Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is a 522-page fantasy novel by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Griffin in October of 2015.

23734628Simon Snow, a wizard in his eighth year at Watford School of Magicks lives with his evil, vampire roommate Baz and is constantly worrying about and fighting against the Insidious Humdrum. The story shifts between Simon, Baz, and their friends Penny and Agatha’s points of view.

Okay, this book is actually a continuation of a fanfiction series that Cath (a character from Rowell’s Fangirl) writes online with her twin. It’s basically a fanfiction of year 8 of the Harry Potter series if Draco (Baz) was a vampire and Harry (Simon) were roommates fighting Voldemort (Insidious Humdrum).

I recommend either reading Harry Potter or Fangirl before venturing into Carry On. The plot probably wouldn’t stand up on its own, because it jumps right into the problems and politics of an established magical world. While Rowell’s world is a little goofy, it seems intentional. The characters make fun of the Insidious Humdrum, which is both amusing and creepy at the same time (the Humdrum takes the shape of 11-year-old Simon).

On big change from HP is the fact that Baz is in love with Simon, which plays up the teenage love triangle in an interesting way. Another, an improvement, is the building tension surrounding the Mage (Dumbledore), who isn’t as squeaky clean as he appears to be. The exploration of his past and motivations is my favorite part of the entire novel.

The teen angst was nice. The romance was nice. Everything ended up pretty nice. That’s great and all, but I wish the novel were darker. It certainly has dark scenes, but it didn’t reach that heart-rending depth of darkness that Harry Potter achieved (though it may be unfair to compare anything to HP). At least Carry On doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think The Magicians (another book riffing on an established world–Narnia) suffered from at times.

Overall, this was an incredibly fun book, a quick and light read, and a fantastic “What if?” of the nonexistent year 8 of Harry Potter. I definitely recommend it for fans of the HP series and for anyone who enjoys fantasy and fanfiction.

TITLE: Carry On
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AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
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PAGES: 528
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ALSO WROTE: Eleanor & Park, Landline
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FIRST LINE: I walk to the bus station by myself.
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FAVORITE LINE: Just when you think you’re having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.
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SORT OF LIKE:

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a 376-page speculative fiction novel originally published in 2003. I listened to the audiobook, written by Margaret Atwood (who always has really interesting stuff going on), read by Campbell Scott.

18415437Jimmy (also known as Snowman) is the protagonist of this eerie story, which is about Jimmy’s past life experiences with his strange, genius friend named Crake, and the enigma of a woman named Oryx–framed by Snowman’s current existence in a post-apocalyptic world.

In this new world where humanity has been decimated by a plague, Snowman may be the only human left. That is, besides the Crakers (strange human-like beings with glowing eyes and primate-like mating behaviors) and the genetically designed murderous animals. More

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High by David Bienenstock

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High is a 288-page nonfiction novel published by Plume in April of 2016 (I can’t believe they missed out on publishing on 4/20!). I received a free copy of the book from Penguin’s First to Read program.

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting HighThe novel begins with a succinct history of cannabis and goes on to discuss everything from humanity’s use of the plant in spiritual rituals, medicine, and daily life to the entrepreneurial efforts and scientific research of cannabis taking place today.

Bienenstock provides a fantastic and fascinating overview of the possibilities of cannabis–relieving patients who are suffering, community growth, and rapidly growing business opportunities. A plethora of careers–from budtenders (serving customers at a weed dispensary) to tourist endeavors (hotels and entertainment)–become possible with ending cannabis prohibition. It’s brilliantly argued that tourists (of states like Colorado) buying weed with no legal recourse to take the plant out of state would be more than happy to stimulate the local economy by seeing shows, eating at local restaurants, and staying in a hotel during their trip. The discussion on the history of legislation and stigma surrounding cannabis is a little indignant, but also quite accurate. More

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup CoverAfter reading plenty of negative reviews, I was expecting a bit of a let down with this novella, originally published in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology in 2014. However, since I’ve devoured every other book by Gillian Flynn, I decided to read The Grownup as a standalone book anyway. I surprisingly and happily enjoyed this creepy little treat quite a bit.

As usual, Gillian Flynn creates an in-your-face, kickass female protagonist–this one reads auras and gives hand jobs for a living. I loved the up front way the narrator (her name is never given) discussed men and what they desire, while also being a little disturbed by it. Though that frankness IS what appeals to me in every Gillian Flynn novel. She gives just enough polish to allow for surprise at the dark and disgusting undertones. More

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? is a 228 page memoir published by Crown Archetype in September of 2015.

This novel is body-conscious and thoughtful and much less funny than Mindy Kaling’s previous book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I definitely agree with Kaling–this novel is basically an exposé on her character flaws. While she is a very *real* woman (although with slightly *unreal* celebrity problems), I don’t find I have much in common with her, which may have tempered my enjoyment of this. More

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a 352 page thriller/mystery published by Harvill Secker in July of 2015. I listened to the audiobook read by Imogen Church.

In a Dark, Dark WoodFirst, I must note that Church is a FANTASTIC narrator. I will definitely seek out other work she’s done. A large part of what I loved about this story is the suspense she created.

As for the plot: When Nora receives an email requesting her presence at Clare’s weekend-long hen night (a sort of bachelorette party?), she is shocked. Nora makes a pact with her friend Nina to go together to avoid the awkwardness guaranteed from not having spoken to Clare in a decade. More

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 2

In continuation from Part 1, these are the books that I loved reading last year but were published pre-2015. While I did manage to read some new books, mostly I read whatever caught my fancy at garage sales or wonderful library book sales (a whole BAG OF BOOKS for $1!). These are my three favorite “old” books that I read in 2015–okay, I cheated on the last one because it’s actually a series, but what are you going to do about it?


