Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Book Review

Caraval 2

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Goodreads Description:

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

My Review:

I loved this book!  I finished this book in two days which is a record for me.  It is a quick and fun read that is full of suspense and interesting characters.  At first Scarlett Dragna is a little wishy washy in the vein of a stereotypical romance heroine: loyal to a fiance she has never met and not as determined as she should be to escape her father’s cruel hand.  Scarlett’s sister Tella is much more adventurous and rebellious.  Despite their vastly different personalities they are very close.

When Scarlett receives her long-awaited illusive invitation to Caraval she is not as excited as she should be because her wedding is so close at hand.  Through events out of her control and the introduction of Julian, a sailor with his own agenda, Scarlett is thrown into the world of Caraval with just Julian and in search of her sister who has gone missing.

This story has the feel of a strange dream where every wrong thing happens despite your attempts to do the right thing and things just keep getting worse.  It kept me on my toes and the suspense level was constant.  I loved trying to figure out which characters were trustworthy and what events were real or just part of the game.  It was nice to see Scarlett toughen up and open up to others and be driven by her love for her sister.  I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

A Darker Shade of Magic

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Goodreads:

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

My Review:

I think this book fell victim to high expectations going into it after all the hype about it on Booktube and Bookstagram.  I was looking forward to reading it.  If it is about magic it will quickly be on my TBR.  The problem for me was quickly apparent when I realized that while this book is about magic, I did not find it very magical.

There are four parallel worlds which are very different from one another with one exception.  They all have a city called London and all the London’s have similar geography and places although everything has different names in each one.  The four Londons (Black London, Grey London, White London and Red London) used to be connected by “doors”, or passage ways, but they have been closed and now only Antari, blood magicians, can travel between the four worlds carrying messages to the different royalty.  I am still trying to figure out why these messages needed to be delivered since they really didn’t serve any specific purpose.

Kell is a young Antari, and only one of two Antari who still exist after magic became out of control and destroyed Black London.  He was raised by the royal family alongside the prince since the age of five.  Kell has no memory of his life before then and does not know where he came from.  This is explained but not explored in the book.  Maybe it will come into play in one of the sequels.  Kell travels to Grey London (the London we know) during the reign of Mad King George and it is during one of his trips that he encounters Delilah Bard, a young woman living on the streets and a cut-throat thief.  She plays a large part in the storyline and brings a breath of fresh air to the book.

I found myself trying to get through the book.  When this happens I tend to not want to finish a book but I did.  The first three quarters of the book were slow going but the last quarter really picked up with a lot of suspense and action.  Delilah definitely added to the interest of the book.  She was an interesting and plucky character and I enjoyed her the most.

V.E. Schwab writes well and I had no problem with her writing style.  I just wasn’t hooked on the story line and never became completely invested in Kell who is the lead character.  He was a little bland for a hero.  I know there are other books in this series but I don’t know if I need to find out what happens next.  Maybe one day I will pick up the second book, but not right now.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – Book Review

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My Review:

A Court of Thorns and Roses is very much a Beauty and the Beast re-telling with a very strong Young Adult vibe.  Being that I am quite caught up in the current Beauty and The Beast Live Action craze, I was really looking forward to reading this book.  Prior to this book, the only other Sarah J. Maas book that I have read was Throne of Glass.  I liked that book but I liked this book much better.

Feyre is our heroine.  She and her family are struggling to get by and rely on Feyre’s hunting skills.  It is on one of her treks into the forest that she comes across a humongous wolf who she suspects to be faerie.  Faerie are dangerous and Feyre doesn’t hesitate to kill and skin it for its pelt.  Little does she know how this action will change the course of her life.

Where in the original Beauty and the Beast, Beauty winds up with the Beast because of her father pilfering a rose, in this story Feyre winds up with her beast/faerie as a result of killing the wolf.  I liked the story line and the introduction of the Fae world and Feyre’s relationship with her captor, Tamlin.  There is a lot of magic and faeries and conflict.  Feyre is a typical YA heroine who has to go through hideous trials and tribulations to save the day.  I like YA novels for their fantasy and world building, but I still haven’t been won over by the assassin/kick-ass heroines who have to go through such torturous physical pain in order to be victorious.  I still like a good, old-fashioned fairy tale ending with no broken bones.

