Review: Carry On (Rainbow Rowell)

carry_oBook Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is back with her third young adult book and this time she tried her hands in fantasy genre.

If you’re hoping for an intricate plot twist or complex political drama, you’re out of luck. This is, after all, a Rainbow Rowell book. And I do not mean that in a bad way. Rainbow’s power is her strength with words. Her writing is simple yet very addictive. In Carry On, she weaved words so beautifully, and use parentheses and italic to blow your mind and toy with your feelings.
I try to find another word besides “ALL THE FEELS” to summarize this book, but I couldn’t find any.
No problem. The summary in the back cover of the book summed it up perfectly:

It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story-but far, far more monsters.

Carry On is a romance book. It is also a book about discovering yourself, a book about friendship. With magickal boys and girls and ghosts and villains and supervillains. Watford School of Magicks is the setting of (most parts of) the story, and yes since you ask, the book will remind you about Harry Potter. Rowell herself has mentioned that the reference to Harry Potter is intentional. As for me, after the first few chapters, I was able to let go the HP comparison go. I love these characters as who they are and not who they were like in HP. I read this book way into the night because it’s so compulsive and I just cannot put it down.

The magic system

I’d like to talk about the magic system because I feel it’s one of the strength of Carry On. Instead of complicated magic summoning, or using of Latin words as spell, all the spells in Carry On are English catchphrases and idioms. I was in fits of laughter when one of the characters use, “Doe. A deer.” (guess what it does). And another one pulled jedi mind trick with “These droids aren’t the ones you’re looking for.” My only regret is the lack of “Carry on my wayward son” spell in this book (sorry! Supernatural poisons my brain).

The characters

Rainbow Rowell said that Baz is her favorite character she ever written. I have to agree with her. Baz is so hilarious with his sarcastic self-loathing alternating with this-world-is-not-worthy-of-me behavior. Simon Snow is also adorable with his don’t care don’t ask attitude. Penny is your genius quirky sidekick. She talked a lot and love Simon unconditionally. Agatha was Simon’s girlfriend, but she is also more than that. She represents the ugly side of magic world, how it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. In short, I fell in love with them.

Final Words

Was Carry On perfect? No, it’s not. There are plot holes and I feel that some parts of the story are glossed over, but Carry On is so sincere, they don’t bother me.
If Rainbow Rowell ever write another Simon Snow book, you bet I’m going to pick it up.

Final Score

4 out of 5 stars

A Gathering of Shadows: read the first two chapters

No idea how I missed this when it was announced, but the first two chapters of A Gathering of Shadows is now up on tor.com. The first two chapters were told from Lila’s perspective. I adore her so this excerpt is a major treat for me.

If you never heard of A Gathering of Shadows, it’s the second book in A Darker Shade of Magic series, by V.E. Schwab who also goes by the name Victoria Schwab for her young adults and children book.

Let me tell you a bit about ADSOM since I never actually reviewed it here.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a high fantasy book set in Londons. Yes, you read it correctly, there are more than 1 London in this book. There’s the prosperous Red London where magic is plentiful and brought to (mostly) good use, the White London where magic controls people that led to fights for magic, our very own Grey London where magic is no more, and the long-lost Black London where magic was once so powerful it destroyed the people and the city.

Our hero, Kell, is from Red London, and our heroine, Lila, came from Grey London. Kell is a Traveler, one of the few remaining people who can travel between these parallel worlds using blood magic. Lila, on the other hand, is a bold thief always looking for trouble. Long story short, Kell smuggles things and once, he smuggled something dangerous that made him a wanted person and set him on an adventure to fix his mistake while escaping for his life. He met Lila, although met is not the proper word, ‘robbed by’ is more appropriate. He saved her life, she saved his, then they embark on a dangerous journey to bring the item back where it belongs.

Okay, that is a long summary, I apologize.

I think Victoria could sum it up better than me.

A short list of things in ADSOM:

–Magic
–Cross-dressing thieves
–(Aspiring) pirates
–Londons (plural)
–Sadistic kings (and queens)
–A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness
–More magic (blood magic, elemental magic, bad magic, etc. etc.)
–Epic magicky fights scenes
–Angst!
–And coats with more than two sides.

via Victoria Schwab blog

So, yes, you should read it, and then you can sit here with me impatiently waiting for the second book.

