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.

Book Review: Whisper of the Woods – D.G. Driver

Title: Whisper of the Woods (A Juniper Sawfeather Novel – Book 2)
Author: D.G. Driver

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Juniper Sawfeather seems to have a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her.

The mermaids she saved from the oil spill are long gone. There’s no evidence of them, and she’s been branded as a liar and a fake in the media and at school. Her environmental activist parents have moved on to a protest to save Old Growth trees from being chopped down. June isn’t particularly concerned with this cause until after falling asleep at the base of a giant tree she wakes to find herself 40 feet in the air on one of its branches!

From this point on she becomes obsessed with the tree, and it appears the tree is becoming obsessed with her too. Soon, she is trapped 170 feet above the ground, and the magical spirit that resides in the tree isn’t interested in letting her go free or allowing anyone else to save her. Is the tree spirit good or evil? Will Juniper’s feet ever touch the ground again?

My Review:
After reading Cry of the Sea, author D.G. Driver asked me if I might be interested in reading Whisper of the Woods as well. Juniper and her adventure was still in my head when she asked, so I decided to go for it, even though I’m slowing down on accepting review requests and pushing towards my #2016TBRChallenge. I’m glad that I accepted the request, and it’s going to be difficult to get through 2016 (if the book comes out) to wait read the last installment.

What I Loved:
Whisper of the Woods really drawled me into its story, keeping me wondering what was going to happen next – especially the tree itself. ‘Why does it seem to talk only to Juniper, and what is it going to do next?’ were some of the questions I was asking myself while reading. I really enjoyed going on this journey with Juniper and learning more about the legend of the great tree, and it’s tie into the mermaids in Cry of the Sea, especially when I found out at the end that it was based around (I’m sure with creative licenses used at will) a true Indian legend. I was intrigued by the tree’s pull on Juniper from the beginning, how she became obsessed with it and knowing as much information about old trees as she possibly could.

I am also happy to know that while things don’t seem to be exactly great, Juniper’s relationship with her mother seems to be improving from where it left off in Cry of the Sea, and I feel like the third installment of this series will probably be a big one for the both of them.

Not So Much: I was confused by Juniper and Carter’s relationship in this book. Clearly they are in the midst of dating, however it felt like things weren’t going well over all. There was never any real good interactions between them to make it to the end of this book and everything be happy again.

I also felt like there were many times in the story where the tree was manipulating the feelings of Juniper and others who were near or touching it, however that didn’t seem to come up in conversation either. I just feel like things were taken at face value and accepted by the supporting characters: Juniper climbed up a tree, or is she stuck in the tree? There is something weird going on with the tree. Juniper never seems to make a real effort to explain it to anyone believing she wouldn’t be trusted anyway. Even at the end it was glossed over, yet everything is just…okay.

The Verdict:    
I enjoy stories that suck me in, even if after everything is done I still have questions. This book is clean and very YA appropriate, and I love that there are great messages of caring for the earth, and animals and others woven into to the foundation of this series.

Book Review: 99 Days – Katie Cotugno

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Genre: YA – Fiction, Coming of Age

Synopsis:  Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.


Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.


