Thursday, 28 January 2016

Review: Carry On



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.



Rainbow Rowell, let me love you. Goodness gacious. I have such an author!crush you don’t even know. Do I want to be friends with her or do I just want to be her. I don’t know. I just know that actually she can do no wrong. HOW DOES SHE WORDS.


“He’s a book full of footnotes brought to life. He’s a jacket made of elbow patches."


How. Does. She. Words.

Anyway.

In case you missed my prior Rainbow love-ins, I talk about Eleanor & Park here and about Fangirl here. I’ll also be back soon to talk about Landline soon. Right now though, you guessed it (and pull up a seat and flail with me, or if you don’t like Rainbow’s other stuff then you know, don’t because this book is so Rainbow Rowell) I’m talking about Carry On and how it delighted me from start to finish. Seriously. Delighted me. & if you stop here often you’ll know that occasionally I lose all coherency and just shout a little about how much I love a thing. I’m about to do that right now. Sorry not sorry.

I out and out cackled when I found out that Carry On was going to be a thing. I mean a book that originally existed as a fictional book in one of Rainbow’s other books about a girl that writes fanfiction and that is clearly a tongue in cheek look at the whole fanfiction world in general and specifically (or so I thought anyway) the whole Harry/Draco fandom becoming it’s own actual hard-backed fully fleshed story. WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO READ THAT and how gloriously excellent and amusing is it that Rainbow Rowell made it happen. 

GIVE ME ALL THE WONDERFUL META.

Also: insane. This book is fucking nuts I swear and it’s brilliant. It’s like Harry Potter gone batshit crazy and at the same time it’s….I mean you start off comparing to HP a little because it’s a book about a magical school and a war against a Big Bad and this one student that’s The Chosen One even though he doesn’t want to be really, and is sometimes a little bit shit at well, life, so how can you not.


(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.)


Ha ha and also ha.

Pretty soon though you forget the whole Potter thing because there is so much going on here, this whole brand new world, these brand new characters, and whilst you still totally gigglesnort a little at the occasional tip-of-the-hat you mostly just get totally swept away in the Watford of it all, in Simon and Baz and spells that reference Bohemian freaking Rhapsody and the fact that it’s so gay


And also marvellously diverse in the way that all Rainbow’s books are and everybody else’s books should be. Example one, because I’m nice like that


“I didn’t know someone like you could be named Penelope,” I said. Stupidly. (Everything I said that year was stupid.)
She wrinkled her nose. “What should ‘someone like me’ be named?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t know. Other girls I’d met who looked like her were named Saanvi or Aditi—and they definitely weren’t ginger. “Saanvi?”
“Someone like me can be named anything,” Penelope said.
“Oh,” I said. “Right, sorry.”
“And we can do whatever we want with our hair.” She turned back to the assignment, flipping her red ponytail. “It’s impolite to stare, you know, even at your friends.”


Also. Baz and Simon.

Everyone knows that hate/love is an excellent trope, right? I mean it’s where the whole Harry/Draco ship stemmed from isn’t it. & it goes back so much further than that. Let’s make a list of the great love stories that stem from this trope. Or let’s not because ain’t nobody got time for that. Point is, I love that trope & this book, it’s the stuff dreams are made of I swear to God. Rainbow takes all that tension and all those misunderstandings and all that anger and all the shitty spiteful comments and makes it all her own and THEN THE CUTE BOYS DO KISSING.  & obviously you know there’s something there because Cath ships Baz/Simon in Fangirl with the fire on a hundred burning suns and it would have been weird for that not to have been a thing here but I didn’t know how subtle a thing it might be (partly because Baz and Simon aren't canon in Fangirl), how much reading between the lines one might have to do *coughRemus/Siriuscough* but, well, nope not subtle at all and it makes me hope for a world where LGBTQ characters are so common a thing in books that it goes without saying.anyway, both boys are excellent in their own right and they're gorgeous together and I swear nobody writes falling in love, being in love, love like Rainbow Rowell. I said it about E&P (and I am still not over that) and I said it again when I read Fangirl and I say it again now: she just gets it and wow can she carve a sentence from your very heart.



Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.

He's constantly drawing you in. And you're constantly stepping too close. And you know it's not good--that there is no good--that there's absolutely nothing that can ever come of it.

But you do it anyway.
And then...
Well. Then you burn.

 ***

He's still looking in my eyes. Staring me down like he did that dragon, chin tilted and locked. "I'm not the Chosen One," he says.
I meet his gaze and sneer. My arm is a steel band around his waist. "I choose you," I say. "Simon Snow, I choose you.




Also.  This book is funny. . And also also there is dialogue like this:


“I can’t believe there’s a part of your body that grows when you need it. You’re like a mutant.”
“I’m a vampire,” Baz says, “and can you hear yourself?”

***


She told me later that her parents had told her to steer clear of me at school.
"My mum said that nobody really knew where you came from. And that you might be dangerous."
"Why didn't you listen to her?" I asked.
"Because nobody knew where you came from, Simon! And you might be dangerous!"
"You have the worst survival instincts."
"Also, I felt sorry for you," she said. "You were holding your wand backwards.


& does Rainbow Rowell have a professional Brit-picker because for the most part this book is so gloriously British and I loved that.

I want, I WANT, I want the other 7 books. I’m not going to lie; I would read every single moment of Simon and Baz’s school experience in the same way I read Harry’s. ALL THE FEELS. One book was not enough even though it’s a long and very pretty book. & holy smokes is it pretty.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

In which I Do The Thing



Recently, blogosphere, I have been kissing a guy (and I’ve been liking it.)

I know, right.

Gulp.

We’ll call him Sexy New Guy for now, as I don’t wish to reveal his identity just yet and he’s somebody I’ve known for a while and he’s funny and clever and has a smile that reminds me of Indiana Jones and he’s just all around excellent and it’s just generally a very nice time.

It’s weird really, because if you’d have told me this time last year that by Christmas I’d be puckering up for a guy that wasn’t The Ex Boyfriend then probably I would have laughed in your face, and yet, here we are.

Maybe people will think it’s too soon, and maybe people will think it’s not soon enough, personally I think it’s been almost a freaking year good gracious and that really there are much worse things I could be doing than kissing a guy who makes my tummy do the flippy thing.
And Sexy New Guy is lovely, and you want to know another thing: it was surprisingly easy. Falling into being with somebody again, into being with him was so so easy.  I think that’s always the thing isn’t it, putting yourself back out there is hard and scary and there’s this niggling voice in the back of your mind that’s whispering ‘you’re not pretty/funny/interesting enough’ and it would be so easy to just sort of stay indoors with a good book and Netflix forever. Especially when there are so many episodes of Pretty Little Liars to watch.
But then I remembered a conversation I’d had with Jen months ago, which was in no way related to this at all, but where she said (wisely because she is so wise) ‘girls get nowhere if they don’t ask for shit.’
Even at the time I wanted to applaud her (and did, I think) and it’s stayed with me, and even though this, this new relationship, this kisses and tickles and laughter and this shiny new taste of happiness, isn’t really me asking for anything, it’s kind of the same, you know? It’s me stepping back and thinking ‘I am fucking amazing and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wither away under a patchwork quilt. & I am pretty/funny/interesting enough, if not to anybody else then at least to me. AND SO, I am going to Do The Thing.’

And I did. I Did The Thing. I went on a date and he kissed me and I went on another date and he kissed me again and two dates became three and then there was a holiday and soon there will be another holiday and dating and here we are.

For someone who’s been out of that particular game for A Long Time, it wasn’t as daunting as I had expected it to be to start to share my life with a person who isn’t the person I’ve shared a life with for years. It was kind of refreshing. It was refreshing and it was fun and I find myself falling asleep most nights these days with a smile on my face and you know what? Right now, I feel happy. I am so fucking happy.

