Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: CARRY ON

Wow, it's hard to believe that March is almost over! It really will be April before we know it. April holds some exciting prospects for me, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that everything will go well.

In the meantime, I'm going to be reviewing CARRY ON, a recent-ish book by Rainbow Rowell. And if you are thinking something along the lines of "wow, that took a while," you aren't wrong. It did take me EONS to get my hands on CARRY ON. You, dear reader, have probably read it, but for those of you who haven’t, I’m going to share my take on this book.

(source: Goodreads)

For those of you who don't know, the characters of CARRY ON are introduced in Rainbow Rowell's FANGIRL. I would definitely recommend that you read FANGIRL before reading CARRY ON.

Goodreads says:

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

My take:

Full disclosure: I almost gave up on this book.

CARRY ON has a slow start, and on page 148, I swore on the River Styx (proof that Rick has infiltrated my life on multiple levels) that if Baz didn’t show up in the next five pages, I was going to abandon the book.

Baz, of course, showed up on page 150.

Once Baz showed up, the book improved dramatically. However, I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with CARRY ON.

To be fair, it’s been forever since I read FANGIRL, so I didn’t remember very much about Simon and Baz from their appearance in Cath’s story.  Maybe rereading FANGIRL before starting CARRY ON would have made the first book (CARRY ON is split up into four “books” and an epilogue) less of a chore.

I liked how CARRY on is told from different perspectives. Baz’s parts were my favorite, and in my mind, they single-handedly saved CARRY ON. Baz is so witty and amazing, and I really wish CARRY ON had more of him. I thought that Simon’s chapters improved significantly when they revolved around Baz. Can you tell that Baz is my favorite character?

And if we are talking about favorite characters, I might as well tell you the identity of my least favorite character. Here it is: I simply couldn’t stand Agatha. Rowell tried to make it so the reader could understand her, but she was just so shallow. Even after the part that was supposed to redeem her, I was annoyed whenever she was mentioned or given a chapter. 

I really wanted to yell, “Sit or stand, but don’t wobble!” at CARRY ON. It tries to be both an adventurous Chosen-One and a romance story at the same time. Rowell tries to give the audience equal amount of both, but it ended up feeling like there were two major subplots (the love story and the prophecy) and no real direction. I wish she had just picked one of the two and focused on it instead of trying to give both an equal amount of sway.

I think this is book was really just okay. I’m glad I read it for the Baz chapters, but it didn’t blow me away. A solid 3 stars out of 5.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Monday, March 21, 2016

More Than Anything

I was reflecting on what books mean to me, and a thought came to the forefront of my mind:

"More than anything, books have taught me to live."

I don't know if I came up with this on my own or if it's something I heard somewhere and stored in the back of my brain for these sorts of situations. 


(On an unrelated side note, I really like making these little graphics. You might see some more popping up on my blog in weeks to come!)

(Oh, and you can see some of the ones I shared earlier this year HERE.)

And, if you'll give me a chance, I'll explain to you how books have taught me to live. 

Books have taught me strength

I suffer from a very painful medical condition, and when the agony cripples me to the point where I can't do anything but curl up and whimper, I feel helpless. I feel weak. 

But books have taught me that everyone struggles and everyone feels pain. It may not be in the same way I do, but it's something we share. And I find strength in knowing that everyone has a battle, and my medical condition is part of mine.

Furthermore, books have taught me that strength isn't how many times you fall down. The number that really counts is how many times you've gotten up.

Books have taught me the power of kindness

Kindness and compassion are often seen as weaknesses rather than strengths. I certainly thought of them that way for a long time. Growing up, I watched the kind suffer while the selfish benefitted. 

But books taught me the opposite of what I was seeing in my life. They taught me that it takes someone truly strong to be kind because the kind do suffer the most. That is a lesson I carry with me to this day.

Books have taught me that I can change the world

The world is an awfully large place that has no shortage of problems. And in the face of huge global issues like poverty, hunger, and a lack of education and sanitation (just to name a few), it can feel like these problems are far too large for anyone--let alone me--to conquer.

But there are an infinity of small things I can do. And maybe one small step doesn't seem to matter, but when you put all the small things together, they make a world of difference (pardon the pun).

And before I close, I'm going to tell you something that life taught me: sometimes the smallest acts of kindness mean the most.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES

As you may know, I’m a HUGE Sarah J. Maas fan. Her ability to create such vivid worlds characters is simply phenomenal. I was recently browsing the shelves of my bookcase and jotting down ideas for future reviews when A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES caught my eye. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t reviewed this book and set out to fix my grave error.

Sarah J. Maas’s covers are breathtakingly amazing, and this one is no different. Take a look:


(source: Goodreads)


Isn’t it gorgeous?

