Tag Archives: witches

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published in October 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

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.

zmaj-desno

This review should really have been written a year and a half ago when I first read Carry On, chewing through the entire book in one day. But I never got around to actually writing down my (very enthusiastic) thoughts, so I put Carry On on my “to be re-read soon” pile and now I finally took the time to do it! My re-read was the result of a pretty big reading slump – I just needed to re-read a favorite and fall in love with books again. There are spoilers in here (because that’s how I roll these days), so you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s been a while since its publication, and you’ve been warned. So.

Carry On has received mixed reviews – and I can absolutely see why. It’s a big mess of a book, the setting and topic and everything so reminiscent of Harry Potter, some people couldn’t get past it. I guess it’s possible to read it as a sort of parody. Rowell picked a ridiculous number of fantasy tropes and mashed them all together and yes, the resulting story is overwhelming at times.

But I loved it. I loved it the first time when I barely grasped what I was reading because I was so eager to see what happens and I loved it now that I took my time to savor Rowell’s writing.

I think it’s mostly the characters who make this story great. Rowell’s characters always have this fascinatingly real feel to them (see my reviews of Eleanor & Park and Attachments and Fangirl if you want to read more gushing praise), even if they’re vampires, ha. Something about them just speaks to me and they get under my skin and I can’t help but root for them. It’s good to know that I can trust an author to create likeable characters every time.

Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch are among my favorite YA couples of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked that they were more preoccupied with the fact that they were supposed to be mortal enemies than by being “hopelessly queer”. Coming out stories are important and powerful but I enjoyed reading a book where the fact that they weren’t even both human was more important than their sexual orientation. (Not that there was no mention of it. There were confusion and questions and people judging. But none of that mattered in the end. Because <3.)

I also enjoyed the side characters, Penelope in particular. I want to read her story. I even liked Agatha – the first time I read the book she sort of seemed pale and unimportant, but she’s a really intriguing young woman if you pay attention to her. I’d read her story, too.

And can I say that I wanted to clap when I read the ending? Flipping the Chosen One trope on its head was the best thing ever. I didn’t know what to expect with all this talk about Simon being the Greatest Mage that ever lived and his power being amazing, and then he sort of just fizzled out instead of being a big hero. Well, he did sort of save the day in the end – unintentionally. He didn’t want this burden, he didn’t enjoy his role, and for once, he wasn’t made to accept it and “grow a pair”, but was left to live the rest of his life in peace. I really liked that.

I now have only Landline to read (and a couple of novellas). I have a copy on my shelf, but I’m afraid to read it because it might not be as good as I want it to be and then I’ll have to wait for her next book to be released, which is just horrible. I’ll auto-buy all her books from now on, and I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already.

Have you read Carry On? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy #2) by Sally Green
Published in 2015 by Penguin UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend (paperback).

Genre: urban/paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

zmaj-desno

This is the review for the second book of the Half Bad series, so there might be some spoilers for the first one. Go read my review of it here if you’re new to this!

I really should binge-read series more. Every time I take too long between sequels, I inevitably forget half of what has happened and then need half the sequel to really get back in the mood again. *sigh* I did read my own review of Half Bad and even resorted to reading the post on Recaptains before I tackled Half Wild, but I still didn’t exactly remember what happened to Nathan and crew.

That said, I enjoyed this book a lot. I mean – is it the most original, wonderful fantasy I’ve ever read? Probably not. But it does explore some interesting themes and the characters are surprisingly well-layered, so I liked it.

The central theme, at least as I saw it, is still this balance (or imbalance, actually) between light and dark, good and bad. Nathan, being a half-code (the son of a white witch and a black witch), is rejected from both communities – from the good and the bad. It’s hard for him to find a place for himself, especially since most of them just value him for his ability to fight. His relationship with his father gets a lot more complicated, as do his friendships with Annalise and Gabriel. Gabriel, especially, was a very interesting character.

I remember Half Bad being pretty brutal at some points and Half Wild isn’t much different – especially as the war against the white witches escalates and the rebels get organised. I wonder how the story will continue after such an ending – and I’m looking forward to reading Half Lost as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

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Have you read The Half Bad Trilogy? What did you think?

Should I be super excited about book 3?

I’d love to hear from you! 

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
Published in 2011 by Headline.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.

Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

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I first read A Discovery of Witches several years ago – probably when the paperback was first published. And I liked it a lot! I bought the second book of the trilogy and then got stuck about a quarter way in and never finished reading it. Since I’m making an effort to finish more series, and since I already own 2 out of 3 books, I decided to give it another go.

First of all, I have to say I loved the worldbuilding in this one. The magical creatures (witches, vampires, and daemons) have very interesting histories and they seemed very well thought out. The historical aspect of the novel is also stunning, which isn’t surprising given that Harkness teaches history. I’m totally helpless when it comes to history (I blame bad school teachers), so I have no idea if the history stuff is factual, but it sure as hell sounds impressive.

