Book Review: Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis:carry-on-cover

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.


I receieved a free e-edition of this novel courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did NOT expect to love this as much as I did.

It was a perfect mixture of magic (and boy, was there a lot of magic, there were spells for anything and everything, some of which seemingly a lot more useful than others – there were definitely a few I wouldn’t mind having at my own disposal), humour, snark and Harry Potter vibes (which were admittedly fanfic level at the start of the novel, but it worked in favour of this particular novel)- oh, and THE OTP. I shipped the ship even before it sailed. So, so, so much. It is definitely now one of my favourites to ever set sail.

However, the beginning was a bit slow, and it was largely an info dump which made me enjoy the story a bit less than I would have. Oh… and Agatha… yeah – she posed a few problems as well, I outright despised her and groaned internally whenever she appeared throughout the story…

The book was narrated by so many characters, but somehow I managed to deal with that for the entirety of its length – and it was a lengthy length but after the beginning third or quarter or so whilst we were exposed to Simon’s relationships with everyone in the book, and the entire backstory, the pace picked up to a bearable speed and before long I was so absorbed in the story I didn’t really register the length of what I was reading at all!

The characters in this book… were goshdarn brilliant! Apart from the aforementioned Agatha. I honestly loved everyone else – and their interactions. I definitely thought friendship was a key theme of this book and played a huge part throughout. I really liked Penelope’s characters, she was like the Hermione of the group – but personally, better? I don’t know how that is possible, but I do know that I preferred her that way.

I loved the fact that the romance didn’t overpower the entire plot, it was also a very tasteful mix of teenage angst and tangible love. The balance was struck between the love and hate of Baz and Simon. Baz was also such an interesting character by himself, definitely complimenting Simon’s slightly more mopey and dependent side which really did balance out the story a lot more.

Rowell has a writing style that is incredibly hard to dislike, it is so easy to read and engages with you. More often than not I laughed throughout -there were so many deviations from the norm of fantasy novels, and from Harry Potter on which the book was based. It was truly an original take on fanfics.

I was sceptical of this book at first, but I am so glad that I have – and I can definitely say that I will be returning to it in the future.

My Rating: Solidest of 4/5 Stars

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.”

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ARC Review: Frostblood – Elly Blake

Synopsis:frostblood-cover

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.


I received a free proof copy of this book courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review.

If I’m to be honest, got slightly lost at the beginning of this book, it launches straight into some action and changes setting so much that it was quite hard to get a grip on things, but luckily that slight confusion only lasted for about 2 chapters and during, I wasn’t put off reading which is really commendable on Blake’s part. And I was definitely hooked after I managed to grasp what was going on fully and the story slowed down slightly.

Albeit in saying that, the story progressed at a comfortable pace for the majority of the novel. There was no dwindling upon things for unnecessary periods of time as per YA Fantasy tradition. There was always something happening, which was really pleasing to read.

I loved the characters, Ruby was definitely a great personification of fire – she could be brash and rather impulsive when it came to some decision making, and definitely argumentative. Which brought an entirely new dimension to the romance within the story.

Arcus and Ruby were a perfect forbidden couple, against all beliefs of the world around them (albeit very much predictably to me) they managed to get past their differences (and Arcus’ icy composure) and their arguments to form one of the most fun romances to watch unfold that I have read recently. There was just so much flirtatious (and otherwise) banter, and some of their later encounters really made my heart ache – but I will leave you to find out why. I can’t wait to see their relationship develop further, and can only hope that Blake won’t decide to throw in a love triangle in book two… Because this book was gloriously free of my biggest reading pet peeves, and I really hope that it continues.

And okay, maybe the plot itself was quite similar to many other fantasy novels around currently, but I think that Blake’s execution of the genre was particularly effective. Her writing carried the story and its tropes and really engaged me, which cannot be said for a lot of other titles, so surely that cannot be a totally bad thing?

I also quite liked Gladiator feel the plot adopted towards the end of the book, some scenes were brutal enough to be difficult to read, which was definitely a fresh idea in the YA Fantasy genre. Which personally, worked.

The world building was definitely a huge plus too, the world was wonderfully fleshed out and each setting was different – there was no inadvertent merging of settings based on their blandness. Each of the places explored in the novel was given at least a little backstory and of course, plenty of myths and legends surrounding some of the locations.

