Reviews

Another Magic School novel: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 2/5

Goodreads Summary:

“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

I picked this book up because of the cover. I was interested in the possibility of there being a dragon-type character. Well, there really wasn’t, but this book was still pretty good. I’m going to be honest and say that at first I did not enjoy this book. I’m not a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. I think most of her books are boring and this just seemed like a stereotypical magic school book. BUT, if you can make it to the middle of the book and especially the end then you find a little bit more substance to this book.

Let start with the characters. There’s Simon, the chosen one who can’t actually control his own powers. He’s impulsive and fiery and that normally gets him in trouble. Simon also has the typical orphan chosen one status. Every summer he goes from foster home to foster home without true family. I really enjoyed this part of Simon’s character. Now because I like orphan stories, but because it explains a little bit around why he may be so fiery and impulsive. Then, you have Baz who is about the exact opposite. The relationship between them was okay. I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy simply because it seems pretty quick to me after years of antagonism, but most say love and hate are closer than we usually think. Rowell does do a great job though of filling you in on the characters history together. You get to read a lot about their feuds and pranks. What really kept me reading though was the villain. The villain that has the face of Simon as a child. Just think about what that could mean for a second. There’s not a ton about the villain, but how he’s connected into the story really moved me into thinking about the cost of power and what some people may be willing to pay for it.

The world building was almost nonexistent. There was a magic world, but it is basically like ours and so didn’t really contain anything new or unexpected from our own world.

The diversity was mainly with Baz and Simon would were lgbtq+. Others most characters are white and pretty uneventful.

Overall, I rated this book so high because of the final half of the book. It does have some interesting plot elements that I didn’t expect and there are some twists that I didn’t expect right away. I would say if you really enjoy magic school novels than you could really enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a new and exciting spin on the magic college thing or an epic romance this probably is not the book for you.

Reviews

A Heartfelt and Deep Romance- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? “

Review

This book has had a lot of media hype and so I was interested. I read the summary and was intrigued, but book readers if you like romance books or (like me) you aren’t a huge fan of romance, this book is amazing! I generally don’t enjoy romance, because having a plot focused on romance is generally uncompelling to me. This book had so many elements that I enjoyed though. One, it was a relationship that was actually built on deep feelings. Alex and Henry don’t get along at first. The reason seems a bit petty, but we’ve all been there I suppose. But, after they take that first step of friendship it just slowly builds into more. They talk about their families, their worries, and eventually secrets with each other. It’s just beautiful and is so much of what I’ve been trying to find in any book that has a bit of romance in it at all. It made me feel so warm inside. This is the healthy relationship I want to see in novels.

               I want to talk more about these characters. Alex is a biracial man who is the son of the president of the USA. It’s smart, fun, and a bit clueless about his feelings. We get him at his best and sometimes not his best. He’s so full of hope and has big dreams of change. I wish he was real. He’s also bisexual though he doesn’t quite realize that at first. However, this is not a gay for you story. Those always make me a bit squinty eyed and uncomfortable. No, Alex has had an attraction for both genders for a long time, but it just didn’t really sink in. I love this aspect of him. As someone who is also bisexual if nice to read about the confusion and sort of eureka moment in someone who’s in their 20s. It felt more relatable to me since that’s when it also sort of clicked for me.  Then, we have Henry. Henry is soft, anxious, and deep. We don’t even get Henry’s POV, this book is purely from Alex, but we still learn so much about him. Henry has had the weight of being in the royal family really take its toll on him. He shares the hardship with anyone who is told to lie about who they are or pretend to be something they’re not. There’s also a group of family members and friends throughout the book that are just really great. Most everyone if so supportive of these two that it makes me want to cry. Also, we don’t get a ton about him, but just wait until you read about Pez.

               There’s not much world building in this novel since it’s contemporary; however, there was enough with creating a completely new first family and monarchy that I thought it deserved at least a bit of recognition. What I love most about this book and its mirror world of ours is that it’s so hopeful. The current state of the USA has really been hurtful and frustrating and honestly so embarrassing. This book makes me feel hopeful though. That even though there might be those out there who want to be so conservative and traditional that if we pull together out of love and respect for each other we could really build a country that is headed in a direction I would like to see. It gave me a bit more faith in us again for better or worse.

The diversity is nice in this book. Alex is a bisexual who is also biracial. Henry is very gay. We also have some supporting characters who are gay and bisexual as well. Henry also has some briefly mentioned anxiety which is some minor mental health rep.