I took a half star/heart from my rating this time around *le gasp*. Maybe it was because I already knew the story but I kept noticing things that didn’t bother me as much when I first read it. Mostly, I’m talking about Matthew and his antiquated views of what women should or should not be doing with their lives. His overbearing attitude to Diana (both before and after they become a couple) was horrible and I hated that it was explained away with “oh, he’s like that because he’s a vampire and also 1500 years old, so don’t bother trying to change him.”

To her credit, Diana does try to change him – she just has little to no success with it. Her initial reaction to meeting a vampire was also refreshingly normal (she kind of freaks out and tries to escape) compared to most other vampire novels.

I liked Diana a lot, despite her questionable taste in men. She’s very good at controlling every aspect of her life – until she isn’t. But she doesn’t crumble and cry when things go to shit but makes the best of her situation. She’s fiercely loyal and quick to love, which are both traits I admire in characters.

The plot is also sufficiently intriguing that I got sucked into the story again and managed to finish this 700-page beast in a matter of days. I’ll try not to wait too long before I tackle the sequel this time so I don’t forget what’s happened in this book.

srcek

Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think?

Do you have any favourite books that feature history this strongly?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Witchy Reads

witchy-readsI’m not a fan of horror stories, so you won’t find a lot of them on my blog – and I certainly haven’t read enough of them to be any sort of authority. The fact is that in Slovenia, we don’t traditionally celebrate Halloween. We do observe All Saints’ Day on November 1st as well as Reformation Day on October 31st (both are holidays), but dressing up in costumes is reserved for February, when Pust happens. Nowadays, people sometimes do Halloween parties but that’s more an excuse to dress in skimpy costumes and get drunk – nobody actually thinks about why the holiday is there to begin with. Eh.

Halloween isn’t just about ghosts and serial killers, though, even if the movie marathons run at this time of the year tend to lean in that direction. It’s about witches, too, and witches just so happen to be my favourite supernatural creatures!

Samhain being one of the most important holidays for witches past and present, this time of year is especially appropriate for reading books about witches. And I’ve read a fair number of them! These are some of my favourites (in no particular order).

  • The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Yeah this is one of those books I keep pushing on you folks. It’s a great seasonal read, if you haven’t tried it yet, maybe I can convince you: go read my review and another gushing post I wrote about it.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I don’t know why I never reviewed this one but it’s pretty damn fantastic. I’m planning on re-reading it soon as I recently re-read Fangirl, too.
  • Half Bad by Sally Green. This is a trilogy and I just read Half Wild – but I still have to read the last one. I like the story a lot though it’s a bit darker than your usual paranormal YA.
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Okay so maybe I wasn’t as impressed by this one when I re-read it recently (I still have to review it) but it’s a good blend of historical facts, romance, and mystery, plus the witches are pretty badass, so it deserves a spot on this list. Again, it’s a trilogy and I have to finish it.
  • The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. This is her debut and also the first of her novels that I read – before I even started blogging (this is totally an “I read Schwab before she was cool” moment lol). I love the fairytale feel of this one, it’s haunting.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik. One of my all-time favourites. Seriously, I’ve now read this book at least five times (I translated it into Slovenian so it’s sort of a must) and it’s still great. Books that can be read multiple times in the space of one year are rare indeed and this one is fantastic.
  • Book of Shadows by Kate Tiernan. Ohh, I recently re-read most of these. I first read them when I was about… 13? Maybe? Anyway, I bought the first two books when we were in the US, actually, and fell in love. I was seriously interested in Wicca for a while because of them!
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. Obviously.

srcek

Tell me your favourite witchy reads! I need more seasonal recommendations. 

Do you dress up for Halloween?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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An Ode to The Accident Season

the-accident-season-doyle

I know some of you will remember my review of Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season from last year. I read the ARC during a summer heat wave, while we were spending an unreasonably hot day by this little river in the forest. It seemed to me at the time that I must have found the perfect moment to read it because I felt it pull me in and hook its claws.

But now I won a paperback in a giveaway and decided to give it a re-read before lending it to a friend, despite the fact that I rarely re-read books so soon (especially if I’m not re-reading because there’s a sequel coming up). And you know what?

It’s still one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

I don’t even know why I rated it with 4.5 instead of 5 stars (hearts) when I read it, I just know it’s one of the books I’ve been recommending to everyone and if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and get a copy because it’s fantastic. It made my “best of” list of 2015 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it, which is always a good sign for me. As some of you are well aware, I have terrible book amnesia and forget some books almost instantly. This one stuck with me and it won’t let go.

On the surface (or rather in the beginning), The Accident Season sounds like a teenage paranormal romance but it’s much more complex than that. I love that it’s a standalone and yet manages to have well-developed characters, a heart-breaking plot, and stunning language.

Have I mentioned that it’s also Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut novel? I think I have only read one other debut novel that I liked this much – The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. It was the first book of hers that I read and I can only hope that I’ll continue falling in love with Fowley-Doyle’s books like I did with Schwab’s.

