Caraval – Stephanie Garber

27883214Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published Date: January 31, 2017

Blurb: 
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review:
I cannot even remember the first time I saw the cover/title for Caraval, but I didn’t care what it was or was about, but it caught my eye and I knew immediately I wanted to read it.  I do think it was a year ago, because I proceeded to check Amazon and at times NetGalley (which denied me btw!) for when it would be available.  THEN I get January’s Owlcrate – and the teaser for February’s Owlcrate was Carnival themed.  I just KNEW it was going to be one of two books (both I wanted) but I really, really hoped it would be Caraval.

What I Loved:  This whole book was amazing to me.  I loved the setting from even before Scarlett and Donatella reach the Caraval, and especially the setting AFTER they reach Caraval.  The world building in this book was amazing.  The whole thing is set up that you are constantly wondering what is really happening and what isn’t actually happening, since you’re told from the onset of Caraval that it’s all a game, and nothing is real.

While the beginning was a little bleak with the introduction of Scarlett and Donatella, and in particular, their father; you just know that their lives have been difficult and their existence was a sad one. So once we get to the place where the Caraval is being held, despite Scarlett’s reservations, it’s kind of a relief.  Plus that is when the magic starts happening.  It’s as of Caraval is cloaked from the outside of the real world, and inside anything is possible.

As a whole, the book has many twists and turns and lots of magic and mystery, but it’s not over-the-top, and I so loved that.   It really felt like it was possible, that the mystery of Caraval could be real.  The magic felt normal, and aside from it there were many great life lessons to be learned.  I enjoyed all aspects of it, the mystery, the magic, the bit of romance held within it.

Not So Much:  Both Scarlett and Donatella annoyed me a bit.  It was like they were opposite ends of the spectrum, yet the same.  They were both selfish and selfless at different moments, but it made it difficult to know what to expect.  Donatella was worse, in my opinion.  She really did behave very flippantly throughout the book lacking any care or concern for consequences.  It was difficult me to attempt a 180 on how I felt about her at the conclusion of the book.  I’m really hoping that I fall in love with her in book 2.

I went looking at Stephanie Garber’s website and looked at all the social media pages I could find…do you want to know what I wanted??  I wanted to see the inspiration for all the clothes the characters were wearing.  She described them in great detail, don’t get me wrong, but I really just wanted to see pictures.

The Verdict:  LOVVVED this book.  It was clean as a YA book ever is.  I’m pretty sure I remember some mild cussing, but I’ll be honest and say I was pretty well caught up in the story to pay that much attention. I would love to see this in a movie, I think it would be fantastic on the big screen.

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – Take 2

233956801Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Buy Link: http://a.co/2fOj0IS

Blurb: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

My Review:  Why yes, I have already reviewed Illuminea, but since I read the book a few weeks ago, I also decided to listen to the audio book, and I wanted to give you a brief update on my review.  A few things to keep in mind, if you will…

What I Loved:  Okay, in my humble opinion, if you want to get the full true-blue experience of Illuminea, you reallllly need to do both the hardback and the audio book.  The hardback is so visually awesome, filled with documents and such.  The audio though, it has so much personality and flair!  There is a long list of narrators, and they all do an excellent job!  My husband also listened to this book, and it was funny when he was like, “I like that British dude.” “Oh, Aiden (the computer) is freaky.”  “Wait…that wasn’t Aiden I was talking about…”  It really is done so well, it ranks right up there with the Harry Potter audio books and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Not So Much:  Not sure if you’ll recall, but in my original review I indicated that because of the censorship of the ‘document’ that this book was pretty clean.  This isn’t quite as true for the Audio book.  I mean, it’s still censored, however it mutes out the words, leaving just enough to  help you know exactly what was said (which you know that reading anyway…but it’s different when you hear it I guess).  Some of our characters are real potty-mouths.  Also, the innuendos were easily read past in the book, however they are much more clear and present in the audio book because of the personalities and inflections of the voice.

The Verdict:  I still hold to my original rating, but I would like to bump this up to good for older teen’s rather than a clean book.

 

Book Review: Everland by Wendy Spinale

Everland by Wendy Spinale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B015QMBYD8

I received Everland in the May Steampunk Owlcrate. I decided I wanted the box because of the advertised Infernal Devices inclusion in the box. I was extremely excited to discover the book was a steampunk version of Peter Pan, as (if you read my reviews you already know) I’ve been reading a lot of Peter Pan retells lately.

What I Loved: This wasn’t so much a retelling of Peter Pan as it was a reimaging. All of our favorite characters, and their personalities were present and accounted for. I really enjoyed that about this book – it was it’s own story throughout the entire book, but it was also very much Peter Pan!

In some of the retellings I’ve read lately, Peter is cast as the bad guy while Hook is really our hero – in this book the characters are put back into their rightful places, and Pete was perfect and made me fall in love with the kid Peter Pan was, but also with the teenager and guardian he was in this rendition. He was playful and sarcastic yet he bore the weight of burden but not without its scars.