My Review:  
I listened to 99 Days as an audiobook downloaded impulsively from the library.  The cover of this book stuck out to me at first, and I don’t know, I kind of just went with it.  This review is going to be a little bit weird because I both disliked and really liked this book – which makes me not know how to rate it or how to phrase what I want to say exactly.
What I Loved:  The writing in this book is great.  I know this because I was so engrossed in the story and the characters that it was impossible for me to put it down.  Several occasions I wanted to, trust me, I wanted to.  I was so frustrated and annoyed and disappointed in the characters, Molly especially.  But. I. Just. Couldn’t.  So that means it’s a good book, right?
I actually did like some of the flashback scenes, and the relationship between Molly and Patrick before it went off track. Though it made the relationship seem a little one-sided in a way, Molly seemed to be what Patrick needed at a particularly hard time in his life.  They had a  relationship that was cut off from the rest of the world, and they were engrossed in each other.  This is sort of a reflection of my husband and I in those same tender teen years.  We were completely engrossed and entangled with each other for the first couple years of our relationship – and while the book kind of indicated that it is an unhealthy way to be – I do agree that if it continues for years and years it probably is; most of the time teenagers turn into adults who come out of hiding and return to the real world with responsibilities and start interacting with people again.  I know.  I lived it!
Not So Much:  Love Triangle.  …but that’s unfair, right, because reading the description of the book before downloading it to my phone I knew about the triangle.  So it’s really unfair of me to list that here.  
So moving on…Molly as a person bothered me.  She was so engrossed with both Gabe and Patrick, and somehow she had them both wrapped around her little finger (sort of).  Some of the major points of this book, ie: it takes two to tango, rings true of course.  However, to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results; that’s insanity.  And I’m over here trying to figure out how she’s going to do the right thing, how this book is going to smooth over all this emo-teen-love junk and an important lesson is learned.  It did, in its way…but I’m not sure I’m convinced that anyone has learned anything, if I’m honest.
Also – I felt like the turmoil in the relationship between Molly and her mother, who is an author and did a horrible, horrible thing when she wrote a book based on her daughters experience, and then ADMITTED to it in an interview.  How could her mother not see how that would make her daughter feel?  I mean, really??  But outside of that,  why did this relationship/sub-plot not really move?  There was a scene where I thought there was going to be a breakthrough moment – where either Molly was going to see the book that was written in a different light, or her mother was going to truly understand the depth of the stupidity of her actions.  Nope, there was a flipped coin (a reference to the book mother had written) and end scene…never to be referred to again.
The Verdict:  
This is why it’s so difficult.  The book overwhelmed me with emotions, just not all the ones I usually like to have when reading.  It wasn’t satisfying in the way that I like stories to be.  But is that a bad thing?  I mean, I admitted already that I wanted to put the book down and be done with it.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t leave them up in the air like that because my brain would have busted my butt, I would have been utterly distracted until I gave in and finished the stupid book.  I can’t say that just because I was unsatisfied that this wasn’t a good book.
So this book has cussing and talk of sex (no actual scenes), so mature YA would be my stance on this one – I know some look out for this portion of my review, I didn’t want to leave you hanging!

About the Author:
Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.

Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.

The great loves of Katie’s life include child’s pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.

Book Review: Cry of the Sea – D.G. Driver

Title: Cry of the Sea

Author: D. G. Driver
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Juniper Sawfeather is choosing which college to attend after graduation from West Olympia High School next year. She wants to go to San Diego to be far away from her environmental activist parents. They expect her to think the way they do, but having to be constantly fighting causes makes it difficult to be an average 17 year old high school student. Why do her parents have to be so out there? Everything changes when she and her father rush to the beach after a reported oil spill. As they document the damage, June discovers three humans washed up on the beach, struggling to breathe through the oil coating their skin. At first she thinks they must be surfers, but as she gets closer, she realizes these aren’t human at all. They’re mermaids!Now begins a complex story of intrigue, conspiracy and manipulation as June, her parents, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, her best friend, the popular clique at school and the oil company fight over the fate of the mermaids.
My Review:
I feel so bad because I was approached to review this book early last month. When D. G. Driver approached me I was just getting ready to leave on my cruise vacation, couple that with the fact that I’ve never read a ‘mermaid’ themed book, it seemed like it was the perfect read for the trip.  Then I get there, and reading inside seemed kind of silly since I was on vacation to be outside in the beautiful sun and heat, and reading on my iPad outside is nearly impossible – if nothing else, it’s not good for my eyes.  So I didn’t read this while on vacation.  And then it’s taken me a few weeks in addition to get to it.  I just hope she didn’t think I’d forgotten about her.
As I said, I have never read a mermaid book, mostly because I have a very difficult time with a half/half species relationship concept.  I know that there’s the whole “they turn to humans when dry” aspect, but I don’t know – I mean they are half fish, and the normal theme of mermaid with human just never really appealed to me.  (I feel a bit hypocritical because I do like werewolves and vampires and such, it’s just a silly preference I suppose.) However, this book is not your typical “Little Mermaid” themed kind of book.  Imagine discovering a new species – one that is human-like as some apes and monkeys are,, and yet very much like a a fish too.  This appeals to me.
What I Loved:  The story-line if this book was great, we have a typical teenager trying to bust the seams of her parent’s mold and do her own thing.  Juniper’s making her way in life while not abandoning her upbringing.  I like that.  I like that her relationship with her parents seemed to be pretty realistic; once the dust settles from an argument, they are still a family and work through their issues.
Any kind of animal activism I can stand behind, even if this is based upon a mythological creature, a lot of things still stand true.  Do we ever stop and think about the emotions of animals that we treat as objects?  I don’t mean your pets, but what about other animals.  Cows?  Goats?  Do you want to know what caused me to become Vegan?  People posting silly animal videos on Facebook – and watching them and realizing that these animals were expressing happiness, joy, love, at times compassion toward one another – sometimes toward animals that weren’t even their own species.  Sometimes animals show more humanity than humans, I think.  So a book that has even a little hint of compassion and love towards animals – no matter what kind,  is good to me.
But that’s not the only reason this book was good.  This is a well written young adult book with conflict and some action, some teen drama and a touch of romance.
Not So Much:  This is an opinion on a character rather than on the book itself, but I will say that I wasn’t found of Juniper’s mother, she was pretty over bearing and didn’t have many redeeming qualities.  Near the end I was wondering what was going to happen with that relationship, because she was just a little over the top.  Then her dramatics were kind of shoved aside and never really revisited.
Rating: 4 Stars – A good book, great for teenagers!
Rated: PG – very appropriate for younger eyes.