Anyway. I can now safely say that my mood (though otherwise very important when it comes to book choices) had little to do with my loving this book. It’s just a very good young adult novel and I am very glad that I got to read the ARC. I’m also happy I decided on this re-read because I like returning to characters and stories that speak to me.

Moïra’s next novel, which now has a title (!!!!!), Spellbook of the Lost and Found, is supposed to be similar in vibe but completely different in other aspects. I can’t wait to read it! You can find Moïra here: websitetwitterinstagramtumblr.

srcek

Have you read The Accident Season? What did you think?

What was the last book that stayed with you like this?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

Warrior Witch (The Malediction Trilogy #3) by Danielle L. Jensen
Published on May 3rd, 2016 by Angry Robot.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Angry Robot for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

zmaj-desno

This is the review for the final instalment of The Malediction Trilogy. I really liked the first part, though I never reviewed it, but I do have the review for Hidden Huntress if you want to check it out. Hint: I wasn’t too impressed by it. This post is divided into two parts: the first probably contains spoilers for Stolen Songbird and Hidden Huntress but not for Warrior Witch, while the second is absolutely full of them because I want to rant a bit. So stop reading at the “spoilers ahoy” mark if you don’t wish to know… pretty much everything there is to know about this book.

The non-spoilery part

Warrior Witch wasn’t a particularly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. As I said, Hidden Huntress left a lot to be desired, mainly because it suffered from second book syndrome. But this one just exploded right there in my face and took no prisoners. 

I thought the first third of the novel was a bit slow. It featured a lot of anxiety between Tristan and Cécile, their bond was tested and whatnot. I also thought some of the decisions they made were spectacularly bad, but who am I to judge? Cécile is seventeen, after all, and not a war general but a farm-girl-turned-opera-singer-turned-troll-princess. Tristan should have known better, though, he’s spent his life preparing just for this moment. I felt like their chemistry was flat, too, despite the fact that their relationship progressed in some ways.

I was also still having trouble with reconciling “trolls” with the humanoid, rather handsome individuals who populated this book. For me, trolls are like those creatures from The Hobbit, all grey and stupid and huge – not sexy. 

The focus on the intrigue was too heavy for my taste, I had trouble keeping track of all the players and their numerous, convoluted schemes, especially since I didn’t remember Hidden Huntress well enough. Maybe a bit of repetition at the beginning of the book wouldn’t have gone amiss – I felt like I should have re-read the first two parts prior to starting this one, but I just wasn’t invested enough. *sigh*

I was honestly surprised by the body count of this novel! I know war takes its toll but here it just seemed so senseless (not that war makes a lot of sense otherwise…). At the same time, the story worked hard on being very dramatic to the point of making me roll my eyes from time to time: “… I prayed that if he managed to reach the Duke, that he’d fail in his quest. Because if Angoulême was killed, Roland would be free to do what he wanted. And all the world would burn.” – dun, dun, dun!

Eh. Now to the fun part! :)

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Spoilers, ahoy!

The ending. The ending, people! What happened there? Okay, so it might be that I have a problem with it because I’m not a believer in all things spiritual – I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t think my soul will pass into another, more beautiful place where it will spend the rest of the eternity. So if you’ve read this book, you’ll understand why the ending left me cold.

The last part of the book was very unusual in itself. I’m apparently pre-conditioned to expect a happily ever after for the teenage pair, which is weird because I always complain about this when I see it, but Tristan and Cécile got theirs – just, you know, after she died. And of course she had his child. Because why else would a seventeen-year-old want to survive the departure of her teenage husband? I really thought we were past the “boy leaves girl, girl becomes catatonic” stage (what with a whole decade passing since Twilight), but apparently not. Ugh.

And really, I have to say this again: the senseless slaughter? So unnecessary. Humans were just troll playthings here. Even Cécile, who is human, was given special powers in order to be able to compete on this supernatural battlefield. Why are you hating on humans? 

Oooohhh and one more thing (I’ll stop after this, I promise): Roland’s madness. How convenient that Cécile was able to cure his “defect” by removing iron (a poison) from his body, huh? The only character with a seriously warped personality in this book gets “cured” by a teenage witch who pulls the “corruption” out of him. Ah, simplistic resolutions. 

No, wait, one more: I still don’t like Cécile’s singing. It’s like every time she gets stuck and doesn’t know what to do, she sings her heart out and it magically solves everything. I’m not a huge fan of musicals – and I think that if this was ever made into a movie, I’d be fast-forwarding the songs because come on. Okay, so I know music can be therapeutic and I like music – I just fail to see how it can be helpful on the battlefield if you get what I mean.

End of spoilers.

zmaj-desno

As you can see, this hit all the wrong buttons for me. I’m sad, I’m always sad when I dislike a series that showed so much promise at the beginning. But not everyone shares my opinion: check out Jolien’s glowing review if you want some balance.

zmaj-levo 

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Do trolls seem appealing to you? Or are you more particular with your choice of supernatural love interests?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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