Overall, this book lived up to the hype. I am in love with it and hope to see more from this author soon. The characters are well-rounded and lovable. The plot is great, a read through it so quickly and easily. It gave me so much hope and all the warm fuzzies. If you have even a little interest in romance (for more than the sex) then I think you will so easily fall in love with this novel. Couldn’t recommend it enough!


Have you read this book? What do you think? Do you love it, hate it, somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts/feelings.

Reviews

A Tough Read- The Love and Lies of Rukshana Ali

Overall enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?”

Review

I started this book think while there might be a little teenage hardship in this book it would be a fairly light read. I was WRONG!!!! Normally I don’t give book warnings since everyone has their own personal triggers and opinions, but this one got unexpectedly dark. There were definitely times were I almost put this book down. Maybe it was because it hit a bit too close to home for me, but there’s some serious homophobia in this book. If you’re sensitive to that I would encourage you to read with caution. This book starts out light with normal teenage concerns and then hits on some serious topics.

The characters.  Rukshana herself was an interesting character and I love that we were introduced to some of her Bangladesh culture and how that affects her as someone who is a first-generation teenager living in the US. I think it also was very open and honest about the different cultural pressures some girls with more traditional family may experience. There are of course other characters, but they seemed pretty shallow to me. I would say Rukshana’s family gets a little depth especially her grandmother, but I was left wanting more especially about Rukshana’s girlfriend.

World building was minor in that it takes places in the modern world, but there’s so much cultural bits in this book that I feel I was given a look into another experience of what life could be had I been born into a different family. I very much enjoyed it.

Diversity. This book was focused on Rukshana, a Desi lesbian. It also includes other LGBTQ+ characters as well as her family which is as mentioned originally from Bangladesh. Definitely a diverse read!

Overall, I AM GOING TO GIVE SPOILERS! PLEASE SKIP IF WANT TO AVOID!!!!!

I loved the cultural elements of this book and I was really excited to read it, but how the LGBTQ+ elements were handled in this book made it almost impossible for me to enjoy. First, there is really no meaningful relationship between Rukshana and Ariana in my opinion. They’re together in the book, but we never learn how they met or really why Rukshana even loves Ariana so much. They’re either making out, arguing, or apologizing. It was flat for me and really disappointing. Once the mother catches the two girls together Rukshana is tricked into going to Bangladesh with her parents where they hire someone who basically tells the family that Rukshana is controlled by a jinn and they need to do and exorcism. Now, while this was horrifying to read I understand that there can be some importance to having this experience in the novel. I’m not sure if this is being practiced in any part of Bangladesh or anywhere today, but if so then I would want people to know about it and understand what experience men and women from these areas may be having. What I didn’t appreciate was that once Rukshana’s parents realize they were wrong the follow through of regaining trust, apologizing, etc. seemed too brief and easy to me. I wanted more conversation and depth, but it sped all too quickly for me. I also had mixed feelings about the death of Sohail, a closested gay man that Rukshana’s parents want her to marry. I think the author was maybe trying to open our eyes to the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth in Bangladesh and if this character had been more of a focal point with more backstory maybe it would have felt more powerful to me, but I felt like Sohail was only in the books so that his death could make Rukshana’s parents realize how awful it would be if their daughter was murdered. This then makes them realize that they’d rather accept her rather than see her killed. He was a plot point and I have a hard time with that. So, maybe I’m still too raw and emotional about this book to see it objectively. If you see it from a different angle I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts and maybe discussing it. I want to like this book and I do love the cultural aspects, but the rest is hard to swallow.

SPOILERS OVER

What do you think about the book? Did you enjoy it? Is it on your TBR? I’d love to hear what you think!

Reviews

Epic Read: In This Land by Matthew Haldeman-Time

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

In This Land Summary (taken from the website):

