Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
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 don't know how to carry on after reading this book.
I read almost the entire book straight through last night, finishing well past one in the morning, at which point I was basically a puddle of emotions. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all day - every other thought in my head is related to Carry On, and how amazing it was, and how I'm probably going to go home and immediately start rereading it. A book hasn't made me this ridiculously happy in a long time.
I don't read a lot of romances, or get super emotional over them very often, but Rainbow Rowell has this amazing ability to write a romance that leaves me flailing my limbs like an overexcited toddler and feeling like a swarm of Amazonian butterflies have settled in my stomach. And the romance inCarry On is just so well done. The growth of Simon and Baz's relationship is so realistic and beautifully written (and wonderfully cliche free!) that I don't think I'll ever be over it.
Carry On is, at its core, a romance, but it's also a fantasy novel that loosely parallels Harry Potter. The first few chapters have a lot more parallels and veiled allusions to HP, but after after that, Rowell sets up her own magical world with a unique set of rules, values, spells, and magical creatures. The worldbuilding is honestly genius, playing off of what people expect to find and adding plenty of twists. The politics of the World of Mages and Simon and Baz's place in them are fascinating and intricate, and the magiclore is clever and intriguing (I especially love the spells - they seemed a little silly at first, but after we got a better explanation of them, I was blown away by how ingenious they were).
The adventure/fantasy side of the story is predictable (I guessed the Big Twist not even halfway into the book) but with enough small surprises that it isn't stale. The focus is on Simon and Baz's characters and relationship, and their roles in the magickal world add more depth to that without being the center of attention. That said, if you're only interested in Carry Onbecause of the fantasy aspect, Rowell created such a cool world and villain that it's still worth the read.
(And the reread. And the next reread).
I think the only thing I didn't like about this book was that there wasn't more of it - which is saying something, given that it's 522 pages!
Winter by Marissa Meyer
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
This book was hard to finish. Not because it was bad or anything, but because I didn't want this series to end. From the first page of Cinder, Marissa Meyer delivered lovable characters, fast-paced action, political intrigue, and beautiful storytelling, and she didn't stop until the last page of Winter. I think The Lunar Chronicles are the only YA series that has never let me down. I loved every sentence of every book, and I am so sad to be finished with it.
That said, Meyer absolutely nailed the ending. Bittersweet and wonderfully thought out, Winter is the perfect conclusion to this amazing series. The elements of Snow White are incorporated with the subtle genius that Meyer brought to her sci-fi/dystopian/political thriller/romance interpretations of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel.
The leading ladies of The Lunar Chronicles are the best part of the series. I could rant for hours about the importance of a series based around six fully realized female characters and filled with a beautifully diverse cast of characters, but for now I'm just going to thank Marissa Meyer.
Thank you for this exciting, heart-wrenching, stay-up-reading-until-two-am-good series.
Ex Libris, Veritas
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As Simple as Snow