Overall,  I can quite safely say that I  enjoyed this book quite a lot and will definitely be reading book two as soon as it comes out. I’d say it’s a great read if you enjoy the familiarity of fantasy novels with some new ideas thrown into the mix.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

ARC Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Synopsis: caraval cover.jpg

WELCOME TO CARAVAL, WHERE NOTHING IS QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS.
Scarlett and Tella have never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of a Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is an elaborate performance. But she quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak.

And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.


I received a free proof copy of this book courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review. 

THIS BOOK WAS JUST

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I mean, I knew I was holding something special in my hands even based on the red sprayed edges that the UK copy of the proof has – but I did not expect just how good the story within the pretty pages would be.

The tagline “Remember it’s only a game” plays such a huge part whilst reading – the strong minded and resilient protagonist turns out to be wonderfully unreliable as she’s enveloped in the mystical game of Caraval. At points,  I was really struggling to see what was truth and what was a concept created by Master Legend in order to engross his guests despite having that constant reminder branded on the covers of the book.

The reading experience was almost magical.

I absolutely loved the relationships in this story – both romantic and not. Sisterhood played such a vital role and truly drove the plot of the novel. Despite everything they had been through (please mind a mild trigger warning for parent-child abuse for those easily affected by such matters – albeit it is never very graphic just present within the novel), their bond was unmistakably strong and definitely only grew through the novel as Scarlett strived to find Tella.

When it comes to romance, this was a great example of how a fantasy romance should be written; none of this insta-love, love triangle malarkey that we so often see in YA Fiction. Just subtle, slow burn romance which added to the story without completely overpowering all the other concepts within it.

Also, may we just talk about the plot twists? Can we? Because there were SO MANY. All of which I really could not even begin to predict. Once I thought I could predict something…. it turned out I was grossly mistaken. This book was one huge enigma to me, and I absolutely loved that!

The plot itself was so wonderfully dark and disturbing at points, and also as previously mentioned – psychologically affecting. The settings of this novel were so well described I could picture everything with great clarity. I honestly commend  Garber for this, and can definitely say that she truly has a gift for creating a sense of mystery using her plot and setting, and building it right up until the end. And unlike some authors’ attempts, the ending actually delivered. Questions were answered, but enough were left to make me anticipate the next book with great excitement.

I will not say much more about this book, for I think that the effect of it is spoiled the more you know about it – it’s one of those books where the less you know the better the reading experience will be. One that leaves you wishing that there was a way to forget things about the books you had read just to be able to relive them anew.

I can just say that you should definitely read this masterpiece and get lost in the world of Caraval, and I can only hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

My Rating: 4.9 if not 5/5 Stars

Lucian Divine Tour + Review – Renée Carlino

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luciandivine_03-1-1-1“My guardian angel is a drunk.”

Evelyn Casey’s life is at a standstill. She’s in her mid-twenties, struggling with the dating scene inSan Francisco. Nothing seems to be working out, and she’s starting to think that she’ll live out herdays in her crummy apartment with her overbearing roommate, Brooklyn. It’s absurd, but sometimesEvey longs for a guardian angel to show up and save the day. And then he does. Seriously. His name is Lucian and he’s a guardian angel, been on the job fortwo thousand years. His sudden presence in her life is both good—he’s brilliant, witty, andwarm—and bad—he’s brilliant, witty, warm, and hot as ****. But as perfect as Lucian seems, he’s gotproblems of his own. He’s taken up drinking and he’s brazenly inserted himself into Evey’s life, goingagainst the greatest cosmic law ever created.

For Evey, the rules are simple: You are not allowed to hook up with your guardian angel. Butsometimes fulfilling your destiny requires a leap of faith, a confrontation with God.

Yes, God as in God.


I  received an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of InkSlingerPR (and Danielle Sanchez) in exchange for an honest review. 

This book had me at “My guardian angel is a drunk.” I just found the ideology of the entire scenario incredibly amusing, but this intrigue developed into a keen interest into what was going to happen at some point during the book.  The book was somewhat as intoxicating as the drinks that Lucian was so fond of.

