Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

(Disclaimer: I am SO sorry I haven’t been very active in the past few weeks. School just started and I’ve been really stressed out and stuck in a bit of a reading slump. To make up for it, here’s a review of one of my all time favorite books!)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (Pub 6 October 2015)

Description:

A #1 New York Times-bestseller

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.

Review:

This book caught my eye after reading Rowell’s Fangirl, whichwas the inspiration for Carry On, the fanfic that the main character, Cath, writes throughout the story. I had also seen many positive reviews of it on social media.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It took me a while to actually start reading it, but when I did, I devoured it in one night.

Carry On has plenty of cheer and action. I ADORE the idea of using well-known phrases to create magic. The characters are allvery well-fleshed out and lovable whilst still being realistic.

I appreciate the greatly-needed queer representation in YA fiction (and I’m also now a shipper of SnowBaz.)

I have seen other reviews comparing this book(and possibly calling it a clone to) Harry Potter, which some factors are, but at the same time, the story is is different.

The pacing is a bit too slow while introducing the characters and then a bit too rushed, but it works out it the end.

Rating:

4.5/5 Hearts

❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend? All in all, Carry On is a magical story filled with surprises and lots of British references. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Harry Potter or fantasy YA.

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Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

I’d like to thank NetGalley, Miller, and. Sourcebooks Fire for providing me an eARC in exchange for a free review.

 

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (Pub 29 August 2017)

Description:

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

Review:

At the time I began this book, I had just finished the first book in the Throne of Glass series for the first time (I know, I know, don’t hate me). So i was super hyped for ANOTHER assassin book, ESPECIALLY one with a gender fluid protagonist. I do have mixed feelings for this book, though.

The book sort of just throws you straight into the audition with little to know background knowledge that makes the world building a tad bit awkward. The lore is fascinating, however, it’s a bit over complex and went over my head at times. The “science” behind the magic was never fully explained, either.

Sal, the main character, is great in the fact that they own their gender identity and don’t take ANYTHING from anyone about it. And at the same time, they still have a personality outside of that (even if it’s just being a little to pompous for their own good). It is interesting seeing Sal’s balance between cocky and cautious and how it progresses throughout the book.

I did like the individualizations of the other auditoneers and the Gems, especially Ruby. The love interest, on the other hand, was sort of just irritating to me. The insta-love was WAY too much for me to handle and all of Sal’s interactions with her felt staged and awkward.

The plot overall is really cool, despite its similarity to the Hunger Games and the Testing series. Something I noticed that is VERY different from the typical dystopias is that Sal actually likes their current queen (shocker, I know) and is whole-heartedly set on dying for her. Also, in a weird way, whether on purpose or accident, the deaths of the other auditioneers feel less real and tragic to me. Part of it may be due to Sal’s characterization and cold-hearted training to be an assassin, but I just feels a little off to me. I do ADORE the enemy of the shadows in the book; dangerous and intimidating yet with the right amount of mystery and magic.

In terms of story structure, I felt a little confused; the book felt as though it reached a “climax” on at least two separate occasions and it felt as though their was little to no introduction. There were some plot holes, as well (How come all the auditioneers are of young adult age? How come Sal can see the eyes and faces of the other auditioneers if they’re wearing masks? How are the Gems assassins if they’re infamous throughout the kingdom?) .

I feel like I said a lot of bad things about this book but I really DID enjoy reading it. It was a little rough around the edges, but that is to be expected for an authors first book EVER. I might try to pick up the sequel when it comes around and HOPEFULLY some of my questions will be answered.

 

Rating: 3.5/5 Hearts ❤️❤️❤️💔

 

Would I recommend? If you’re looking for a twist in the typical assassin story with some extra magic and murder.

YA Summer Contemporary 

It’s been a while since I’ve made a recommendation list. And even though summer is ALMOST over (it’s my last week 😂), I felt like it was finally time for another one.

When most people think of summer contemporary YA, they think of cute boys and cute bathing suits and ice cream cones and not a care in the world. I do love me some of that, however, I have to be in a certain mood. So for my list, I’ve picked some very summery reads that deal with more than just “finding yourself” and that attractive life guard.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

wtcb

This book was very much unlike other YA I’ve read in the past. It has a magical-realism quality that it really unique and tackles hard questions of the soul. It’s also one of the few YA books I’ve read with a male author and a male mc that I didn’t want to punch in the face.

