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.

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.

 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Book Review

 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

My Review

Rory Deveaux’s family relocates from Louisiana to England for work and Rory is enrolled in a London boarding school.  She becomes good friends with her roommate Jazza and Jazza’s friend Jerome.  A good portion of the beginning of the book is dedicated to Rory adjusting to England, boarding school, and her interactions with her roommate and other students.

While the first Ripper-style murder takes place early on in the story, the supernatural aspect isn’t introduced until almost half way through the book.  Maureen Johnson does a good job of developing the characters and building character relationships as well as a sense of nervousness on campus as more murders occur.

I liked Rory.  She was a strong young woman who has to deal with a lot of change: living in a new country, living away from her family, and dealing with and accepting the new abilities that she didn’t know she had which draws her deeper into the world of the recent murders.

The second half of the book moved faster than the first half and there were more twists and turns.  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the next one.

Private by Xavier Neal book review

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

“Mogul or Monster?

Billionaire Weston Wilcox hasn’t been seen by the outside world in almost a decade. No face to face meetings. No interviews. No social media accounts. Despite his ghost demeanor he continues to financially flourish and make his fellow investors richer with every decision. Throughout the years many have sought to discover the man inside the mogul while others have spread legends painting him as a heartless monster consumed by greed. None of it matters to him. Weston’s true identity is secured away in his estate of solitude, which consists of the only people in the entire world he believes he can trust. That is until he’s asked to allow a guest access to the property under extreme circumstances. One he knows he shouldn’t. It doesn’t take long before his world is turned upside down, unexpected threats arise, and Weston’s forced to ask himself what really should be kept private?”

My Review

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  Having never read a Xavier Neal book before I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew it was a mystery/romance, two genres that I enjoy.  As soon as I started reading Private I knew I was going to enjoy this book.

While there is mystery and romantic story lines, this is definitely a character driven book.  Weston Wilcox is a 20-something billionaire who heads his family run company after losing his parents a decade ago.  He is determined to hide himself away from the world and has developed a reputation for extreme privacy.  In no uncertain terms will he allow himself to be seen in public or any circumstance where he can be photographed or come in contact with the outside world.

Brynley Winters is a tough-talking, outgoing, sharp, ballsy, beautiful and vivacious young woman who loves marine biology but works at a gentleman’s club to pay the bills.  She loves her mother Lauren but hasn’t really kept in contact with her on a regular basis.  When she is summoned to her mother’s bedside by Lauren’s employer (who happens to be none other than the reclusive Wes Wilcox), because of a mysterious illness, both Brynley’s and Wes’ worlds are about to collide and spin off their axis!

This is a well written and fun to read book.  Xavier Neal excels at witty banter and sharp comebacks.  The dialogue was great and the story a fun and easy read.  The sex scenes are steamy and hot, so mature readers only!  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the next one.