Bade, prince of the tiny, overlooked country of Nosupolis, doesn’t have a plan for his life. His ambitious older brother Tiko, heir to the throne, seems to have everything under control without Bade or his twin brother’s help. Bade hopes to marry well and find some way to be a credit to the crown, but never in his wildest dreams does he expect an invitation to court the Pharaoh of Orina Anoris, the divine ruler of the most powerful country in the world. Bade always thought that Tiko would be the one to change their homeland for the better, but now he has a chance to wed the pharaoh, ally their two nations through marriage, and do more for Nosupolis than anyone in centuries. Suddenly whisked away by Prince Orinakin, royal diplomat and handsome purple-haired child of the gods, Bade finds himself in an exotic land that dazzles his senses and opens his eyes like never before. The people of Orina Anoris are uninhibited, expressive, flirtatious, and don’t seem to know the meaning of sexual repression. The handsome Seven Siblings are no exception. Boyfriends, lovers, harems–it boggles Bade’s mind to witness a freedom he never even imagined. But the endless parade of beautiful men pales in comparison to the Pharaoh Anosukinom. Tall, gorgeous, and physically flawless, Anosukinom’s beauty is literally perfection. And if that weren’t enough, the rumors are true: he really is both god and man. Crackling with power, intimidating yet friendly, he is as unconventional as he is traditionally Anorian. Daunted in the face of his divinity, Bade isn’t sure if he can win the heart of a deity, but at the very least he hopes to bring attention to the plight of his ignored, forgotten country. After being exposed to a vibrant, colorful new world, nights of sizzling passion, and the possibilities of true love, how can Bade face the thought of being rejected and returning home? Will he be able to win the pharaoh’s heart and finally help his people? Experience the rich, luxurious fantasy world of Orina Anoris only in Matthew Haldeman-Time’s series, “In This Land,” and watch as eight handsome brothers try to balance ruling a nation with finding true happiness. Find out what happens to Bade, Anosukinom, and the sexiest siblings in the world.

The Review

I titled this an epic read, because this is a massive ongoing web serial that is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Now, please don’t let the fact that this stories isn’t complete stop you. This story has been going on for years and its updated EVERY SINGLE Friday/Saturday depending on your time zone. Also, if you haven’t read it before then even if you binge read it’ll probably take you at least 3-4 days (probably more honestly) to be all caught up on this story. There are hundreds of chapters. It does cost $5/per month to read, but that is pocket change compared to what I feel like this story is worth. This story makes me want to be a better person. Why you might ask? Let me tell you,

Love, positivity, and acceptance are the ongoing themes of this whole series. It’s such a long series that it’s hard for me to really explain all that goes on within the story without giving away some serious spoilers and everyone hates spoilers. But, let me tell you what I can. This series is full of lgbtq+ characters and it’s not even seen as a big deal, it’s just accepted as love is love. It smashes some gender norms. There are guys in dress, there are women in men’s clothing and it’s seen as a generally acceptable way to dress. There are people of color though I will say most of the main characters are what I would describe as white. Its sex positive which means that sex is seen as a normal and healthy part of a person’s life without the slut shaming going around. I could continue gushing about it, but those are the big hitters for me. It doesn’t hit every type of diversity in the world, but the message is very clear in this story.

On that note though while I love this series I would not say that it could be categorized as fantasy or paranormal more like perhaps speculative fiction and it would obviously fall in the romance section. This is not like a George R. R. Martin book where there is lots of murder and death and political intrigue. While there are discussions about politics and the negative things that are happening in the countries outside of Orina Anoris it’s not the main focal point. This is a fairly light read in that regard, but I do believe that this book gives you things to think about and consider. There is tension and struggle within this story it’s just more personal than political.  You’re guarantee to fall in love with at least one of the brothers and each one is getting or already has their own story with them as the main focus.

This series also has well thought out and detailed world building.  As I’ve mentioned in posts before I’m a sucker for excellent world building. This series has a multitude of countries in it and they all have histories to them, different cultures, and religions. Some countries are more explored than others, but the author has spent some serious time creating unique places for us to enjoy.

With that all being said I hope you’ll check it out. You can read it here. Also, if you are completely against monthly subscriptions Matthew Haldeman-Time has published some of his series into printed books. You can buy the first one here. A word of warning though, there is a copious amount of the online story that hasn’t been published into print. The author doesn’t seem to plan on releasing printed versions in the near future either so if you want the full story then you’d need to subscribe.

Reviews

Stunning- How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary: In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Review

I chose this book mainly based on the summary, but also because I’ve heard such great things about N.K. Jemisin’s writing, but was having a hard time committing fully to reading one of her full length novels. I’m generally not a fan of short stories, but Jemisin really impressed me. She has an amazing ability to pull you straight into a world in a very short amount of written words. She definitely introduced a lot of new ideas in fantasy and syfy that I hadn’t considered or thought about before, but really enjoyed. There was a large mix of stories and topics that were covered in this anthology. Most I really enjoyed though there were a few in the mix that I didn’t care for.

Characterization: I can’t go into detail about all the characters because there are so many for them, but even though most of these stories are no more than 10-ish pages I still felt drawn into all the characters lives that were exposed to me. These stories contained so much detail and at times emotions that it is hard not to root for most of the characters.

World building: Jemisin just throws you into her worlds with really no build up. When most authors do this it leaves me confused and left to muddle through it until everything is slowly revealed which I personally find frustrating. But, not here! Jemisin has talent to not only throw you into multiple different worlds through her stories, but also the skill to have it all make sense with little to no explanation. A mastery of the craft.