 

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

mlnd

I went into this book thinking it’d be all fluff and cuteness (which I’m not saying it WASN’T) but it also went in depth about drug and alcohol abuse, as well as the importance of friendships and parent-child relationships.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe #1) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

aandddthesoftheu

If you haven’t read this book, WHAT are you doing! This book is MAGIC. It takes place over the course of many summers with a lot of desert drives. Most people would consider this the precedent for LGBTQ+ representation in YA, but it’s so much more than just that.

 

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

thetaf

This is probably my favorite contemporary book ever. It was what originally got me hooked on Sarah Dessen’s books in the first place! It has its cutesy moments and high school parties, but it also shows how death is less of an event and more of a season of life.

 

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

dg

If you’re looking for something a little darker, look no further than this murder mystery. Some of this book takes place in Aruba and has a really beach feel. The fast pace and plot twists really had me hooked.  A definite boredom buster for anyone who is ready to go back to school!

 

Kissing In America by Margo Rabb

kia

I saw a lot of hype about this book before it came out but I’ve discovered that not a lot of people have read it. And what summer recommendation list would be complete without a good road trip? And even better; the mc is a bookworm! I loved this books portrayal of romantic, platonic, and family love, too, as well as more dealing with grief.

Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

I'd like to thank Penguin Random House's First to Read, RHCP Digital, and Fowley-Doyle for a free eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found (Pub 1 June 2017)
By Moïra Fowley

Description:

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found . . .

Review:

Alright guys, I think I've found my soft spot: magical, lore-based realism. This book was EXACTLY what I was looking for. It was really beautiful, and had an intense and mysterious feel to it that kept it from getting boring, like many lyrical novels do.

This plot was REALLY well thought out. Like way more than most of the mysteries I've read. Fowley-Doyle masterfully including so many details and used mirroring so well it was mind blowing. I honestly would love to go back through and see how many things were connected. (I don't want to go too in-depth, though, because there might be some spoilers.). I also felt like the answers to the story were shown, rather than told, which is a difficult thing to do.

The author also dove head-first into lots of topics that YA tends to shy away from: alcoholism, sexuality, and racism. I'm pretty sure this is the first YA book I've ever read with an openly bisexual or deaf main character.

My biggest issue with this books was the insta love. I understand that some of the characters don't meet for a while and therefore, don't have a lot of time for a typical slowburn relationship, but there was just a LITTLE bit too much kissing and fun-times for me. And in reality the characters are a bit too "lost" to seem like real people, however, it doesn't damage the balance between character and plot.

The Spell Book of the Lost and Found was an enchanting and haunting read about the little magic in the every day. It was super immersive and overall, just beautiful.

Rating:
❤️❤️❤️❤️💔
4.5/5 hearts

Would I recommend?:
If you're looking for something that's a little creepy and a lot of enchanting with some stellar representation!

Review: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

I'd like to thank NetGalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for a free review. 

Bookisly Ever After (Pub 19 January 2016)

By Isabel Bandeira

Description:

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. 

But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing? 

Review:

Okay so you probably just read the blurb and are super excited for this book. It's a book about books! Is there anything better? That's how I went into this too. I was let down HORRIBLY. This was the first book I've read in a very, VERY long time that I've had to DNF (at about 45%).

I felt the bookworm/ fangirl stereotype was borderline offensive. The mc, Phoebe, models her entire life around a fictional character. She dresses like her, began archery because of her, eats like her, and even tries to talk like her. She consults her book in order to find out how to flirt. You heard me right. I think it physically hurt me reading about it. In essence, the writer waters down Phoebe to only her passions and nothing else. 

This book is sold as a YA book, however, I think even Middle Grade might be pushing it. Everything felt so forcedand fanfic- esque it was hard to keep reading. The dialogue felt too unnatural and like I was watching a Disney sitcom.  

Plotwise, almost nothing happens. NOTHING. I get it that high school is boring, but it's not THIS boring. I was originally thinking about putting it down after a few chapters, but I tried to give it a second chance. But NOPE. More nothing. 