Book Review: Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult – Romance/Fiction

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. 

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…  

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.  

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. 

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.  

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?  

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?  

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Review:  When I left for my cruise I had loaded up both my iPad and iPhone (by loaded up, I mean predownloaded) with many book options for reading while on vacation.  When I got on the ship, however, I was more concerned about squinting and trying to see the screens – and kids who liked to splash a lot ruining my electronics.  (This didn’t stop many people though, as I saw quite a few Kindles throughout the week). The great thing is, Carnival has us covered, and provides a nicely stocked library on board the ship.  On it I found Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  This seemed as good of a choice as any because while I have seen Rainbow’s books come up over and over again, I hadn’t actually read one.  And it seemed like a fun vacation read…plus I love nerdy/fangirlly books.

Reading on a cruise ship is both perfect, and difficult.  I loved relaxing in the sun or on the front or Hi Michelle!) which meant that I couldn’t be “zoned out” for too long, people were bound to miss me.  That being said, I didn’t finish the book.  I came really, really close – but not quite.  So when I got home I forked out the $4.99 to buy the e-book so I could finish FIVE CHAPTERS!  Money well worth it, because who in their right mind can just sit for long when you’ve only got 5 chapters of a book to read?!
back deck with the book and a cup of coffee and just zoning out.  However, there is so much to do on a cruise, and I was there with not only my husband, but my best friend and her husband (
What I Loved:  Characters always make the book for me.  And I loved Cather and Wren (and the origins of their name! 🙂 )  They were so different, but still had that gravitational pull that you always hear about twins having.  Levi was excellent as well, I loved who he was for Cath – how patient and kind and exactly perfectly what she needed.  I already mentioned that I loved the fangirl stuff – It made me nostalgic for when I was all about Twilight, and everything Twilight related.  I wasn’t like Cather or Wren – I didn’t read FanFic, but that was mostly because I liked the “canon” and didn’t want anything or anyone changing the characters or story-line for me.  However, I can understand the other perspective too…not wanting the world to end.

I found Rainbow Rowell’s writing quite entertaining, her characters were witty and fun, and if I’m being quite honest, I was probably half through the book before I realized that it was written in third person and not first – that is how strong Cather’s voice is!