REVIEW: Queen of Shadows

Book title: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)
Author: Sarah J Maas

Summary:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series contrinues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

That was the official synopsis of the book. Now, here is an accurate summary of this book from a goodreads review. Okay, let’s begin. *deep breath*

*SPOILERS WARNING FROM BOOK #1 – #3*

The good

The new characters. If it’s wrong to love Manon Blackbeak, then I don’t wanna be right. Her and Asterin’s relationship is part of the reasons why I kept on reading even when I sometimes want to stop. It’s rare for an author to successfully introduced new characters that could be accepted by the fans, but I think Sarah J Maas managed to do just that. Fans already liking Rowan from the previous book will love him even more in here. I don’t really care about him, but many do ship him with Aelin so that’s a success in my book. Manon, Aedion, and the fabulous Lysandra are other major new characters introduced in book #3 (and #4) and their story continued here.

The writing. The book in this series got thicker and thicker. Queen of Shadows is about 650 pages long, significantly longer than the first Throne of Glass that has around 400 pages. The number of pages is not the only thing that has improved. Her writing is also getting better and better. If you need convincing, go ahead and re-read a few chapters from the first book.

The not so good

The old characters. Why oh why Sarah? She made Chaol almost unrecognizable in this book. This was Captain Westfall, the one who loved Celaena so deeply in Crown of Midnight? That was how he’s going to welcome her back? Beloved Dorian is barely in the book thanks to the thing happened at the end of Heir of Fire, which is to be expected, but can be frustrating to fans.

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. This book made it seems that simply disliking Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the rightful Queen of Terrasen, is a crime. I get that she’s beautiful and fierce and cunning and interesting, but how is it that every males in the series want to be with her and all the females want to be her BFFs?

Final Words

I had such high hopes on this book, but left sort of disappointed. It was tad a bit too slow and the characters from the first book have changed so much and/or shoved aside. On a positive note, Sarah introduced new interesting characters and her writing is even better with each book. Four books down, two to go!

Final Score

3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Continue reading “REVIEW: Queen of Shadows”

Red Queen: I (tried to) love you

Please note that this is more of an unstructured rambling rather than a review about the book Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard.

Intro

I have finished this book 4 days ago, and spent the last 4 days trying to analyze what’s wrong with me. This book, since its birthday in February and even before, was one of the most hyped YA book in 2015. People love it, give it glowing reviews, recommend it to their friends, etc. Frankly, I’ve been putting off reading it because the first sentence in Amazon’s summary said:

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace.

Now, I have never read Graceling and decided to not read The Selection because I’m not interested with the premise. I was worried Red Queen will be something like reality TV shows or pageant contest or something. It wasn’t, not really. It turns out that should be the least of my worries because it might be more fun if this was actually a book about beauty pageant.

“Why do you read it then?” you said. Well, it’s simple really. I read a twitter exchange between the author of this book (Victoria Aveyard) and Victoria Schwab-whose book, A Darker Shade of Magic, I truly enjoy. In case you didn’t know, I get my book recommendations mainly from 3 sources: my sister, my favorite authors (via their blogs and twitters), and blogs. So, that settled it, I was going to read Red Queen.

Rambling

I almost DNF’d this book, but I’m glad I managed to finish it because the last 60 pages or so (almost) redeemed it.

The first 300 pages, however, felt like a strange mix of the popular dystopian and fantasy books you’ve read before. Divergent? check. The Hunger Games? also check. Throne of glass? yup. I know it’s really hard to come out with a new idea for YA fantasy book because there are so many out there, but this one really felt like a book you’ve read before.

The characters. The main character, Mare, is a strong heroine who just want to help her friend and family, but ended up tangled in a rebellion and love triangle(-ish). Sounds familiar? She came from a lower Red caste, but because a Silver prince named Cal sympathized with her, she got a job in the castle where she managed to somehow reveal her hidden power, or as they call it, ability. The king and queen decided to hide her identity as a Red because they’re afraid of potential rebellion, so she was introduced as a long lost Silver princess named Mareena betrothed to the younger prince, Maven.