And the romance? It began with a borderline creepy crush on an asshole and then just sort of mutated into a weird insta love with the only semi-likeable character in the whole story. And I get it, the mc is a high school girl, and all high school girls are "obsessed" with boys, however, it seems like that's the only thing mc's friends care about. All the other friends were cardboard cutouts, the token lesbian, the dramaqueen, the closeted genius, etc, etc. They also… weren't that good of friends most of the time? Like they treated Phoebe like crap or gave her really bad advice, and she just kept going oh, I'm so helpless, what would I be without my friends. 

I do give the author props for trying to write a story about a socially awkward bookworm navigating the halls of high school, but please, please do yourself a favor and avoid this ridiculous snooze fest.  

Rating:

1/5 stars

❤️

Would I recommend? 

Sadly, no, unless you just want to read it for the premise. 

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas 

I’d like to thank Kara Thomas, Delacorte Press, and First In Line for providing me with this ARC in exchange for a free review. 

Little Monsters (pub 25 July 2017)

By Kara Thomas 

Description: 

For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

Review:

Right off the bat, I’d like to say the reason I was intrigued by this book was that it gave off Dangerous Girls (by Abigail Haas) vibes. I don’t think I was wrong about that! 

I really enjoy these type of books, which sometimes YA authors are a bit scared to dive into for fear of going over the readers heads or getting too gruesome. I, however, LOVE reading about the flaws in human nature and the truth about who people can be when nobody is looking. The whole discussion about the dangers of manipulation in friendships and among teenage girls is really fascinating to me. And seriously, high schoolers can be VICIOUS.

My favorite part of the book was probably the changes in the friendship between Kacey, Bailey, and Jade. As someone who is a member of a three people best friend group, I understand the fear, jealously, and uncertainty that can spring up sometimes. I also understand the awkwardness that comes from the loss of one corner of the triangle. Thomas was AWESOME at showing that. She also kept the story from veering romance-centric, which is something many YA authors fail to do.

I was a tad worried that this book was going to drift into the supernatural and not really have a solution, but it didn’t let me down. The whole ghost story thing was a bit stereotypical, but still TERRIFYING at the same time.

The writing style kept me completely on edge and constantly intrigued. The pacing led me to finish the book in under 48 hours! 

 I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending was super surprising and looking back, the red herrings were SPECTACULAR and I fell for a lot of them. 

Overall, this was probably one of my favorite reads this year! I also have Thomas’s All The Rage sitting on my shelf waiting to be read and I’m hoping to get around to it soon.

Rating:

4.5/5 hearts 

❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend?

If you’re looking for a thrilling YA mystery, horror, or contemporary and you’re tired of the fluffy love stories or over complicated dystopian worlds

Review: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

I’d like to thank First in Line and Delacorte Press for providing with a ARC in exchange for a review.  

What to Say Next (pub 11 July 2017)

By Julie Buxbaum

Description: 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth? 

Review: 

This book made me feel so many different emotions. It was cute, sad, funny, and heart wrenching all at the same time. It gave me a lot of perspective and helped me realize how pointless and stupid high schoolers can be sometimes. 

I loved both Kit and David from the bottom of my heart. Both of them grew so much over the course of the book, and their relationship is by no means “perfect,” but it was super realistic. No insta love, no weird love triangles, no hate-love troupe.  

The secondary characters all have actual PERSONALITIES and EMOTIONS and it’s amazing. I loved seeing David go from depending on his sister to developing his independence because of her and kit figure out what to do with her mother through grief and betrayal. I also loved that although Kit pulls away from her friends, they still have a relationship and they don’t isolate her for befriending David.  

I learned a lot from this book. I’ve never really interacted all too much with anyone on the spectrum (as far as I’m aware) and I’m pretty clueless on the subject and I am as white girl as white girls come. However, as far as I’m aware, this book excels at representation for both poc and for non- neurotypical people.

Buxbaum’s writing style wasn’t super unique or anything, but some of her quotes were just really beautiful and struck a chord with me. I’ll definitely look in to more of her work in the future.

Rating: 

4.5/5 hearts 

❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend? 

For anyone interested in learning about the spectrum or a very unstereotypical YA fiction that isn’t ENTIRELY about the romance.