“Carry On” – Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow, the Chosen One, destined to fulfil a prophecy long foretold. He’s also possibly the worst magician. Powerful, yes, but consistent? Not so much. His roommate, Baz, is also Simons sworn enemy- aside from The Humdrum possibly his worst enemy. The Mage, Simons mentor, is MIA, and a danger no one is prepared for is on the horizon. Amongst prophecies and enemies there’s school and dating … life is hard for a teenage magician.

I am by no means doing this summary justice. My best advice is read the damn book. Normally I wait a few days (to a month) after reading a book before I write a review. I let the book sink in. I think about it. Then I write about it. But not this time. I want to write about this while it’s fresh. When I’ve only just finished and Simon, Baz, Penny, Agatha, Lucy, The Mage, and everyone is still roaming in my thoughts and choking my heart. I really loved this story. I loved the magic. I loved the modernity. I loved the tragedy. I loved the heartache. I loved the hope. It was witty and fun and beautiful and sad. While I did predict the ending I loved the ending. I want to be sucked into this world longer. I want to disappear to Watford and fall into the story. Except…. well maybe with less Numpties.

This novel was everything I wanted, some things I needed, and a slew of things I didn’t even know I needed or wanted but now realise I couldn’t’ve lived without a moment longer.

I would love to have spoiler-y discussions. So please, let’s talk? Y/Y?

Happy reading!

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“Big Little Lies” – Liane moriarty

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“Big Little Lies” follows three women through six months leading up to the death of one of the parents at their elementary school. Madeline, a mostly stay-at-home mom who just turned forty meets mysterious Jane Chapman on orientation day at school where they become fast friends. Celeste and Madeline go way back and has no problem adopting Jane into their group. When something goes amiss at Orientation day however the three become pitted against their frenemy Renata. The school becomes a warzone as parents are silently forced to take sides. The book continues, following the lives of the three women, culminating on the horrible event at The Trivia Night, where all of the big little lies are about to get a lot bigger.

I read this book because I watched the HBO show of the same name and enjoyed it so much I wanted to read the original. (Seriously: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Kathryn Newton, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper, just a phenomenal cast. Go watch it.) But before you do read the book! (or after you do, I’m not picky).  The book was great! I wasn’t aware it was Australian (the show takes place in America) but the show actually did a very good job of keeping things the same! There were some changes here and there (noticeable ones such as the above in which the entire country is changed) but overall I think what they did take out or put in worked well.

I love all the secrets of the characters, all their backstories and little lies. I loved the way the story jumped from character to character, never giving you all the pieces until right at the end! I also liked that the book ended firmly. There didn’t need to be a sequel, you weren’t dissatisfied. Beginning. Middle. End. I like that in a story. Moreover I like the way Moriarty writes, it’s well paced and keeps you wanting to continue without being too overwhelming.

I definitely think if you’re into gossip girl/ pretty little liars type of things this is a good book/show for you. It’s a bit more grown up than all that which is nice as I approach my thirties; it’s always good to add “regular” fiction to your list of reads.

Anyway, yes this book has mystery, intrigue, murder. I fully support your reading this.

Happy reading.

“Yes Please!” – Amy Poehler

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Amy Poehler’s honest and humorous autobiography explores her life on SNL, her work in the theatre, sketch comedy, growing up in Massachusetts, the struggles of being a woman, motherhood, marriage, divorce… the book is about Amy, who she is, what she aspires to be. It’s also inspiring, motivational, and funny. Just like Amy.

I’ve been a little bit on a memoir/autobiography kick lately (waiting for Hills new book to come in!) I recently read “Dreams From My Father” and of course a few others in recent history. I like reading about funny, warm, charming, successful, compassionate people. They help me when I’m struggling to remember why I should care about the world or any of its inhabitants because they go “oh look, I’m pretty cool, and people can be pretty cool if you just look at them this way” and then I sigh and smile and start looking at people “that way” and it helps. I’m babbling.

Anyway. Amy’s book is a lot like I imagine her as a person to be, chatty, firm but polite, a little neurotic, and amazingly legitimate. This book offered some fun stories about SNL, Parks and Rec, red carpets. It offered cute stories of childhood in the eighties, and college experiences. It told grand tales of being a woman in a predominantly male field.  Throughout all of the stories and jokes and insights though the underlying theme that tied the book together (and really what I think I can safely say is something that Amy stands for in general) is resilience. Getting knocked down and getting back up. Trying again and again and not being afraid to be an idiot. Doing something wrong one night and doing it right the next. Life is a fluid, constant, ever changing thing, and at the heart of it all is humanity. The struggle to get what we want, be who we want, achieve what we want – all while maybe trying to be a good person and do good things. Amy’s book is equal parts tough and soft; a great balance of honesty and brutality.

I need more people like Amy in my life. I think we all do.

The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer

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Alex has been on the run ever since her employers decided she was expendable. She’s gotten very good at hiding, running, and staying alive. When a mission comes to her from her former employer offering her an out and an end to the cat-and-mouse game she’s in she has to choose between the risk that it could be a trap or the sliver of hope that this could mean the end of her running.

A small cast of characters gives this book an intimate feel on a large scale plot. Deception, government secrets, lies, and danger add to the page turning experience of Meyer’s latest work.

Immediately I’m sure there are people rolling their eyes at ‘another Stephenie Meyer book’. Honestly this one had more “The Host” like qualities which helped make it a good book. (I ain’t even trying to play, I loved the Twilight series so whatever haters). But “The Host” was much better written and “The Chemist” is on par with that. Meyer’s writing is definitely improving with time. (Again, not that I can even judge because she’s a NYT best seller and I work at Target soooo).