Now, I know some readers will have an issue with the way that angels and the whole God/Jesus business is dealt with in this book, but being an atheist, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh take – and I’m pretty sure anyone with an open heart and mind will be able to do the same, regardless of their religion. After all, it is a work of fiction and should therefore be regarded as such.

This was actually my first encounter with Renée’s work, and boy am I glad I signed up for this tour. I will definitely be looking to explore more of her work in the future.

It was a great love story, heartbreaking at points- yes. But also full of shameless hope which I really enjoyed, I liked the optimism and resilience exhibited by all of the characters within the novel.

But in saying that, it came with a slightly decelerated insta-love…. which I guess was explained by the whole guardian angel shabang. I mean – I guess it’s understandable how quickly everything proceeded due to how long Lucian knew Evey, the whole connection felt by a soul and their guardian angel (when they had the chance to meet which was a big no no). But hey, I’m still me, and it bothered me – although admittedly not as much as it would usually, so huge kudos to Renée for achieving the impossible.

I really enjoyed the alternating POVs, I thought that it added a lot of insight into the story – padding it out a little and making it all seem a little more real. It was a good execution of split POV, probably the best I have read in a while when it comes New Adult romance.

However, the pacing felt a bit off. Some bits were mentioned in passing and were gone so quickly my head was spinning which did leave me slightly annoyed at points. And while the ending was touching and I was glad at what happened… I could sort of predict it from around the 50% mark for some reason. I don’t think I should have been able to, but for some reason I did and that’s what made me lower my rating for this book

Albeit, overall – the book was definitely a memorable one, and in a good way at that!

My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars


iTunes | KOBO | AMAZONPRINT


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Renee-121Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women’s novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in nationalpublications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. Shelives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not atthe beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going toconcerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at  www.reneecarlino.com

ARC Review: Heartless – Marissa Meyer

heartless-coverSynopsis:

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


I received an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I have not read such an intriguing, well-written retelling in too long. This novel has turned out to be  another of Meyers masterpieces.

The writing style…..  The writing style was truly sublime. Easy on the brain,  no exuberant, over-the-top metaphors yet it was wonderful in its content. I absolutely loved the references to classic works of well known authors which Meyer scattered throughout this book.

The characters, oh my gosh, the characters. I loved Catherine, her story and development gripped me and I truly felt for her throughout. The situation she was put in by her parents was awful… I cannot imagine what I would have done in her shoes, although if I’m honest I probably would have been slightly more annoyed with the King and his goofy, over the top advances, I felt nauseous with how stupid they  really were sometimes and feel that I probably would have had to fight the urge to scream at him and/or tell him to leave.

However, the other supporting characters made up  for his stupidity. Haigha and Hatta  as well as Jest each had their own role in the story, and weren’t they brilliant? The answer to that question would be yes. I fell in love with them, and honestly by the end  I was so invested in their story that I spent the last few chapters heartbroken and grossly sobbing (which is of course the  most attractive combination).

i-dont-know-what-to-do-my-whole-brain-is-crying

The chemistry between Jest and Catherine was palpable and honestly it was the best romance in a fantasy novel that I have had the chance to read in a long while. There was no insta-love, there was of course attraction – yes. But Cath wasn’t falling head-over-heels in love with Jest the moment that she lay her eyes on him. And that itself made the book incredibly special in my eyes.

The only ‘but’ I could possibly have towards this  book (apart
from the fact that it dared  to end) was he fact that the beginning dragged a bit more than  it possibly should. But I did eventually get lost  in the world which seemed to fix  this particular problem of mine.

I honestly feel that Meyers did such a beautiful job of describing  the Queen of Hearts’ journey, it definitely had plot twists  I hadn’t seen coming, it had  development, the world building was so vivid and wonderful. The ending was so abrupt and yet it worked perfectly, I could not imagine a better ending or execution of this story.

This book broke my heart and made me think. But above all, it reminded me of the beauty of certain fairytales and made me crave more of them, preferably written by Meyers herself.

My Rating: 4.75/5 Stars

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen – Roshani Chokshi

Synopsis:the-star-touched-queen-cover

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only se
venteen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.


I received an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

I find it really difficult to wrote reviews of the hyped books. Especially when I have nothing nice to say about them which has somehow turned out to be half of my looked-forward-to list this year. Luckily, this particular book was not the case.

