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

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:  My friend recommended this book to me, more than once actually.  And not just the book, but the audiobook.  Did I GET the audiobook?  NOPE, I had gift cards to Barnese & Noble, and while I was there shopping I saw these books – took a glimps inside and knew I just had to own them.

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What I Loved: This book was full of action, I want to say mystery, but it’s not a mystery really, it’s just an unraveling of secrets.  I love that.  While it’s going to be listed in my next category, the uniqueness of this book was part of what made it so appealing.  It’s not simply told in a collection of documents – but the format of the book makes them seem legit.  There are little post it notes, and pictures made of words; all sorts of beautiful treasures.

I loved the characters in this book.  Like – pretty much all of them.  I will say that AIDEN (the AI) might possibly have been my favorite character of them all.  Is it weird to want to comment on the character growth of a computer?  Yeah, probably.  I also loved both Katy and Ezra; Katy was defiant and daring, and Ezra was sarcastic and fun.  They made a fun pair.

Not So Much:  It took me some time to adjust to reading a book that was 100% documents.  I miss a lot of the emotion that way.  You get some, but you don’t get the picture created for you like you would in a typical book.  The little touches, or the room descriptions – things that really put you there.  At least….that’s how I felt at first.  But the more I read the book, the more I really WAS there.  I got used to the format and couldn’t put the book down.

The Verdict:  When describing this book to others, I’ve sort of mentioned Star Trek, but mostly the show Firefly – with the different plants and such.  I mean that only in a ‘setting’ sort of way.  I normally wouldn’t read a book about space travel, but I am so glad I started this series.  This book was clean, very YA appropriate.  A 5-star read for sure.

Obsidian – Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Obsidian (A Lux Novel – Book 1)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: Young Adult – Paranormal, Romance

Buy Link:  http://amzn.com/1620610078

Blurb (From Goodreads): 
Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring… until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something… unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don’t kill him first, that is.

My Review:

Pay attention book bloggers – this one goes out to you! Last week I did a quick search on my WordPress app on Book Reviews, just to see what would pop up. I can’t tell you the blogger who did it, but I ran across a review for Obsidian and knew that I had that book for kindle, so I stopped to read the review. This review wasn’t a 5 star all praise this book in all its ways, it revealed some thing that the reader didn’t care for, but she gushed about Daemon and a few other aspects of the book. As a result, I searched for it in my library (because who KNOWs when I bought it, but it was pretty buried in my list) and started reading it.

Note – I don’t usually read reviews…but I might start after this. I just really hate spoilers, I like to be surprised by stuff…and some bloggers have a difficult time with this. I read a review during this same search that basically spoiled an entire book (that I had already read) with her discussing what she liked/disliked about every part of the book. I have moments when I want to do this too..and I’m starting to wonder if we should call these blog posts “Book Discussions” rather than “Book Reviews” to alert the reader?! Anyway.

What I Loved: So, alien books aren’t actually my ‘thing,’ I’m not sure why, since in the last few years I’ve read a few good ones, but they just aren’t the first books that I tend to grab first. But I did really enjoy this take on Aliens. I didn’t fully understand what they could do and why – well, I vaguely understood why I guess – but I also just know it’s a book and it doesn’t have to make complete sense to me. The back-story of how they came to exist on earth and what had been established was flushed out to a satisfactory degree for me. All of the fight scenes were enjoyable to read, I didn’t get lost in the movements and what was actually happening, which can happen sometimes when there is a battle going on.

I totally loved Daemon and Katy’s back and forth constant battering of each other. It was some really good heat between the two of them.  The fact that they were both fighting attraction kind of helped dial up the heat quite a bit.  Some of my favorite scenes where the ones where Daemon was displaying jealous.  And w-o-w, the kiss scene.

Not So Much: Despite that the back story and the fight scenes were well done, I did feel like the overall story had some holes in it. At some points it felt like the entire town was alien, and at other points it felt like a select few were, and the people of the town knew they were alien or at least ‘other.’ At other times it seemed like their secret was completely locked down and humans put off the whole thing as “this town is weird.” I kind of felt like the lines were blurred a bit on the alien powers also, mostly when it came to the trace, or mark that could be left on humans. I kind of felt like they knew the logistics of it, and then at some point it was like – “hey, let’s try this.” In fact – as far as the instance I’m referring too, I kind of felt like it was put there so the scene would happen – and I would NEVER want that scene removed, but the reasoning behind it seemed a bit under-processed.

Katy is so dense. I loved her personality for the most part, but how many times does one have to refer to “your kind” or call you “human” before you really get it, and not have to have it spelled out to you? She doesn’t want to believe anything, including that Daemon isn’t quite as uncaring as he seems half the time. Read between the lines! It’s only frustrating because she is only like this to drag this storyline and hot/cold heat between the characters on for as long as possible – she is a strong character otherwise. The hot/cold stuff could probably be done without her playing dumb about it.

The Verdict:    
I’m completely engrossed in this series, and just bought book 2. I want to know what happens, and I do want a little bit more Katy/Daemon heat in my life. My hope is that the story and writing just gets better as we go through the books. The book is okay for older teenagers, there is cussing. Kissing and a little bit of touching that isn’t overly descriptive.
(This Review has been cross posted from http://www.iloves2read.blogspot.com)