That said, I do actually look forward to reading the next book in this series.

 

April 2017 TBR

TBR April 2017.jpg

My TBR list is quite extensive.  Picking which books to read next is always a tough choice.  Do I pick new releases?  Oldies that I have never read?  I feel that the books I chose for April are good choices, but also ambitious ones since I am a slow reader.  Trying to fit in all these books into one month may be too much, but I am going to give it a try.  I feel that putting it into writing will hold me accountable!

The following are descriptions from Amazon.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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 . . .

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.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

Mistborn by  Brandon Sanderson

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley – Book Review

 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads Description

The sisters’ wealthy father loses all his money when his merchant fleet is drowned in a storm, and the family moves to a village far away. Then the old merchant hears what proves to be a false report that one of his ships had made it safe to harbor at last, and on his sad, disappointed way home again he becomes lost deep in the forest and has a terrifying encounter with a fierce Beast, who walks like a man and lives in a castle. The merchant’s life is forfeit, says the Beast, for trespass and the theft of a rose—but he will spare the old man’s life if he sends one of his daughters: “Your daughter would take no harm from me, nor from anything that lives in my lands.” When Beauty hears this story—for her father had picked the rose to bring to her—her sense of honor demands that she take up the Beast’s offer, for “cannot a Beast be tamed?”

My Review

This book was first published in 1993.  It is a book that I recently discovered as a result of my Beauty and the Beast love affair resulting from the recent release of the Disney live action movie.  What I loved so much about this book was that it stayed true to the story and there was no retelling it in a way that changed the story or made me feel like it was now being turned into a young adult version of the story.  It is a fairy tale version for adults that retained its magic and romance and when I finished it I could see myself re-reading it again soon.  Robin McKinley takes a tale as old as time and retells it so that it stands the test of time.  Loved it!

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Book Review

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads Description:

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

 

My Review

Etta Spencer is a teenage violin prodigy living in New York City with her single mother.  In one evening her world is turned upside down when she finds herself time traveling with a stranger who has kidnapped her.  Family secrets that she has been protected from are revealed and suddenly Etta finds herself on the run and desperately attempting to get back to her mother and trying to make sense of a life and family  she thought she knew.

Nicholas Carter is a sailor from the 1700s and happy living a sea-faring life and staying clear of the powerful Ironwood family.  But when Etta Spencer enters his life she changes everything.  Nicholas is charged with making sure Etta finds a special object that the Ironwood family desperately wants.  Will he protect her or turn on her?  Can Etta trust him?  Both Nicholas and Etta have their own agendas.  Will this work against them or help them?

I enjoyed this book, even though it had some slow moments.  Etta is a strong female character who was easy to like and feel for.  Nicholas was a tough and gentle character that was a good match for Etta.  I liked when the intrigue and suspense was full on.  The revelations about certain characters were done in an interesting way.  It held my attention and I look forward to reading the 2nd book.

Jackaby by William Ritter – Book Review

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads description:

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

My Review

The Chicago Tribune called it “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  It is, in a way.  Jackaby does act like Sherlock Holmes, but with a lighter, flittier air about him.

Abigail Rook arrives fresh off the boat in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892, having left Europe in search of adventure.  Rather than stay at the boarding school her parents enrolled her in, she took the money and joined an expedition headed for the Carpathian Mountains.  When the expedition folded, Abigail headed for America instead of returning home to England and face her parents.

In New England, Abigail finds employment with R.F. Jackaby, an eccentric young investigator who specializes in cases dealing with the paranormal.  Abigail is suited to deal with Jackaby, who is not one held in the highest esteem with the townspeople.  When a serial killer is on the loose, it is Jackaby and Abigail who find themselves in the center of the turmoil.

This book is a light-hearted romp and filled with fun characters and an enjoyable, easy-to-read story line.  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the others.