My advice then, to you, to everyone everywhere is to always always Do The Thing.

Whatever your thing is – do it.

Cure cancer; write that book; buy your dream house; leave that job you hate and find one you love; go for a drink with that person you think is kind of cute; when that guy you like leans in for a kiss you make sure you pucker those lips, dammit.  Because like Jen said once, girls get nowhere if they don’t ask for shit and like I say, girls get nowhere if they don’t Do The Thing.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Review: Throne of Glass




Sometimes (exceptionally rarely, but sometimes) loving a book can be A Bad Thing. Or rather, not so much loving the book is bad, but the way it gets you fired up for every other word, shopping lists included, that that author has ever written can occasionally be less than great because let’s face it: going into something with unrealistically high expectations very rarely ends well. This is true for life, not just for books. We’ll call it Jo’s Life Lessons of 2016 and you’re welcome.

When I read A Court of Thorns and Roses last year I loved it. I gulped it down and I finished it in what could be record time and was sad that I couldn’t pick up the second book straight away and I resolved then and there to read all that Sarah J Maas ever wrote. & the Throne of Glass series is everywhere man. I mean seriously, I have read so few blogs that aren’t flailing over it and it’s all over twitter and instagram and well, just the internet in general and it sounded awesome. So I read book one. I wanted to love it; I expected it to laugh in the face of ACoTaR and just be a million times better you know?

& it wasn’t.

I mean, it wasn’t bad, and I liked it enough to buy a copy for my 15 year old cousin for Christmas but truth be told? I liked ACoTaR better. *hides from the internet*


So, let’s talk about it.

If you’ve been living under a freaking rock then you’re perhaps wondering what the book is even about. So, according to Goodreads who always summarise better than I do, because it’s their job and all:

After serving out a year of hard labour in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined

I know. Sounds so damn good. It sounds like everything I want in a book most of the time. So why was I bored? I mean, I put this book down to paint my nails one time. I hardly ever paint my nails because I am bad at it. & I don’t understand why because I liked it.

I guess I just wanted it to be so much more than it was and that’s the problem. 


& I was frustrated. The book was more of a romance than I thought it was going to be, which is fine – I mean dead inside I am not; I love a good love story as much as the next girl, but here I wanted more of the other stuff.

Caleana is an excellent character and the whole assassins X-Factor thing could have been so good and just like in ACoTaR the world that Maas built was fascinating and the problem is, is that’s what I wanted to read about. Really, whether Celaena ended up with Westfall or Dorian was a secondary issue. Team Captain of the Guard or Team Crown Prince? I don’t care; I just want to see this badass girl being badass please.  There’s all this talk about her being the best assassin to ever assassinate but you never get to see that, there’s too much tell and not enough show and it makes it hard to get invested, in any of it.

Celeana’s excellent – she’s vain and arrogant and clever, and she has this temper, she likes to read and she’s self-assured and confident and watching her grow into herself again after being at rock bottom in an actual death camp is marvellous. There’s a lot of her finding herself, and of her delighting in the luxuries of nice food and pretty dresses but it would have been so awesome to have that juxtaposed against this tough ruthless murderer. To see it instead of just being told that’s how it is contrary to appearances you know? I wanted to see some murder. I wanted less Celeana/Dorian/Westfall and more of the stuff that would have made this book amazing, I mean I’m really glad Celeana had confidence in her own abilities but how was I supposed to believe she was the best ever when all of the good bits, all the tasks and the eliminations and the confrontations were all just glossed over. GIMME THE GRITTY STUFF. Don’t write me a book about a strong female character and then only really show me her dancing around the two male leads. Please. 

I mean, I liked it. I did, and I get why so many people love it, because if you’re looking for a nice easy read, a bit of a love story with a fantasy twist then probably this book ticks all the boxes. Read it without the expectations and you’ll likely be all ‘that Josephine is crazy because this book is amazing.’

& can Goodreads please start with the half star option. Please?