A Million Junes – Emily Henry

30763950Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Blurb: In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

My Review:
This is the first book I’ve ever read from the First To Read program.  If you’re a blogger, you should check it out!   Anyhow, anytime I get a book that I am pretty much ‘required’ to review, I get nervous.  What if I don’t like it? What if it’s so bad I don’t want to finish it?  I pretty much enjoy being in a non-committed relationship with books; reading what I want and specifically NOT reading when I don’t want.  So I was a little apprehensive when I downloaded this book and started it.  Let me just say, my fears were 120% unfounded, from the very beginning I was absorbed into this book.

What I Loved:  A Million Junes is one of those books that in its own way, unfolds in multiple timelines while maintaining a consistent current timeline. It’s different than other books like it, because even on those multiple timelines, the time period can be pretty fluid.  You jump in and out of the story at a variety of points.  I’m hoping this isn’t considered a ‘spoiler’ because I wanted to bring it up to point out that there was not one point throughout this story where I was confused.  I find this pretty much amazing!

There is so much to really enjoy about this book, the friendship between June and her best friend Hannah for starters.  Their friendship seemed so real, and exactly how you would expect a senior in high school friendship to be.  It wasn’t too over-the-top teenagery, but they also behaved in a way that seemed appropriate for their age.  Again, I think that this is something that many authors struggle with, the characters tend to end up feeling too over the top in the rebellious teenage direction or way too mature for their age.

I enjoyed June and Saul’s relationship – the way it unfolded naturally, it wasn’t all heat and passion, but a slow moving thing that they felt around and pushed, pulled and formed it into something real.  It was perfect, specifically because of its forbidden element.  The blurb sort of compares it to Romeo and Juliet, but it’s not a retelling at all.  I loved that do not rush headlong into something, but really take time to evaluate each other and make the best decisions they can on their own.

So while all of those things are good, the best part of this book is the mystery, the curse, and the unwinding of information.  The flow of the words coming off the pages is intoxicating in itself.  This was a most excellently written piece of art!

Not So Much:  Some of the minor characters – specifically the creative writing teacher – and their motives I didn’t quite get, honestly.  I can understand, I suppose, needing another antithesis/pushing point, but at the same time I think that goal could easily have been accomplished without the additional character, or attempting to play up her importance.  She was a bit oxymoron-ish as a character as well, she seemed to serve a dual – almost conflicting – purpose in my opinion.  Anyhow, this is about the only kind of/sort of not wonderful thing I can say about this book.  I’d say that’s pretty good!

The Verdict:  I am in love with this book.  It was fantastic…if you couldn’t tell that’s what I thought already.  It’s a YA, very clean and tidy, and yet, nothing more was needed to make it…more.  If you like a lyrical style of writing, and settings that are kind of blurry in nature, very fluid and changing – this book is definitely for you, and if you don’t, I still implore you to give it a chance!

**This book was an Advanced Reader Copy from FirstToRead.com; other than the joy of reading – I was granted no compensation to review this book.**

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.