Carry On – book review

Carry On

Carry On, written by Rainbow Rowell, is a book you’ll fall head-over-heels for.

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour 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 stow him away in the mountains where he might 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 the chance to relax and savour anything.

*

I can’t even express how much I loved this book. Right now, I’m trying to control myself from falling off my chair and rolling around on the floor with Carry On held to my chest. It was magically, jaw-droppingly good. Ever since I read Fangirl, I wished I could read more about Simon and Baz. Well, I got my wish, along with the many other people who have fallen head-over-heals for Rainbow Rowell’s writing. I was literally counting down the days until this book was released from about 90 days out. When I finally got my hands on this book, I couldn’t contain myself. I immediately put down the other books I was reading and devoured Carry On in just two days. If I had no other life obligations, I can assure you that I would have just sat on my bed and read it from start to finish in one go.

For those of you who don’t know, Carry On is the fanfic which a character in Fangirl writes, which is based off a fictional series about wizards. This series and the fanfic that Cath writes is very similar to Harry Potter in many aspects, so some may think of it as just a well-written Harry Potter fanfiction. Except different. And surprisingly, even more swoon-worthy. I absolutely loved finding the parts of Carry On which were explicitly mentioned in Fangirl and sometimes I would have the books opened side by side, comparing the magic of Rainbow’s writing. I truly can’t wrap my head around how amazing this book was.

Maybe we’ll talk a little about the world-building now, shall we? For starters, this book felt very British. If you know anything about Rainbow Rowell, you might know she’s not British. However, this book felt researched to ensure the characters sounded British and were kind of British in their actions. This book could have easily felt really American, and then it wouldn’t have achieved one of its purposes. So that’s basically all I wanted to say about the Normal world – the Mage world is far more interesting. It’s rare that I can immediately sink into the world of the characters, particularly if it’s different to our own. But with Carry On, in an eery sense, it felt like I was coming home. In many ways, it is similar to Harry Potter, so that may have helped, or maybe I was just so relieved to be back in a magical world. Nevertheless, I felt comfortable at Watford and like I could be dropped into their world and already have a clear picture of their school. And also, I’m not sure about all versions of this book, but my paperback version had a map of the school on the inside of the cover at both ends, which was also helpful – not to mention cute and quirky!

Let’s just touch upon the fact that this book has incredibly cute works of art of the characters / scenes at the beginning of each “book”. Some of you might be like – each book… what? Well, this book is split into a few different “books”, but it’s practically just a fancy chapter break. One thing I really liked about this book was the flow of it. I was constantly engaged and on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t a single part of this book that seemed to be lacking in lustre. I’d finish each chapter thinking – just one more chapter – no matter how late it was getting. Or should I say, early.

Okay, I think it’s time to talk about characters. *deep breath* *tries not to smile ridiculously* *fails* So first of all, Simon. Simon was just such a sweetie. What I loved most about him was that he wasn’t perfect. Yes, he may have been the “Chosen One”, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He was far from perfect, and that made me love him even more. He wasn’t particularly good at using magic sometimes, he wasn’t good at verbalising his feelings and he’d make mistakes with his friends, but that made him all the more endearing. What he was good at was never giving up and being determined to do the right thing. He was a beautiful character to follow and it was really interesting to get to know what happened to him in the past and what made him what he was. There was also an element of mystery surrounding that which made this novel all the more addictive. I desperately wanted to know what was really happening with him and the truth about his past. I had never guessed what was revealed, and that was the best feeling in the world. I love being surprised while reading, and that’s definitely what I got with this book. There were twists around every corner and each character had multiple dimensions to them. It was phenomenal.

Now Baz. How do I even begin to describe Baz? I liked Baz even more than Simon. Yes, he may have been a vampire. And yes, he did have urges to kill people. Maybe it’s just the hopeless teenage girl inside me that always falls for the vampire. There’s nothing more romantic than blood-sucking, stunningly attractive vampires, am I right? Vampire stuff aside, I just loved Baz’s personality. He could be sarcastic and unpredictable, but deep down, he was sweet and desperately wanted to find out the truth behind how his mother died and who was responsible. There was a massive change in his character from the beginning to the end. He became more empathetic and less cold as we got to know him. I loved learning about his past as well, and seeing what made him who he is today. His past was quite saddening and my heart broke for Baz. He was often misunderstood, and it honestly warmed my heart to see him finally being accepted for who he really is at the end of Carry On.

Agatha and Penelope were lovely characters to get to know. I enjoyed their part in the book, Penelope’s especially. I liked how Penelope was such a big part of Simon’s life and how they would spend so much time together. It was hilarious when Penelope complained about her roommate. She was such a lively, opinionated character and she was great to read about. Agatha was… different. I never really knew whether I liked her or not, but I tended to swing towards the latter. She seemed a little stuck up at points and she was rude to quite a few characters who I felt protective over. Nevertheless, all the secondary characters were really well-developed and fun to read about.

Finally – it’s time. Let’s discuss the romance between Simon and Baz. Their transition from enemies to friends to something more was one heck of a roller coaster to be on. There were certainly a lot of bumps in their relationship, but they always came back to the same underlying feelings. I knew that there was going to be romance between Simon and Baz because of Fangirl, but I didn’t predict it would be as cute and swoon-worthy as it was. Their first kiss was electrifying. That part of the book would definitely have to be my favourite. In this part, the book alternated between Simon and Baz’s point of view, which was useful and sweet to see. Each chapter had the point of view from one character and these characters would not just be the primary characters. In this moment especially, I loved how Rainbow could write from everyone’s point of view with it feeling realistic and honest.