Goodreads says:

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beastwith faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

My review:

First of all, the book is great. Absolutely wonderful. That said, this book is definitely different than the THRONE OF GLASS books. The focus is more on the romantic relationship between Feyre and Tamlin. That isn’t to say there isn’t any adventure or action—in fact, you’ll find plenty of both—but the book is more of a romance novel than it is an epic story of adventure (which is how I usually describe the THRONE OF GLASS series).

The romance is on the grittier side, and I would probably recommend it to older YA readers.  I can see how someone who had never read any of Sarah J. Maas’s work might be a little turned off by some of it, but if you’ve read some of her work (or GRACELING) and loved it, than I would definitely recommend A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES.

I liked Feyre’s point of view. At the beginning of the book and when she’s put to the test (sorry, I’m trying to be vague!), I found that her voice sounded a little like Katniss’s. However, where Katniss was weak and a whiner, Feyre keeps moving and doesn’t let anything stop her. And I really liked that about her character.

I found that some of intricacies of the faerie realm weren’t explained as well as I wanted them to be, but other than some minor confusion regarding Feyre’s reaction in certain scenes, it didn’t really bug me.

Sarah J. Maas works her magic again! 4 stars out of 5!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE

Hello! How are you? I'm doing another YA review today!

Oh, and before we begin...

Remember how I said I was working on a FAQ page? February brought a number of challenges for me, and I've been focusing my energy on posting rather than working on extras. I don't know when I'll get back to it. HOWEVER, I will still try to post every week.

I also wanted to thank you for all of your wonderful emails regarding last week's post. Your support means the world to me. I really can't thank you enough.

Here's the cover of Jennifer Castle's YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE (otherwise known as the YA book I referenced above):



Before I share Goodreads's take, I want to clarify that the of Five films are released as documentaries and that there will be four movies: Five at Six, Five at Eleven, Five at Sixteen, and Five at Twenty-One. That was something that confused me a bit.

Goodreads tells us:

For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they're real life.

The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There'd be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star.

Now sixteen, Justine doesn't feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment.

But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what's on film. They've all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else's eyes.

Smart, fresh, and frequently funny, You Look Different in Real Life is a piercing novel about life in an age where the lines between what's personal and what's public aren't always clear.


My summary:

It's been five years since the last one, and Justine knows what that means: another film. But it doesn't look like Five at Sixteen is going to be very easy for anyone.

Lance and Leslie. the masterminds behind the films, are fighting against the clock. Their last film was a flop, and they're trying desperately to keep the studio on their side. 

But a lot happens in five years, and the rifts between Felix, Nate, Rory, Keira, and Justine feel huge. How will they be able to keep smiling for the cameras when the five of them can't get along?


That was awfully vague, but I don't want to give too much away! Please forgive me.

...and now...

My review*:

*A word that's used quite loosely around here

I was waiting to check out some books at the library, and the title grabbed me. I threw it into my stack without really looking at it. In fact, I didn't see the cover until I got home.

Upon reading the summary on the cover flap, I wasn't sure if it was worth my time. I got a total of nine books that day, and I really only have so much time. But I adored SOMETHING REAL, and I think that contributed quite a bit to my final decision to try YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE.

(If you haven't read SOMETHING REAL, you should. It's amazing. I keep hoping I'll get the chance to reread it and write a review.)

Jennifer Castle gets points for diverse characters. None of the members of the of Five cast feel the same. They all have obstacles and journey as well as a unique background. Castle explores Felix, Nate, Rory, Keira, and Justine's lives, and I enjoyed how YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE tells not just one story but five.

Justine has always been the funny favorite of the cast, and her internal turmoil around the fans' expectations is very well done. I know that I struggle a lot with the expectations others place on me (I can't imagine the type of pressure Justine feels), and it was good to read about the burden of expectations.

On the not-so-positive side, it felt like the author was withholding information in the name of suspense, but I found that the lack of information did two things: a) it made it hard for me to relate with Justine and b) it irritated me. Justine's actions and feelings began to make sense as I learned more about her past with the other four member of the of Five cast, but when I'm almost a quarter into the book and all I've gotten are vague clues as to our protagonist's past, I tend to get an urge to throw the book across the room.

(Don't worry; no books were harmed in the making of this review)

The ending was unsatisfying and a tad disappointing. I kept hoping something unexpected would happen, but the plot held no surprises for me. That's not to say it wasn't interesting; the plot is entertaining. Just don't expect to be shocked.

I think YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE is a 3.5, but I would recommend it to all you writers out there. There's a lot you can learn from this book!

This post ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, and I'm glad you got to the end. Thanks for reading!