Review: Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Series: Simon Snow
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

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 sets 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” 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. 

I’m still not sure how I feel about Carry On. It was … quite different from what I was expecting. Sort of. It also sort of wasn’t. As always, I adore the way Rainbow Rowell writes romance. It’s like we’re soul mates or something. But I’m not sure I like the way she writes fantasy.

Warning, semi-spoilery, because I figure if you’re reading this review you more or less know what this story is about. Okay then.

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Review: In the Labyrinth of Drakes

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

This is the best Lady Trent memoir yet! It’s not often that a series gets better and better as it goes, but in this series each book has been better than the last. Brennan finally finds her stride in this one, having put together exactly the book I wanted to read.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

When I started this book, within about twenty pages I was sure I knew exactly how it was going to end. I was still plenty enjoying reading it, even as the inevitable played out right before my eyes. And then… it didn’t. Always and Forever, Lara Jean ended completely differently than I was expecting. It was just so sweet, and heartwarming, and gave me all the feels. Guys, I cried.

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Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

No second-book-slump here! P.S. I Still Love You had all of the things that made To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before so great, and then some! Including, inexplicably, ANOTHER love square. How can Lara Jean be in love with two boys at once twice in one year? She doesn’t even know, poor baby.

The slut-shaming issue gets taken to the next level in this book when Lara Jean and Peter’s hot-tub make-out gets put on Instagram as a “sex-tape”. There are just so many amazing things about this. Honestly, if I taught High School English I would push to get this as required reading for sophomores, though the hand full of f-bombs would probably get it nixed. There’s just so much about Me-Too, toxic masculinity, bullying and cyber-bullying, and it’s all so relevant to our kids. This series needs to be read by ALL American teens and their parents. Period.

It was nice to see Lara Jean’s relationships with her sisters back to a healthy place, and this book explored more about her dad, which I loved. So many parents are absent in YA, and certainly her dad isn’t around much. But he’s there, and he loves Lara Jean and it really shows. Lara Jean also has a great friendship with an elderly lady named Stormy. My first job was at a retirement home too, so this sub-plot really resonated with me. Stormy is a riot, and I loved reading about all the ridiculous things she did.

Peter came into his own in this book too. He had some quality character development, especially near the end of the book. You really start to get a feel for what it is about him that Lara Jean admires, which makes it even more frustrating that he allows his ex-girlfriend to manipulate him.

Honestly, it’s been a breath of fresh air to read about such an imperfect teen relationship. Both Lara Jean and Peter are insecure about themselves, each other, and their feelings. They don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s okay. That’s what high school relationships are supposed to be like. The bizarre fake-dating from book one aside, their relationship is incredibly realistic. I love that Lara Jean acknowledges that this is her first love, maybe not her forever love. When you’re a teenager love feels like forever, but often it isn’t, and I think it’s important to present teenagers with a romance that reflects that.

All those slices of life that I loved so much about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before were still there. Bake sales, doing homework at Starbucks, what Dad made for dinner. The details are what makes this series feel so real.

This series is just so enchanting. I’ve read two books in three days, and I am loving every second of it. I highly recommend this series!

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I loved this book, but unfortunately not as much as I was expecting to, and not as much as I enjoyed the movie. *gasp!* What is this blasphemy???

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Why I’m Never Wearing a Bikini Again

It’s probably not the reason you think.

I’m going to level with you guys right off the bat. I’ve very, very pale. Translucent even. Despite having been made fun of for most of my adult life (and entire teen life) for meticulously applying the highest SPF sunscreen I can get my hands on every two hours like clockwork, at this point the chance of me not getting skin cancer is like, 0.01%.

And the pool is the worst.

It does not matter how careful you are, when you are wearing nothing but glorified underwear, it is next to impossible to cover every square inch with sunscreen. You’re bound to miss a spot sometimes.

Y’all, sunburns are the worst. They hurt. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never had a real one. Yet despite that, what I hate even MORE than sunburns is applying sunscreen to my entire body four times a day every day. It takes forever, it’s just. the. worst. (Yeah yeah, first world problem.)

So about halfway through last summer when I was oh-so-tired of applying my SPF 50, I was getting my kid dressed in his pool shirt, turned to my husband and said “How come they make long-sleeve swim shirts for little kids, and everyone acts like this is perfectly normal, but not adults?” And he looked right back and said “They probably do.”

That was the day my life was changed forever.


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Review: The Kingdom of Copper

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe...

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve. 

I am in love with this trilogy and with Chakraborty’s writing. Daevabad is so incredibly immersive. Even the distracted way in which I’m forced to read at this time in my life, I have no problem just diving in and feeling like I’m there. I love that she writes characters who are all shades of grey, and presents situations where there might not be a right answer. And these books are so exciting! I can’t remember the last time I stayed up late scrambling to finish a book.

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