It was awesome that this was steampunked. I’ve read a few steampunk books, but I think I like this one the best so far. And Pete’s tattoo…I really would love to see that for real. However the best steampunk element was most certainly Belle’s wings!

Not So Much: Truthfully, Hook was completely unstable in this book, but I was sort of confounded by this character. At times I felt like he wasn’t really such a bad person, other times he was the worst. I kind of felt like the two sides didn’t come together very well, but perhaps that is as it should be when someone isn’t quite right in the head.

I also would have loved to have had an Epilogue of this book. It was pretty well wrapped up, but not completely…..aaaaand as I was typing this I looked it up, and it appears that this is a series. Now I’m really wondering where this is going to go…..

The Verdict:
This is my favorite Peter Pan Retelling so far. I loved it. I loved the setting, and the characters. I do want more and am very intrigued to know how this is going to be as a series. Hopefully it does not disappoint.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard

Title: Glass Sword (Red Queen – Book 2)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian, Romance, Fantasy

Blurb (From Goodreads): 
Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

My Review:
I have been waiting on this book for a year – I fell in love with this world right from the start.  Any new world that I can somewhat compare to the X-Men is always going to get my attention though (hello Shatter Me Series!)  But I also enjoyed the Hunger Games/The Selection aspects of this book as well.

So I’ve waited a little impatiently for this book, all the while watching the fandom come together via instagram photos.  So when the day finally came, I was the first in line for the library’s audio-version of  The Glass Sword, but also my best friend had bought me the book for Christmas!  I LOVE HER SO MUCH! 🙂  (Okay, I love her whether or not she got me the book..but still!!!)

What I Loved: SO MUCH ACTION.  This isn’t your typical ‘sit and wait’ 2nd book where it really felt like it was a space-filler between the first and third books of the series.  In the past I’ve had trouble with the middle book of a trilogy for this reason – I love origins because I love getting to know new people – Glass Sword gives you plenty new characters to get to know and love.  One specifically I suspect is going to play a major role in the final book!  The 3rd book is usually so full of action and wrap up, but here again I say Glass Sword has its full share of action.  We aren’t stuck waiting out to find out what the oppressors are going to do in the books, we are taking action and creating game plans.  Some game plans don’t work out as well as others, but that’s okay.

I do also love that this book isn’t prettied up any.  Victoria Aveyard does not hold back any punches.  There are gruesome details and you end up hurting just as much as Mare.  She is not leading the easiest life right now, and you can feel that in every move, ever decision.

Not So Much:  Well, one – I hate when characters don’t communicate well.  I feel like Mare and Cal have some things they should talk about.  Do you know how many of our lives would be much easier and better if we would just talk??

I really wish I could have been in Cal’s head a bit more.  While he was there with Mare the entire time, and played a very important role in their rebellion/revolution, I still kind of feel like we didn’t see enough of him.  He was there in a sort of closed off sort of way.

I’m not digging Mare’s fixation on Maven either – This isn’t like Shatter Me where my heart tipped in Warner’s direction…I don’t feel like he’s been very redeemable at all.  Plus, well I love Cal, and have from the beginning.  The underlying theme of this entire book has been “Anyone can betray anyone” but he’s been pretty clear about who he is, what he desires, how he feels.  I swear if he betrays what I believe to be true about him, I might just throw the last book against the wall.  Then buy a new one since I ruined it. 😉

The Verdict:          
These books are best for older teenagers, there are a lot of gruesome details that I think would give my pre-teens/young teens nightmares, but you know your kids best.  There is cussing.  Other than that this is a clean book – and one I love and recommend for Dystopian lovers!

Book Review: Etherworld – Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam

Authors:  Claudia Gabel, Cheryl Klam

Synopsis from Goodreads:  

In this sequel to Elusion, three teens fight a virtual reality program that threatens to destroy their minds. Dangerous secrets and lies add up to a thrilling futuristic fantasy with an Inception-inspired twist. 

Elusion was hailed as an exciting leap in technology—until users began to disappear amid rumors of addiction. Regan’s search for the truth led her and her new love interest, Josh, to Etherworld. Etherworld is a dimension hidden deep beyond Elusion’s firewall, where players can hide, and ultimately fight back. Regan’s father and others are here working to destroy Etherworld, but the longer they stay the less likely they’ll be able to return to the real world alive.
Escape means attacking Elusion from within the program. 

It’s dangerous and it’s a puzzle. And even if they manage it, how will they be able to stop Orexis from distributing Elusion to the masses when the people who run it are corrupt?