Anyway, point being, I generally don’t like crime/assassin/government books but I read this on a recommendation (and because I’ve liked Meyer’s work in the past) and it was actually a really good find. I listened to it mostly on Audiobook while in my car (I moved recently and my work commute is now about an hour long so I have some extra time) and the narrator, Ellen Archer, was really great.

I thought the characters were well flushed out, the plot was contrived but I liked it. There were points where the “twist” was obvious and predictable but again, I kind of like that; helps me feel smart.

Anyway, overall not a bad book. Fun to get through and had a good pace. Go for it or don’t.

Happy Reading!

“Dreams from My Father” – Barack Obama

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“Dreams From My Father” is Obama’s first memoir published in 1995 on the precipice of Obama’s Senate campaign. The memoir delves into Obama’s early life, growing up biracial in Hawaii, moving to Indonesia in during his youth, and back again to Hawaii. It also explores his friendships, and his struggles to make a change as he grew up and attended law school.

The stories he recalls bring forth laughter, tears, and inspiration. Spoken eloquently and truthfully the novel not only provides a brief history into Obama’s background but also showcases what there is to be gained with a little determination, hope, and faith.

The book was honestly everything I loved about Obama as a president. It was truthful, it was blunt, it was inspiring, it was heartfelt. In a time when I miss Obama as a leader every day it was nice to go back and read this novel; read about his struggle, about the American peoples struggle. Read the words of encouragement and of hope. It felt good to be reminded that hard work is the only way to get things done – that hemming and hawing about things won’t stop them from happening. You have to start small, day by day, and take on those challenges to meet the bigger goals and defeat the larger demons. As the Reverend said you have to have the Audacity to Hope. This book was a really great reminder of that and something I very much needed to read in my life.

This is a great book to learn a little bit more about Obama or if you are just really missing him and needed him in your life just a little bit more. (And if I may suggest, the Audiobook is narrated by him which is a beautiful thing).

Happy Reading.

 

“A Whole New World” – Liz Braswell

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In this twisted tale of the fate of Agrabah Liz Braswell explores what would happen if Aladdin had never gotten ahold of the lamp – if Jafar had gotten it from the beginning. How different would Agrabah and it’s citizens be? What would be their fate?

This retelling was very good. I loved the idea of exploring a dystopian Agrabah and watching the characters look deeper into themselves. Since I was little Aladdin was always one of my favourite stories, I wanted to be Jasmine so I could have a tiger and marry Aladdin. As a good it’s easy to overlook the poverty and injustice of the plot; as an adult you think deeper about those kind of things. How could the Sultan just sit back and let his people be starving in the streets? How Jasmine was so ridiculously entitled and privileged. This book does a great job of exploring those social injustices and the spark of revolution.

One of my favourite things about this book is the woman empowerment! The book, while still very much taking place from Aladdin’s point of view, really showcases how strong Jasmine, and the supporting Morgiana, are. Jasmine doesn’t sit in her ivory tower (or Jasmine Garden as it were) and wait for Aladdin to do the rescuing; she takes charge and is a warrior Sultana. True to her original character, who got fed up and ran away, Jasmine in this retelling holds that same fire and passion but one-ups it with a revolution and regime change.

My only negative comment is that I felt the book needed one more run through in editing. There were parts that didn’t flow as smoothly as the rest; little word choices or sentence structures that just didn’t fit. I had read As Old As Time recently and that book was so much more polished and neat that I think I’m just being overly critical at this point.

Solid good read though. I’m love this new trend of redoing fairy tales in twisted and/or dystopian ways. It’s great fun to re-explore favourite stories in these different ways.

Happy Reading!

The Sweetest Spell – Suzanne Selfors

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“Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher’s daughter, has escaped death twice–first on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability, she can churn cream into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund is desired by all. But Emmeline wants only one–Owen Oak, a dairyman’s son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances tempt her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. Others, however, will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains, no matter what the cost to Emmeline.

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.”

Sometimes I copy the synopsis right from the dust jacket (or the authors website which you can find here and by clicking the image above) because there’s just no better way to succinctly summarize the perfection that is the novel. I could wax poetic about the story of Emmeline Thistle who overcomes challenges without hesitation, who is a bit naïve but pure and good. I could prattle on tales about Owen Oak’s bravery and compassion. I could whip up prose about Griffin Boar and his own journey. I could angrily script about the injustices of a class system. But, the dust jacket did a perfect job of keeping me in line so there you have it.

Though I said I wouldn’t prattle on you may have gathered from my tangent above that I am very in love with this book. You may also know from reading my gushing exclamations about Mad Love, Saving Juliet and Coffeehouse Angel that I do indeed tend to love anything Selfors produces. This book however is by far her strongest work. The characters were fuller, the story was fanciful and riveting. It was the kind of book where you go “oh just one more chapter” and then suddenly it’s midnight and the book is over. I do have a tendency to binge read my books but this book really did flow seamlessly from beginning to end: perfect, complete story telling. I love the way she always blends magic into seemingly ordinary things; and I loved that this one felt like a fairy tale. Sweetest Spell was set in a time of Kings, Queens, curses, knights, so the whole magic element was beautifully crafted through a fantasy storyline that was completely submerges you into this world and these characters. Unlike the others where magic is thrust upon a modern world (which is wonderful in its own right) the slight change in setting really bring out the romanticism and fantasy of magic.

I could probably talk all day about how strong Emmeline is and how inspiring of a character she is. Or how heroic Owen is, with his charm and wit. Or Beau! Who defies all things and comes into his own. Griffin who struggles and flourishes in his own way. Lara, Peddler, Nan, Henry, every single person in this book is there with purpose but not wooden or boring or plot devises. The book is really just perfectly packaged!

I’m going to stop talking about it so you can go read it.