The main characters tried so hard to make you love them. And I tried, tried, to like them, but they’re just too perfect. They are not bad, it’s pretty much the opposite. It’s almost like they came out of a template book for a kickass YA heroine and her love interest(s). The antagonists, on the other hand, are just pure evil, they were given no background why are they so evil, they just are. It’s kind of cartoonish. These are the bad people, those are the good ones. Even the characters who were intended to surprise you failed to do so because it was just so darn obvious.

The story. You’ve read this book before. The so-called twist is over hyped. You would more or less know what’s going to happen halfway through the book. Nonetheless, it was still fun to roll with it. Like I mentioned earlier, the last part of the book nearly saved it.

Final words. It’s not terrible. Red Queen is an okay book, albeit over hyped. The main weaknesses of this book are the characters and the way it felt like a combo from other popular books. The latter reason is not even a weakness, it is why I wasn’t crazy about it, but this may be the reason why many people actually love it.

Final score. 2.5 stars (out of 5 stars).

Most Anticipated October Releases

The month of October is upon us! Okay, it’s still 16 days to go, but I’m buzzing with excitement over the possibility of new releases (books) next month.

Here are some of my most anticipated books to be released in October 2015.

October 6

I’m kicking this off with a BIG release day. Not only that Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (the first book in the new Rick Riordan series) will be released on that day, it’s also the day when Ms. Rainbow Amazing-is-My-Middle-Name Rowell is going to drop her new book, Carry On. Two RRs (that four Rs) in one day, I think I might faint from over-excitement and exclamation points!!!

Let’s talk about them.
Rick Riordan has been one of the most consistent MG/YA author I ever read. His Percy Jackson is on my top 5 series of all time, and I also enjoy The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus. He is one of the few authors whose companion books I still buy (PJ & The Greek Heroes, PJ & The Greek Gods, etc).

Rainbow Rowell, man, I would run of adjective to describe this lady so I wouldn’t even start. Her writing is so SO GOOD. Now, Fangirl wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I still heart it so I’m more than willing to give Carry On, which was a Fangirl spinoff, a try. See, the other thing I love about Rainbow is that she’s a badass. She was famous for writing realistic YA, but then she went ahead and published not only an adult fiction, but one with magicked telephone in it.

Continue reading “Most Anticipated October Releases”

8 Reasons Why You Need to Read Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive

I was writing a review for The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, an epic fantasy series set in the world of Roshar. Three paragraphs in, I realized that I was just raving about how great it was, so I decided to make that list of awesomeness instead.

1. The characters.
Sanderson has a knack to create characters you would not only root for, but also love or hate passionately. And it’s not limited to the main characters. In fact, many people, including me, have secondary character as their favourite.

2. The number of pages.
If the earlier books in Game of Thrones series felt too short for you, or if you’re unfazed by the number of pages in the whole Lord of The Rings series, good news! Each book in this series (there are two books out so far) has over 1000 pages. ONE THOUSANDS. Even better news? There’ll be 10 books in the overall series, which means we could expect over 10.000 pages of awesomeness. *cries tears of joy*

But, if the number of pages seem scary to you, please do not let it stop you. You wouldn’t even realize that you’ve read that much, it’s THAT good.

3. The secret. The revelation.
Sanderson drops secret on you casually. Fall asleep on one paragraph and you might miss it until you encounter it again 500 pages later. Casual, sneaky revelations that blew people minds were revealed passingly. Good news is there are many of those. Good luck spotting all of them.

4. The theories.
How do fabrials work? How does one bond with a shardblade? If you like discussing theories and plot twists, you’re in luck. There are many Sanderson fans out there, and they even have an online forum where you can discuss plot twists and characters, and found answers to many of your questions. And believe me, you’ll have many of those when you finished reading the first two books.

5. The rating on goodreads.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to trust my fellow goodreads-er (goodreader? goodreadser?). Currently, the first book is sitting comfortably sipping wine on its shelf with 4.61 stars rating from over 100.000 votes, while the second one is a 4.76 star book from over 60.000 ratings. Sure, not all the reviews are positive, as in all things in life.

6. The multiple POVs.
Multiple POVs is definitely not a new thing, but rarely it’s executed as well as in this series. Besides the main characters, you also get interludes from other characters’ POVs. It’s said that these interludes provide introduction to characters that will play major roles in upcoming books.