Diversity: This book focused mostly on characters of color with a variety of thoughts and sexualities. I would say we definitely had a lot of different enjoyable viewpoints.

Overall: I would say its definitely worth the read even if, like me, you’re not a fan of short stories. These stories have left me satisfied with their completeness as well as uniqueness.


Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? Let me know what you think!

Reviews

Haunting- The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Overall enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary: When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Review

I have confused feelings about this. I feel like I misinterpreted the summary and so had an unrealistic expectation for this book. This book is all from August’s point of view and while Jack does have an elaborate hallucinatory fantasy world that is not really the focus nor in my opinion is the quest. The focus is August’s attachment to Jack and how Jack’s hallucinations not only deeply affect Jack, but also deeply effect August. This was hard book to read, not because it was poorly written, but because it is so well written. This is not a book that makes mental illness look pretty. This book that looks at what the reality of untreated mental illness and it’s hard. This is not a light, fluffy book this is a bit of a wake up call for everyone who doesn’t get it, myself included.

World building. I’m going to be honest. There is next to none. We get a brief description here and there of the surroundings. We’re in our modern world. Jack’s fantasy world is briefly explained. I think this was done very intentionally though. None of the stuff I just mentioned was meant to be the focus of this story and it could’ve taken away from the impact of the real message if too much time had been spent on it. It is a rare day that I will say that minimum world building was a good move for a book, but I think this was an intentional move and I think it was for the benefit of the book.

Characters. Oh, August and Jack. I hurt for them. There are some background characters, but they’re not much worth mentioning. I hurt for the characters, but they were personally hard for me to connect with. I think Jack is a bully and I say that because I think he was that way before his hallucinations really started and August isn’t described as super likable either. However, I think again it was intentional and actually a good part of the characterization. These two have been neglected and the only thing holding them both up are each other. That doesn’t always create a healthy relationship. I would say they both have very distinct voices that stay consistent throughout the entirety of the book.

Diversity. Both August and Jack are bisexual. Jack also has a hallucinatory disease for most of the book. I haven’t read many books with mental illness rep so it was nice to see even though it was hard to read.

Overall, I think the book was very well written. Ancrum does an amazing job. It was so hard to read though and while that was the point of the book I can’t say it was one of my favorites. If you want a book with flawed, hurting characters that gives a realistic view on what serious mental illness looks like I think you could really enjoy this book. If your looking for something more focused on fantasy or escapism this is not something I would recommend.

Reviews

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads summary:

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good. 

Review:

So, I’ve been excited about this book for awhile. Magic as a virus rather than a cool mystical force? I was sold. I’ve had the book for a week or two before finishing up my previous book in order to get started on this book. This book didn’t disappoint and I can’t wait for the sequel! This is definitely a relevant book for the current culture of the USA.

The characters. What I think I love most about Lee’s characters is they all have backstories. We might not have fully gotten all of them in this book, but we’ve gotten hints of them. These characters have had it rough maybe not in all the same ways, but they all have reasons for being the way that they are. Let’s start with Noam. I adore Noam. He reminds me of a student I use to have. He’s young and he’s got big ideas and he’s willing to put himself on the line to accomplish what he sees as needing to be done. A+ character. Then we have Dara. We don’t necessarily get a ton of information about him until the end, but I still like him. He’s been in this whole mess of the plot since he was young and he’s got some serious stuff going on. Then, there’s Lehrer. Wow, this dude. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave it at that. If you want characters with sad backstories then you’re going to enjoy this. The one thing I was a little bit disappointed about was Noam and Dara. I wanted more build-up and interaction between them where they weren’t at each other’s throats. The ending with them was amazing, but I’m just not quite sure how they got to that level with each other.

Worldbuilding. This is a dystopian futuristic world with hints of fantasy. I initial started reading this book with the assumption that it was more of a fantasy novel, but it’s definitely more speculative fiction. There’s lots of elements that tie into what elements are currently happening in our own world which I personally enjoyed; especially, in regards to immigrants legal or otherwise. It’s hard to describe without going into too much detail, but Lee took the time to craft an interesting, dark history for her world that really spoke to me.

Diversity. It’s everywhere and I love it! Lee via twitter says Dara is Persian. Noam is a bi man whose half Jewish, half Colombian. There are other characters with other elements of diversity throughout the novel that you’ll find out about as you read, but this is probably the book with the best inter-sectional diversity that I’ve read so far. Major props.

If interested you can buy The Fever King by Victoria Lee here.


Have you read this book? Does it sound interesting? What do you think? Is it on your TBR?