Not So Much:  Okay all you ‘fangirls’ don’t skin me alive on this one, but I didn’t really feel like there was much of a climax/resolution in this book.  It all sort of was just a flat story that was entertaining to read.  I can’t tell you that Cather was a stronger or better person at the end.  She was always capable, and usually did make the right decisions (eventually), regardless of any insecurities she had.  I can’t say that Wren even was a better person at the end – although all things indicate that she was.  I feel like their father might have made progress – but nothing definite.  Their mother, well let’s just say I side with Cath on that issue, and I don’t know if I could say that part of the book went anywhere either. I guess it could be said that Cath and Wren grew as much as any young adult does at this point of life.  I’m just used to a more pronounced story arc, I suppose.

Rated: PG-13 – Good read for teenagers even though the characters are in college.  Some talk of sex, some cussing.
Rating:  3 Stars – I liked it, very entertaining.

Book Review: Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen

Title:  Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult – Coming of Age, Romance

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident? 

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time. 

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

My Review:
Going back to read Sarah Dessen is basically me going back to my roots.  When I started reading again, after High School ruined the fun for me and I had to rediscover the joy in reading, Sarah Dessen was one of the first authors I picked up, and then devoured all of her books.  There are a couple of her books that I wouldn’t consider my favorites, but they are the exception to the rule.  Whenever I find myself needing a good book that isn’t too intense, but whose characters I know I will love forever – Sarah is my go-to.  I love following a long as her characters are usually somewhat broken people who are learning to find themselves.  Beautiful pictures and examples to our young adults, I will always recommend her books when someone is looking for a good read for their teenagers.

Saint Anything is exactly that.  This book dives into the life of Sydney in the middle of the drama, but that drama is all her brother’s, and she owns none of it (yet).  Throughout the book you start to love Sydney and can relate to her feelings and her empathy, and root for her on her quest to be not invisible within the walls of her own home.

What I Loved:  The family that took the show: The Chathams.  Their example of a simple family who have their issues, but man they are bonded.  You get the impression that while they don’t always get along, they would have each other’s backs at the drop of a hat.  The fact that they took Sydney in as one of their own, and just understood and listened to her from the beginning; well that is exactly how I feel like people should behave all the time.  No one is perfect, we all have flaws and hiccups, but we should love people unconditionally, and help them when they ask for it.

Not So Much:  The only part of the entire story that I could even think to include here was the point where Sydney’s parents went out of town and left her in charge of her brother’s friend Ames.  (Ames is another thing I ‘like – not so much,’ but I hope that is a normal reaction).  Anyhow, we get half a day of this weekend where you know things are going to weird and creepy, and then the scene jumps to after.  It felt abrupt, and actually made me wonder if there were some things edited out there.

Rated: PG – as stated above, perfect Young Adult books!
Rating: 5 Stars.  I loved the book from beginning to end.

~*Books by Sarah Dessen*~
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Book Review: Jesse’s Girl – Miranda Kenneally

Title:  Jesse’s Girl
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Genre: mYA (m = Mature)

**I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley.com. Other than the joy of reading, I received no compensation for this review.**


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol. 

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

My Review: 
This is one of those books you pick up and just devour, if you have time, in one sitting. Jesse’s Girl is a perfect summer reads; one that will make you wear the big goofy grin for a good portion of the book.

What I loved: While reading, within the first chapter or two I made a note that I love Maya’s relationship with her family. This rang true through the entire book. They weren’t perfect, but they were supportive and loving.  They had their quirks, and dysfunctions, yet they are down to earth good people, and I loved them all. I also loved that the dynamic between Jesse and Maya was toe curling-ly cute, but they also helped each other grow as people throughout the book.

More things that I loved…each chapter was a title to a song, that was awesome! In fact, the reason I selected this book on NetGalley was because the title is the name of a song, and I just had to know what it was about. Also, the mention of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off….bonus points!

Not so much: I’m not a fan of sex in a Young Adult novel, even if it’s not detail by detail, you’re left with a good idea of specific actions. I know what is realistic, and what teenagers are like, it’s not that. I guess I’m just a prude (or you’ll think I am anyway), but I do prefer the old fashioned “wait until you’re married” option. But if this is the only thing I can list under this section, that’s doing pretty well.

Rated: R – For Sex and Cussing
Rating: 5 Stars – Beautifully written love story with life lessons and laugh-out-loud moments.

~*Books by Miranda Kenneally*~

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