7. The flashbacks.
In the beginning of every chapter, Brandon inserted a short paragraph which acts as citation from references in the series. Through these citations, you could learn a lot of things not mentioned in the main story, such as the different types of knights radiant (if you’re not interested to know about this, it’s because you haven’t read the book *winks*)

8. R.A.F.O.
a.k.a Read and Find Out
RAFO

On the other hand, I must warn you. The first couple of chapters might daunt you. There are so many new terms you have no idea of and these are just mentioned passingly without any explanation. My suggestion: keep calm and read on, you’ll understand these in time (or not. I still haven’t understood much of it, but it doesn’t make the series any less awesome).

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy: Ranking My Favorite Books

It’s no secret that I love Cassie Clare’s shadowhunter books.
It’s also clear that I love Simon Lewis.

So, it’s kind of obvious that I got so excited when Cassie announced Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, a series of short stories released each month as ebook (ala The Bane Chronicles). They will sell it as a hardcopy bundle when the whole series have been published, and I’m definitely getting that too (more Simon! more Izzy!).

However, I cannot wait that long and my sister and I have been purchasing each book as it comes out (like literally on the same day when it comes out).

I’ve read the latest one, the sixth book in the series, Pale Kings and Princes. There are still four books to go, but I figure I would give an overview of the first six books and my rating (and totally biased opinion). I try not to judge each book by the amount of Izzy Sizzy moments in it, but I might have failed.

ALSO, SPOILER WARNING! Not that spoilery, I will not spill major plot twist, but I will mention which characters are in the book. Also, there will be spoilers for TMI and TID


SPOILER WARNING!

Without further ado, here are my ranking for Book #1 – #6 in TFTSA.

  1. The Evil We Love (Book #5) 4 out of 5 stars
    There must be something wrong with me to put this most heartbreaking book at the top of my list. I used to like Robert Lightwood, then despised him, and now after reading this book, I have conflicted feelings about him. I disagree of things he has done in the past, but I couldn’t help but hope that he could cross that bridge to Izzy and Alec. It’s also very interesting to get a view of Valentine’s circle from Robert’s eyes, since we only get to see it from Clary’s POV in TMI. Oh, and anytime Izzy made an appearance, the book gets 50 times better.
  2. Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Book #1) 4 out of 5 stars
    As the first book in the series, it has the difficult job because it has to convince you to read the rest of the books in the series. Fortunately, Cassie, with the help of my-hero Sarah Rees Brennan, managed to deliver with the combination of humor, characters, and interesting premise. We get to meet the new kids, the ever-so-likeable George Lovelace, and the rest of them, Julie, Jon, Marisol, and Beatriz. I have to say, aside from George, I don’t really connect with the rest of the students. Perhaps, it’s just me being too accustomed with Clary and Jace and Alec and Izzy. Having said that, I absolutely adore Catarina Loss. Magnus is still my favorite warlock, but Catarina is catching up, she’s now a very close second. (I also like Ragnor. Apparently I have crushes on warlock. Apparently).
  3. The Lost Herondale (Book #2) 4 out of 5 stars
    I fell in love with Catarina Loss in this book. I adore her in the first book, but this book cemented my love for her. There is something special with her, not only magical but also one of the most earnest character in the Cassie’s shadowhunter stories. She’s willing to tolerate shadowhunters (many of whom look down at downworlders) for the greater good. In The Lost Herondale, she told Simon a secret about a long-lost shadowhunter, Tobias Herondale. I couldn’t tell you what’s the secret without spoiling the story, but it’s definitely heartbreaking. Oh and Clary came for a visit :).
  4. Pale Kings and Princes (Book #6) 4 out of 5 stars
    This one basically tells a story about racism, how shadowhunters look down on any fae descendants. **SPOILER WARNING FOR CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE** After what happened in City of Heavenly Fire, the shadowhunters grew to dislike (and distrust) the fae even more than before. They punished Helen Blackthorn, a shadowhunter of fairy descendant, by sending her to an isolated place. She was accompanied by her girlfriend, Aline. In this book, Helen was called to the Shadowhunter Academy to tell a story of her parents and to teach the students to never trust fae. Simon felt that action was low and of course, being Simon, he expressed his opinion loudly to some shadowhunters dismay.
    I gave it 4 stars because this just hit home for me, and I think many people will be able to relate to the story.
  5. Nothing but Shadows (Book #4) 3 out of 5 stars
    If you miss the Herondales (Will family, that is), you will love this book. This ebook is the story of James Herondale’s days in the academy. We met James briefly in the Bane Chronicles, but this TFTSA story-I think-preceded the Bane Chronicles’ one. James Herondale felt he didn’t belong because of many things, but one important thing is because he is half-warlock. In this book, due to an incident that happened when he was in the academy, James found himself even more strangely separated from other shadowhunters, but on the bright side, he met his future parabatai.
    The James story was actually pretty good, the one thing I don’t like in this book is weirdly the dregs vs the elites stuff that happened. The whole thing was strangely felt out of place for me.
  6. The Whitechapel Fiend (Book #3) 3 out of 5 stars
    It’s not a bad book, it’s just that I have trouble connecting with this one. I love the characters (it was another Will-Tessa book) and I enjoy reading Maureen Johnson’s series about Jack The Ripper. However, combined together, the formula didn’t quite work out. The sequence of events are sometimes felt forced and rushed. Too many things happened. Ultimately, I think that this book tried too hard to put too many things into a short story. The concept is nice and might have worked in longer novel, but it doesn’t quite work here.