The ending of this book, in my opinion, couldn’t have been done any better. I never predicted how it would end, well, except for one part, and it was happily surprising. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this book turned out. It was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve read Fangirl, reading this book is a must. If you’re a fan of other Rainbow Rowell books, you’ll fall head-over-heels for this one too. Even if you’ve never heard of this book or of Rainbow’s other books, you can start with this one. Reading Fangirl definitely isn’t a necessity as you won’t feel left out of anything by reading this one first, but I definitely recommend reading both of those books regardless. I’d give Carry On by Rainbow Rowell a score of 10 out of 10. SO – have you read this book yet? Have you read any other books by Rainbow Rowell? Do you like the sound of this book? I’d love to know! 🙂

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Landline – book review

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline is an alluring and beautifully written book by Rainbow Rowell.

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble – and it has been for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, but she’s beginning to question whether that’s really enough anymore. Or if it was ever enough.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer and something has come up on her show, so she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her – he always seems to be a little upset with Georgie – but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally ruined everything. And then, that night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past and she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it even starts. Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

*

After turning the last page to Landline, it was official. I had read all of Rainbow’s books to date. At the same time, that fact feels really pleasing because now I am a better judge of just how amazing her writing is, but I’m also a tiny bit sad, because now I’m going to have to wait until she releases a new book to get lost in one of her worlds once again. Like all of her other books, I absolutely loved reading Landline. I’ve heard that a few people didn’t like Landline as much as her other books and while it wasn’t my favourite of hers, I still really enjoyed reading it.

One of the things I loved about this book, as with all her other books, was the writing style. I don’t even know how she does it, but Rainbow Rowell manages to write her books in such a way that makes them fresh, grabbing, and impossible to put down. The dialogue is sharp and funny, the descriptions reel you in and the plot twists will keep you coming back for more. I haven’t read many adult fiction books and I’m usually cautious about picking them up because I’m more of a YA girl, but when Rainbow is involved, there’s no way I’m passing up reading her books just because they don’t fall under the right heading. If you’re a person that doesn’t usually read adult fiction, I definitely recommend picking this book up. The only things that really separate this book from YA fiction is that the characters are all adults (for the most part) and they go to work instead of school. That’s literally the extent of the differences. Trust me when I say I’m not usually a fan of the everyday adult-fiction book, unless it’s something remarkable because otherwise I just generally don’t relate to it, but this book is definitely worth your time no matter what you normally read.

I was happily surprised by how well this book just worked. So when I heard about the ‘magic phone’, I was just a tiny bit worried whether it would come across as cheesy or if it would just be weird. But seriously. I should have had more faith in Rainbow. I think you could tell her to write a book purely on a penguin wearing a party hat and she’d do it excellently. She’s just that kind of author. Anyway, back to the phone. I’ve heard some people criticise the idea of the magical phone and I admit, it can be a little weird to get used to the idea of it at first, but once you open your mind to it and just roll with it, it’s really easy to understand and enjoy reading. The parts with the magic phone involved some really interesting and funny dialogue.

One thing that didn’t work so well in regards to the whole idea of the ‘magic phone’ was that sometimes I was a little confused as to when (time-wise) we were reading from. I kind of got lost as to whether I was reading from the present or the past. This book could have benefitted from having labelled chapters that didn’t just from present to the past to avoid confusion. Besides that, it would be hard for me to find much else that I wasn’t happy with in this book.

For the most part, I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book. To be honest, they weren’t my favourite characters out of all the other books Rainbow has written, but they were still vibrant and alive and enjoyable to read about. There were a few things that annoyed me about the characters though. For instance, Georgie seemed to be moping around for a large portion of this book. She refused to go home and she was so consumed by Neal possibly/maybe/probably leaving her that she couldn’t do anything, when him leaving was her idea all along. Her being miserable and unable to do anything was a bit frustrating at times. Despite all that, I did love her and I loved how much she cared about Neal. She was also flawed and didn’t always do the right thing, which was what made her relatable and made me really like her as a character.

I kind of had a love/hate relationship with Neal. I loved him in the past and how he seemed to care a lot more about Georgie back then. He seemed like a genuinely sweet guy. Maybe we didn’t spend enough time with present-day Neal to see what he could be like. Instead we always thought he was ignoring Georgie or just being a douche. So that basically sums up why I hated him. He could seem pretty cold and distant present-day even when Georgie was trying so hard to make things right. But the flashbacks made me fall in love with Georgie and Neal and made me want them to be together and I was ultimately happy with the end of this book. Another thing that slightly annoyed me about Neal was the fact that Georgie said how he rarely smiled. That’s probably another reason why he felt cold to me a lot of the time. However, when he did show the tiniest hint of a smile, I felt really happy for Georgie and for them together because she seemed to be the only person that made him happy.

Overall, I was really pleased with this book. While my favourite of Rainbow’s books so far would have to be either Fangirl or Eleanor and Park, I definitely enjoyed this one. Her writing style is unique and beautiful and funny to read and I thoroughly enjoy reading all of her books. I’d give Landline by Rainbow Rowell a score of 8.5 out of 10. If you haven’t read any books by Rainbow, I definitely recommend doing so!