, Girl-Power, and Friendship

I was pumped to read this middle-grade graphic novel all about recognizing female empowerment within the roller derby community, especially after having read and loved Pamela Ribon’s SLAM! Vol. 1, which is a YA comic bundle set around the same premise.Roller Girl 1-- bookspoils

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Roller Girl tackles a lot of important issues within the story arc, such as the giddy start of a new blossoming friendship, growing apart from childhood friends, standing up for yourself and those in need, the power of positive role models, and channeling your inner TOUGHER, STRONGER, FEARLESS-self.

Plus, I know I really enjoyed a middle-grade book when I can’t wait to share it with my little sister. She adored Raina Telgemeier‘s work in the past and has been on the search for anything and everything similar, so she’ll be pleased to know that Roller Girl reads like the perfect follow-up book.

I do have to note that, personally, the story hit a bit of rut when it focused too heavily on supplying all the technical terms in roller derby, but thankfully it more than made up for that with its following character-defining moments.

So without further ado, here are some of my personal favorite bits from Roller Girl:

Roller Girl 2-- bookspoilsThat resilient moment of overcoming adversity is an ever-shining star.

Roller Girl 3-- bookspoilsI was all smiles reading the many descriptions and was even pleasantly surprised to see my name, Natalie, included… until I read her silly defining characteristic.

Another comical moment happens in the following hair coloring scene:Roller Girl 4-- bookspoilsThis brought to mind how Louis C.K. has a whole standup bit just around kids names.
Roller Girl 5-- bookspoils“3-4 weeks” got me good.

Roller Girl 6-- bookspoilsGentle parenting and patience is key.

Unrelated: I find it funny that this is the second book I’ve read that featured both my name as well as my sister’s (Rachel).


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Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi)

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while now, you probably know by now that Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is an all-time favorite of mine; I make sure to reread it every single year.

This time around, I decided to revisit the book through a different medium by checking out the audiobook for the first time, as I mention in the Parks and Rec book tag (where I feature Reagan for Ron Swanson’s question, yet somehow still wound up including my perfect sunflower and the pride of Arnold, otherwise known as Levi Stewart).

As I mention in the tag, I feel like even the audio-narrator is enjoying herself with Reagan’s character because I can always hear a hint of a smile upon reading her comically outrageous lines. They’re profound contributions to this world.

“There was just no fear in her. No hesitation. Talking to Reagan was like standing in front of an oncoming train.”

However, since I already uploaded an extensive review full of ravishing ravings for Fangirl in 2016 that you can check out here, I decided to twist things around for this reread and feature the list of everything important I noted during my reading experience (which I can visually represent with this very accurate gif below):

  • Starting with the most beloved cast of characters that always bring out the best feelings out of me, I made sure to take my sweet time with this audiobook, listening to a little at a time every other week or so. More specifically, Levi has me wrapped around his finger; he leaves me grinning from ear to ear so easily. And I have to elaborate by making a whole new point about this…
  • I felt like Jim Halpert, smiling into the camera, because every time Levi shows, I’d inevitably look into a nonexistent camera like I’m on The Office, while trying to hold off the wisp of a megawatt smile showing on my face. Like, get you a guy like Levi who goes out of his way in making sure you’re comfortable and showing signs that he genuinely likes you.

Just to give you a feel of what I’m talking about, here’s a couple of instances that made me smile uncontrollably in his presence:

    • Walking with Cather late at night from the library to make sure she gets back safe and sound to her dorm.

“Just Cather, huh?”
“Just Cath.”
“Did you get lost in the library?”
“I always get lost in the library,” he said, “no matter how many times I go. In fact, I think I get lost there more, the more that I go. Like it’s getting to know me and revealing new passages.”
“You spend a lot of time in the library?”
“I do, actually.”
“How is that possible when you’re always in my room?”
“Where do you think I sleep?” he asked. And when she looked at him, he was grinning.”

This loving, loyal sunflower has the biggest smile and an even bigger heart. Which is why I was beyond elated when I read Rainbow’s comparing him to a golden retriever (“For the constant good-natured game of him.”). Mainly because of a Youtube comment I shared in my Parks and Rec tag that used exactly that phrase to describe the relationship unfolding between Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate: It’s like watching a grumpy cat and golden retriever get married. And it represented a lot of what Cath and Levi’s interaction held for me.

  • Plus, having them slowly bond over Cath’s “secret, dirty fanfiction” is something that will never grow old on me. I’m utterly amazed at how effortlessly Rainbow captures that intimate moment of growth from being acquaintances to friends to something more.