So, there you have it, my reviews for the first 6 short stories in Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy. I might edit this list in the future as I read the 7th – 10th book.
Do you agree or disagree with my opinion? Which one is your favorite? Let’s discuss.

Gillian Flynn books

Since Gone Girl became a hit, Gillian Flynn’s books have been reprinted throughout the world. Many people read her two earlier books, Dark Places (the movie adaptation of which is out later this year) and Sharp Objects because of this, me included. I bought the ebook bundle consisting of Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, in that order.

Gone Girl was my first Flynn’s book. I haven’t seen the movie, I didn’t read any spoiler, just the synopsis and some reviews, and then I dived in. My first Gillian Flynn experience is good enough to merit reading the second and third book. Gone Girl was not without its flaws, but making a reader compulsively reading a book-with not one but two unlikeable main characters-is not an easy task. Flynn somehow manage to do that. Gone Girl is not a whodunit book. I am not sure it is a mystery either. As a matter of fact, throughout the second half of the book, you pretty much know everything that’s going on, yet it doesn’t make the book any less captivating. It tells a story, two sides of the same story, and although it’s not a horror book by any means, it has some of its chilling moments. In case you’re wondering whether the book worth the hype surrounding it, yes it does.

Dark Places, soon to be a motion picture starring Charlize Theron, is a story of a survivor of family massacre. Libby Day survived the massacre of her family while her brother, Ben, was convicted of the murders. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail. Fast forward 25 years later, Libby encountered a situation that forced her to consider Ben’s innocence. This book switched back and forth between the current timeline, and the day of the murders. It also switched POVs between Libby, her mom Patty, and Ben. There are some books that managed to confuse readers by all these switching, but Dark Places is not one of them. The switch between POVS is clear and I didn’t find it awkward at all. Having said that, the story felt dragging at times, while the final conclusion felt a bit rush and not too satisfying. But then, so is life.

Sharp Objects was Gillian’s first published novel, and it is still her finest work to date. The book was written from the POV of Camille Preaker, a small-town girl turns big-city reporter. She was given a task by her editor that forced her to go back to her hometown and faced her troubled past. The premise is about murders, strangulation of two little girls in Camille’s little town, and she went there to report about this serial killing while juggling work, her momma Adora, and her half-sister, Amma. The characterization is very good. Every character is flawed, although it may be hard to believe in real life that every one is that dark. It seems that every other person in the small town has a mean streak, a violence-not just a temper-but a real need to inflict pain. I found out who the murderer was quite early in the book, but it doesn’t mean the plot is bad. There is a big twist in the book that made you go “holy s*** i knew it. I knew it was *****”. The conclusion of this book also felt a little rush, but the strong storytelling and characters made the book worth it. If you wonder whether this book will also make it to the big screen, the current answer is no, it will instead go to the small screen. Now, I know big screen adaptation seems like the ultimate deal, but I am totally on board on TV adaptation. With so many interesting characters, TV adaptation may do this book more justice than movie one.