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I know I usually moan about insta-love. I know…. but I somehow bought this one. And that’s a real rarity because I’m incredibly annoyed with most cases of it. I think it was mainly because it seemed rather appropriate given the cultural situation in which the protagonist was placed in and given the fact that destiny and fate played such a huge part of the novel, and because I thought it was going to happen at one point or another anyway; it didn’t irk me as much as it usually does.

I loved Maya’s voice, she was resilient and headstrong and just things that I love in a main character, especially in these sorts of novels where some of the female characters really lack in the characteristics department.

The story flowed almost magically. It definitely made my 2 hour flight pass by in no more than a blink and I think that itself deserves praise because I was surrounded by rowdy children.

The animal side kick yet again stole my heart . She was the ideal mix of sarcasm and sweetness, and was honestly probably my favourite character despite none of the characters being particularly unlikeable. I really loved her part in the story, and the fact that she was allowed to live unlike many other animal sidekicks I have had the chance to read about.

Chokshi’s style is something magnificent, full of metaphorical language it left me largely intrigued. The descriptions in this book were wonderful, and intricately crafted, and I loved the idea of mythology within the story – I thought it worked really well with the plot.

Whilst some people were annoyed by the unclarity which was caused by the writing, I can’t say I particularly minded, I think the fact that the reader is kept in the dark about quite a few things (especially when it comes to the world within which the book was set) was a good move on the author’s part.

Only fault I could find really was the fact that the “BIG AND BAD” was quite predictable. I was screaming at the protagonist not to go in her vicinity . But of course, that didn’t quite go to plan and the protagonist fell head first into trouble – but I guess that is custom of fantasy novels really, so it isn’t something that Chokshi can be blamed for.

If you want a story full of culture, deceit, love (or was it really?) and intrigue written in an almost magical way , then this book may just be for you.

My rating : 4/5 Stars

“A memory is a fine legacy to leave behind.”
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen

 

ARC Review: Stealing Snow – Danielle Page

Synopsis: stealing snow cover

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything…including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.


I received an eARC edition of this book courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Did I finish this book? Yes I did.

Did I enjoy it? No I didn’t, like at all.

I think a book about last winter’s snow melting would have been more exciting a read than this. Don’t get me wrong, the author did try, there were attempts at action which sort of gripped my attention for about 2 mins at a time…. but I probably could not recall much of it even if my entire existence depended on it.

I’m largely disappointed, tremendously so even. The concept of The Snow Queen retelling had soooooo much potential I was furious that it wasn’t better executed. The only thing I can actually say I appreciated was the concept of the powers and how magic was weaved into the story in a way that actually moved the story along somewhat, I was curious to find out what else the world beyond the tree had to hold.

Only to find out that the plot was literally going to meander back and forth between “oh, look, A MALE , let’s just fall in love with him, like – Right. Now” and a bunch of other clichés…

I mean, there was a love SQUARE. Yes, you read that right – not a normal couple, .not even a love triangle, a bloody love square, with each of its corners completed by insta-love itself. What a lovely combination this book was.

And the other part of the book seemed to be “oh, I have powers, let me not know how to use them correctly and/or forget to use them entirely….”. There was no world building, I didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters, nor can I say that I felt anything at all, not even a smidgen of positive emotions. AND ISN’T THAT SOMETHING TO LOOK FOR IN A BOOK… 

Because quite frankly  no, it isn’t.

Another thing that irked me beyond comfortable point of irkedness (because yes, that is a word now) was the fact that the writing seemed rather disjointed, maybe it was the fact that I had only read the ARC of the book, maybe this issue would be fixed in the future editions of the book, but in mine I just couldn’t get past that.

Also, why the frickety-frick-frack was there even a mental asylum involved, like what sort of significance did that have in the story apart from acting as a pretense for “world-building”, and it was only there for like the first 3 chapters of the book before our naive heroine decided it’d be a great idea to listen to and follow a random guy she just met (because not creepy at all… nope, best idea anyone’s ever had, that’s why there is a whole film franchise about the dangers of said situation….)

My Rating: 1/5 Stars (and only because I fought through this novel)