Book Review: Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: 2nd November 2017
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: YA, teenage, Christmas, Short Stories

The latest offering from Rainbow Rowell combines two magical short stories. First up is Midnight which follows two best friends, Mags and Noel, every New Years Eve over a period of three years. Flamboyant and outgoing, Noel couldn't be more different from Mags...And year after year Mags has to endure Noel kissing someone else as the clock strikes twelve every December 31st, when secretly she wishes that she was the one he was kissing. Will Noel be able to finally discover his true feelings for Mags this New Years Eve?
Kindred Spirits tells the story of Star Wars fantastic, Evie, who decides she is going to join her fellow 'Rebel Legions' in queing up outside the theatre for four days in a bid to watch the new film first.
However, when she arrives at the theatre armed with enough layers and supplies to see her through four days living on the streets in December and with her Mum's disappointment and concern still ringing in her ears, she is dismayed to discover that the queue is only made up of two other people. Troy, a walking encyclopedia of Star Wars, and Gabe, a quiet a mysterious teenager. Where is the comradery? Where is the swapping of Star Wars anecdotes and bonding sessions? Where is the fun? This looks set to be a long four days...
But as Evie gets to know her weird and wonderful queue companions, it turns out that this whole experience might turn out to be more fun than she first thought, albeit in an entirely different way.

First things first; the cover of Almost Midnight is Christmas in book form. Blue, sparkly and glittery, this is a book that is so aesthetically pleasing it's untrue. It would look good on any bookshelf and there's not many book lovers that wouldn't be delighted to find this book in their stocking. Also, it's by Rainbow Rowell. This alone makes me immediately want it.
The illustrations are beautiful and add a cozy feel to the book. As well as being a great addition to the stories they also really helped to bring the characters to life and it's always interesting to see as to whether the picture you build up in your head of the characters is the same as how the illustrator sees them.

In bad book blogger style, I hadn't done my research into this book and when I began reading Midnight I immediately recognised it. Where had I read it before? Turns out if was featured in Christmas anthology My True Love Gave to Me back in 2014. Whilst it clearly states this on Amazon, me being me, I was in such a rush to dive into this book that this fact went completely over my head. Whoops. I was a little disappointed when I found this out as I was looking forward to getting stuck into two new Rainbow Rowell stories (if you're anything like me then I also need to warn you that Kindred Spirits has also been published before as a World Book Day title, but luckily I hadn't read this yet so it was technically still a new story to me...)
I re-read Midnight because I enjoyed it the first time round and I probably ended up enjoying it more the second time round.
Noel and Mags were intriguing characters by both being so very different, yet they shared a wonderful friendship and I desperately wanted it to become more.
Midnight was a delightful, sweet and heart-warming story that made me smile.

I think that Kindred Spirits was my favourite of the two stories. Although not Christmassy (it was set in December but that's about as far as it goes) I still loved it. I warmed to Evie, something which isn't always in instant thing in short stories, but I still felt as though I got to know her. I loved her determination, despite the whole 'queue experience' not turning out the way she had envisaged, she still stuck it out and went on to embrace it (despite having to pee in paper cups - many times.) I loved the relationship she eventually developed with Gabe and I thought Troy was a wonderful character. Hilarious, likeable and a complete Star Wars buff - what's not to love?

Both stories were enjoyable and definitely worth a read, especially if you're a Rainbow Rowell fan - but just beware that you may have come across them before. If you're busy over the festive season then I highly recommend this - it's light, perfect to dip in and out of and it will certainly give you that warm, cozy feel that should be a requirement during this time of the year.

It's not as mega-Christmassy as a Christmas fanatic such a myself would have hoped for, but that doesn't detract from its enjoy-ability. It's a very clever idea to put these two stories together and market them as a Christmas book, so if you've never had the chance to read these two delightful tales from Rainbow then now is the perfect time...

*Library copy reviewed 


An open letter to Becky Bloomwood...

Hi Becky!

First thing's first; I love your coat. It reminds me of the white coat Meghan Markle wore when announcing her engagement to Prince Harry. I would like to get one myself - then I would wear it everyday and be known as 'The Girl in the White Coat.' Where did you get yours? Anyway, I digress.

The reason I am writing to you is because I want to say thank you.

After experiencing a difficult time I found myself feeling a bit rubbish (not even shopping could make me feel better...I KNOW!) and despite having a bigger To Be Read pile than your ever-growing VISA bill I decided that I would re-visit my old friend Becky Bloomwood and rediscover my love for the Shopaholic series of books. So that's exactly what I did.

Picking up The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic was like catching up with my best friend after a two year gossip drought (in other words, fun, exciting and extremely satisfying) and in a way this is exactly what it WAS. I just know that we'd be best friends in real life and bond over our love of Whistles and designer handbags.

Re-reading The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic reminded me exactly why I love you so much. The main reason (apart from your fabulous sense of style, natch...) is because I see so much of myself in you. I get carried away with myself, I have big ideas, I do silly things. I sometimes even hide bank statements, although I've never gone so far as to hide one in someone else's skip under a pile of rubble, but thanks for the tip...
And that time you put that you could speak fluent Finnish on your CV because it looked good and then ended up being offered a job interview with the Bank of Helsinki...I completely understand why you did it.
I also have attempted to 1) Win the Lottery 2) 'Cut Back' - expensive self help book, posh pen and sparkly notebook are a must and 3) Make More Money - I tried eBay - clue as to how this went: I ended up spending more than I made,
And don't even get me started on the time you got a Saturday job at Ally Ross and were trying to stop a customer buying that pair of jeans that you had your eye on that were in the sale...I would do exactly the same. I am also hopeless at cooking curry...

You have reassured me that we're all human, no one is perfect, but with hard work and determination anything can be achieved.
You have helped me to escape the real world when I needed it most and you have also re-ignited my love of reading when it was well and truly starting to wain. Knowing that I could lose myself in your world for an hour each day made all the difference and reminded me why you are my favourite-book-character-of-all-time-in-the-whole-history-of-book-characters-ever.

You are my inspiration; you never give up, you don't take any crap and when someone doubts you, you get out there and show them the error of their ways. BIG STYLE.
"I swallow hard, feeling sick with humiliation. For the first time, I’m realising how Luke Brandon sees me. How they all see me. I’m just the comedy turn, aren’t I? I’m the scatty girl who gets things wrong and makes people laugh. The girl who didn’t know SBG and Rutland Bank had merged. The girl no one would ever think of taking seriously."
 You're down-to-earth, warm, funny, relateable and you can rock a Denny and George scarf like no other.

Thank you for making me smile and reminding me it's ok to mess up from time to time. It's your determination to succeed and how you recover from it that matters.

Love Holly x

She has a great flat, a fabulous wardrobe full of the season's must-haves, and a job telling other people how to manage their money. She spends her leisure time ... shopping.

Retail therapy is the answer to all her problems. She knows she should stop, but she can't. She tries Cutting Back, she tries Making More Money. But neither seems to work. The letters from the bank are getting harder to ignore. Can Becky ever escape from this dreamworld, find true love, and regain the use of her credit card?

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic... the perfect pick-me-up for when it's all hanging in the (bank) balance.

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