My Review:
Etherworld was satisfying in that this was not book two of a three book series, and this made me so happy, mostly because as the story was unfolding I couldn’t figure out how it would possibly end in a way to need an additional novel. I love the virtual reality/Matrix like feel of the entire series. Etherworld picked up practically where Elusion left off, and moves pretty quickly through the story; at no point did I feel like it was just dragging on. This book is even less focused on the romance than Elusion was, and the main focus was mostly about getting everyone to safety and bringing the truth to light, but that doesn’t mean that Regan and Josh don’t get a few precious moments together. My only problem with Etherworld was that as facts unfolded I was a little lost as to the motives behind some of the decisions the characters were making (I’m purposefully being vague to avoid spoilers), and because of that the story did feel a little bit forced. Otherwise, this is a great scifi/dystopian-like series.

Rated: PG-13; because of eluded to Sex
Genre: Young Adult – Dystopian, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars


~* Books by Claudia Gabel *~
//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ilo2re-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=006212241X&asins=006212241X&linkId=YAEHNTBL5R3HVZ62&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ilo2re-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0062122444&asins=0062122444&linkId=27EWYNCIZ63PCW76&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ilo2re-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0439918537&asins=0439918537&linkId=Z4ZGJVKNWN3RMZNG&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse & The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy – Book 1)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Synopsis from Goodreads:   

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 


As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 


One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 


But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 


Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Review:
Once again, what I am loving most about a book is the fact that the main character, Kestrel, is not this all perfect/powerful person;  while she’s smart and cunning, she is decisively not good at combat, despite being a famous general’s daughter.  She is drawn to things and activities that are  are not valued in her culture.  The Winner’s Curse focused a lot on strategy and games, but the beautifully woven words that developed the relationship between Kestrel and Arin created some of the best pictures of a budding  affection between our two points of view.  I loved that the book wasn’t exactly an insta-love type attraction, but something that developed over time, and still has places to go.  The world and society that Marie Rutkoski builds are made up, yet are so very believable; the hatred and prejudices on both sides of the spectrum mixed with those who realize value in all people, and respect for their culture make this story so well rounded and easy to love.

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult 
Rating:  5 Stars


Title: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy – Book 2)
Author: Marie Rutkoski

Synopsis from Goodreads:   

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.


The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.


As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.


My Review:
I am the worst when it comes to the 2nd book of a series; it’s the book that I love to hate because it’s not the introduction, where you get to know the characters and establish the foundation of the world/story (which is kind of my favorite part) nor do you get to find out the end result.  It’s exactly what it is; the stuff in the middle – there’s typically action, but it’s not the explosion of events you would get at a conclusion, and since you already “know” the characters – well it’s just a lot of in-between and tension that is left unresolved.  The Winner’s Crime is no exception, it is the moving board between what is going on, and what is going to happen; and while I did enjoy Kestrel’s devotion to Arin in her own way, and I absolutely love the word pictures that Marie Rutkoski draws especially in the area of Kestrel and Arin’s relationship, I was frustrated beyond belief at Kestrel’s avoidance of Arin and her inability to simply tell the truth.  In the end, this entire book was about the divide between her desire to make her father proud and the desire to help the guy she loves – and the consequences of both.  The Winner’s Crime was a good book – but it was the 2nd book of a series and I want more, bring on Book 3!

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult
Rating:  4 Stars

Book Review: Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

Title:Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard


Synopsis from Goodreads:   

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.


To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.


Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of

those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.


But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?


Review:
The Red Queen started popping up in my newsfeeds and emails a couple months ago, and despite the hype, mentally I was prepared to be disappointed. I was finding it compared to The Selection Series and Graceling, both books (series) I have read, and both of them I started out loving and ended up not very happy with them for different reasons.  Also, with big named publishers, books tend to get a lot of hype and advertismenet because of who is backing them.  What I’m trying to say is, I wasn’t buying into the hype.  I saw the book on my library’s Overdrive Ebooks list and thought it was at least worth a chance.


The Verdict??
I.want.to.own.these.books.  …and only the first book is out.

(Edited 4/21/14 – I DO own this book!)


So, I can see the relationship to The Selection and Graceling, and I would add The Hunger Games in the mix too, because of the arrogant turning their noses on those who provide them basically everything.  The world building was absolutely excellent!  I didn’t feel lost or confused about what was going on or why.  I also really enjoyed that none of the characters were perfect, every last one of them had their strengths and flaws, making the story feel more believable.  This is a bit rare in dystopian type novels – usually at least one of the characters is unnaturally good at almost everything.  I did find that much of the book was predictable due to foreshadowing, so I really wasn’t surprised by much of the story at all.  

If I were to pick a favorite part of the book I would say it would be all the conversations between Mere and Cal, and Mere and Maven (the Princes of the Kingdom); and how while the book was about the ruling class of super-humans and the normal humans living as a secondary slave class, both sides of the spectrum felt trapped and confined by their lives.  It really plays on the whole “grass is not always greener on the other side” concept, although there truly is a lesser more oppressed side.

The biggest downside of this series…. the wait for book 2 has begun!

Rated:  PG-13; Some Cussing
Genre: Young Adult: Dystopian, Romance
Rating:  5 Stars

~* Books by Victoria Aveyard *~