“It’s not dirty.”
“Read me some anyway.”
She let go of the pillow; he’d probably already filthed it beyond redemption.
“Because I’m curious,” he said. “And I like stories.”
“You just want to make fun of me.”
“I won’t,” he said. “I promise.”
“That’s what you and Reagan do when I’m not here, right? Make fun of me. Play with my commemorative busts. Do you have a stupid nickname for me?”
His eyes sparkled. “Cather.”
“I don’t exist to amuse you, you know.”
“One, are you sure? Because you do. And, two, we don’t make fun of you. Very much. Anymore. And, three…”
He was counting on his fingers, and his cheeks were twitching, and it was making Cath laugh.
“Three,” he said, “I won’t make fun of you, to anyone but you, from now on, if you’ll just once, right now, read me some of your fanfiction.”

I’m blinking hearts.Pretty sure that with that Levi has ruined all other guys for me. I mean, having someone’s defining feature be kindness above all is cathartic. It’s like I always make sure to ask myself if the guy in front of me lives up to Levi’s standards, and if he doesn’t, well…

  • The peak, of course, hits with getting to experience my all-time favorite scene on audio, featuring Cath reading The Outsiders to Levi through the night. Any book that has the characters bond by reading a book out loud to one another is the way to my heart, all thanks to Fangirl being the primary instigator. I have to say, though, that listening to this part was so worth the wait, since my eyes couldn’t skip ahead out of anticipation as usual. I could actually savor each line and unpack the hidden meaning within the words. I even listened to the ending with closed eyes, and it was so perfect because Cath was tired and her eyes were tired, and I felt it all.

“Cath exhaled. Then inhaled. Her chest was so tight, it hurt both ways. Levi shouldn’t get to make her feel this way—he shouldn’t even have access to her chest.”

They had me going to bed with a smile on my face. Madness…

I’m pretty sure I can quote the whole book on Levi’s sunny disposition if you’ll let me, so this is as good a stopping point as any on that… I’ll just end by mentioning that THEIR DOMESTIC SCENES TOGETHER ARE MY NICHE.

  • The level of detail we’re given about the characters hits the exact right spot for my nosy-self. Like, knowing that Reagan’s voice sounds similar to Kathleen Turner’s rasp is *kisses fingers like a satisfied chef* perfect. Oh, and the random fact that the seatbelt in Levi’s truck is a hassle to pull through is bliss to know. It’s these little things that make the characters seem that more real in the big picture.
  • Which leads me to discuss how much of a blast I had actually giving a listen to the Spotify playlists created by Rowell for both Cath and Levi. Now, I can actually know what songs she had in mind during the most iconic of scenes, such as the infamous Emergency Dance Party.
  • It’s frankly terrifying how much I get Cath. Every time I reread Fangirl, I either discover something new about myself or connect together pieces about myself through her. We have so many overlapping thoughts and actions, so I thought this was an incredibly well-done part of the story. I felt it most strongly the morning after the shared half-asleep kiss with Levi, when Cath tried to convince herself all the reasons they would never fit together.

“He’s different,” Cath said. “He’s older. He smokes. And he drinks. And he’s probably had sex. I mean, he looks like he has.”
Reagan raised her eyebrows like Cath was talking crazy. And Cath thought—not for the first time, but for the first time since last night—that Levi had probably had sex with Reagan.
“And he likes to be outside,” Cath said, just to change the subject. “And he likes animals. We don’t have anything in common.”
“You’re making him sound like he’s some rowdy mountain man who, like, smokes cigars and has sex with prostitutes.”
Cath laughed, despite herself. “Like a dangerous French fur trapper.”
“He’s just a guy,” Reagan said. “Of course he’s different from you. You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.…”

The last line is THE STRONGEST THING I’VE FELT IN MY LIFE. I’m beyond thankful that Cath has someone like Reagan to set her straight. Their blossoming friendship was one of the most unexpected to appear with their juxtaposing personalities, and yet it grew to be one of my favorite friendships to read. I was thunderstruck time and again by their casual daily interactions that brought about some of the most memorable lines of the book.

  • Speaking of, the amount of times I had to pause the audiobook to release my pent-up laughter just goes to show how utterly brilliant Rowell is at creating incomparable comical moments at the most unexpected times. I’ll be still laughing minutes after I read a certain phrase because it’s on a loop in my head. Like, I never get over this particular line Levi throws at Cath the first time they hang out in his room/attic:

“Read something else,” he whispered, kissing the skin below her ear.
Cath took a deep breath. “What?”
“Anything. More fanfiction, the soybean report … You’re like a tiger who loves Brahms—as long as you’re reading, you let me touch you.”