A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is about a Canadian writer named Ruth finding a washed up diary in a lunchbox (from the 2011 tsunami) of Nao–a 16-year-old girl from Tokyo. Through Ruth’s reading of the diary, we learn about Nao’s disturbingly cruel classmates, her resolve to commit suicide, and most importantly (in Nao’s mind), her Buddhist nun great-grandmother.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I cannot praise her performance enough–it was fantastic to experience Ozeki’s knowledge of Japanese language and culture. The novel itself is fantastically meta, weaving the past with the present and writing, thoughts, and dreams. Nao’s sections of this book were wonderfully weird. Full of aching beauty and thoughtfulness, this is easily one of my favorites for the year. Get ready for some pervy stuff, though. If that’s not your thing, you might want read something else. More

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 1

I read the most books I’ve EVER read in one calendar year in 2015 (133 books!). Although I read a lot of older books, I did manage to catch some that were fresh off the press.

These were my top three favorite books published in 2015.


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling–a post-apocalyptic fantasy about the descendants of a group of people that travelled from American to England.

Queen Kelsea is now dealing with the effects of breaking the treaty with Tear’s neighbor, Mortmesne. Johansen steps up her game in the sequel by adding a second point of view, told through Kelsea’s visions of a woman (Lily Mayhew) dealing with pre-Crossing troubles in America. She also excels at conveying a wealth of truth in how young women actually think. Kelsea becomes such a beautifully, refreshingly real woman. I highly recommend this series. More

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive CoverLuckiest Girl Alive is a 352 page thriller/mystery published by Simon & Schuster in May 2015. I listened to the audiobook version, read by Madeleine Maby.

Since this book is considered a mystery, I’ll avoid too much summary to prevent spoilers. Ani (Tifani FaNelli) is an editor at a well known women’s magazine looking forward to marrying Luke, a man of status and old money. She wants to forget about her dark past at school and mediocre status so she attempts to create an entirely new personality for herself, known as Ani. Besides flashbacks, that’s pretty much the entire plot of the book.

Considering half her time is spent fretting about which expensive outfit will make her look the most ragamuffin or how best to starve herself and how much she wants to binge eat, it might not seem like Ani cares to think about her past. But once a man from her days at school appears, More

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a 390 page fiction novel published by Riverhead Books in September 2015.

Fates and Furies coverI wanted to review Fates and Furies because of the acclaim it received this year and the fact that I think it’s highly overrated. Normally I avoid writing negative reviews because I know each book has its audience, even if I’m not part of it. I felt compelled to write this review because while the novel is touted as being masterful and literary, the pretension of it makes it my least favorite book of 2015.

The plot revolves around the marriage of Lotto (Lancelot) Satterwhite and his lovely (okay, interesting-looking) French wife, Mathilde. They get married after two weeks of dating, have rad parties, pay lots of bills even though only Mathilde has a job, keep dark secrets, and do all sorts of other marriage-y things. The first part of the book, Fates, is told through Lotto’s point of view and sets up their perfect marriage. The second, Furies, is told through Mathilde’s point of view and breaks it down into the nitty gritty. More

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling is a 464 page novel, published by Harper Paperbacks in 2013. It’s the first in the series of the same name.

The Queen of the Tearling Cover

Much scientific (especially medicinal) knowledge was lost during the Crossing—three centuries previous to the events in this post-apocalyptic tale. I believe the Crossing was from America to Europe, partially due to a legend of an entire ship full of doctors and medical equipment sinking during the Crossing.

In the new feudal world, Queen Kelsea–who has spent 19 years being raised and trained to rule the Tearling–is herded onto the throne in place of the Regent who happens to be her slovenly uncle, desperate to keep his place on the throne. More

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a 320 page novel scheduled to be published by Del Rey in April 2016. I received an e-book copy pre-release from NetGalley. Some changes may be made by the time it publishes, so this review is just for the galley of the book.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)We are introduced to Dr Rose Franklin—in a rather unnecessary prologue—during her tumble into a hole in the ground where she discovers a giant, glowing hand. Who dug this hole? We’ll never know! But what we will eventually know is that the rest of the giant parts are mysteriously similar, at least proportionally, to humans. Sleeping Giants is about a host of people on a scientific and paramilitary mission to find and configure all parts of this gorgeous, glowing giant. More

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell, of Cloud Atlas fame, was published by Random House in October of 2015.  I received the novel from NetGalley.

Slade House CoverAlthough I’ve never read a David Mitchell book–apparently this novel fits into his established fictional universe–Slade House works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

While the plot surrounds weird occurrences down the street from an everyday pub, the history and appeal of the Slade House is anything but usual. More

The Courtesan By Alexandra Curry

I received The Courtesan from First to Read (a Penguin program). It was published by Dutton in September of 2015.

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After her mother dies in childbirth and her father is executed, Sai Jinhua is sold to a brothel and expected to learn the art of pleasing and pleasuring men. Along with many other young girls, she is repeatedly and brutally taken advantage of. However, one day, a gentleman comes and tells Jinhua that she was his lover in a past life and proceeds to purchase her and install her as his concubine. More

Found: Sad Recommendation

While on vacation in Branson, MO this year, I found a cute little bookstore called Calvin’s Used Books. It was a little messy, a little cramped, and a lot of fun. I found quite a few goodies, including a beautifully well put together Bruce Lee biography (with tons of exclusive and gorgeous photos–the owner commented, “Well that didn’t last long here!”) and Honolulu, about a young Korean girl named Regret who escapes to Hawai’i.

The third book I added to my collection was Don DeLillo’s Libra. I’ve yet to read the novel, but I’ve read a few of DeLillo’s other works. They intrigued (or confused) me enough to purchase Libra. (See White Noise–an excellent commentary on ad pollution.)

Inside Libra, More

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