The “the soybean report” got me good. I’m so keen on knowing HOW Rainbow comes up with this stuff… What follows afterward between Cath and Levi is, of course, one of the best scenes for them as a couple, but I won’t bombard you with more, since I’m obviously a complete fool when it comes to these two together. (And it’s impossible to choose just one moment to capture.)Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55With having read all of Rowell’s books (some even multiple times) I just have to say that she excels at making us EXPERIENCE a story instead of merely reading words. Fangirl explores the subtle real-life moments of young adulthood that are often forgotten about, and it makes her writing endlessly readable.

See you in my next reread of this book!


Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Fangirljust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!Fangirl-- bookspoils

Review: Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee

Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers.

Though I was struggling a bit at the start of this book with the super casual language used for chronicling each historic woman, I realized (rather quickly, thankfully!) that the modern take on these badass broads is exactly what makes this read that more approachable and original.

My issue with previous feminist collections always stemmed from the fact that they came to read like Wikipedia-esque entries and as a result failed to keep me engaged. Which is why I came to like the shorter biography summaries, such as The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont & Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen.

So Mackenzi Lee’s intriguing take on these “badass patriarchy smashers” in Bygone Badass Broads helped keep them in mind long after I continued to the next entry.

So here is a taste of some of the memorable Badass Broads squad members:

  • Queen Arawelo: C. 15 CE, Somalia

The Queen of Gender EqualityBygone Badass Broads 1-- bookspoils

“Arawelo’s new decrees regarding gender roles and government appointments passed the Furiosa Test—meaning they got men’s rights activists riled up. When husbands across the land protested the shake-up, Arawelo and her massive populous of feminist badasses staged a kingdom-wide walkout, leaving their men with nothing but a note on the pillow: Roses are red, gender’s performative, your ideas about women are so hella normative.”

The little poem there had me giggling out loud, which is the last thing I expected from a Nonfiction/History book. Having Lee succeed not only at educating us about the lesser-known women of our times but actually making it enjoyable while doing so is the biggest accomplishment, in my eyes.

“It’s almost like the phrase “yaaaas kweeeen” was invented for her.”

  •  Khutulun: 1260–1306, Mongolia

Wrestling Champion of the Ancient WorldBygone Badass Broads 2-- bookspoils

This particular entry had me giddy with the many pop-culture references*. It’s quite a feat on the author’s part to connect present day to hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, so I will continually applaud her for that.

*Phrases include: TBH, swaggery bro, and the timeless reference at the end of this passage:

“When one particularly swaggery bro bet one thousand horses he’d pin Khutulun, her parents begged her to throw the match because she needed to just settle down with a nice boy already! Khutulun agreed . . . until she heard the bell and looked that smug dude right in his smug dude eyes, at which point animal instinct took over and Khutulun did what she did best: She threw him to the GROUND.”

Cue: The Lonely Island’s Threw It On The Ground.

  • Friederike “Marm” Mandelbaum: 1818–1894, United States

New York’s Queen of ThievesBygone Badass Broads 4-- bookspoils

This unheard of Queen of Thieves who ruled the criminal underworld of Gilded Age New York City was a true surprise for me.

“They call me Marm because I give them money and horses and diamonds,” she said, which are the essentials I, too, expect from my mother.

  • Juliette Gordon Low: 1860–1927, United States

Founder of the Girl ScoutsBygone Badass Broads 3-- bookspoils

This entry screamed for a reference to be made to the Pawnee Goddesses from Parks and Recreation (which I did a whole book tag about). And thankfully Mackenzi Lee delivered at the very end with this closing line: “Hear her womanly roar.”

  • Emmy Noether: 1882–1935, Germany

Theoretically, the Most Important Woman in PhysicsBygone Badass Broads 5-- bookspoils

“When Einstein calls you the most significant and creative woman in the history of mathematics, you can probably call it a day and go home.”

It seems appropriate to note that with this entry I came to see the unshakable commitment to bringing the most color and vibrancy out of these historical women. And it was a delight to discover this time and again in this gorgeously illustrated compendium.

Oh, but before I leave I have to include a few other phrases I got a good laugh at, such as: giving Irena Sendler’s dog a WeRateDogs™ worthy rate (“12/10, would pet.”), using the infamous record scratch in Sarah Breedlove’s entry, and comparing Kumander Liwayway’s childhood to that of “a Disney Channel teenager. ”

There’s so much more I’d like to share, but calling it a day on this note seems like a fine endpoint.


Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Bygone Badass Broads, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!