Caraval: Book Review

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“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”
― Stephanie GarberCaraval

Title:  Caraval

Series: Caraval Series

Author:  Stephanie Garber

Publish Date:  January 31, 2017

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Reading Format:  E-book

Publisher’s Summary:

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.

Review:

I was almost certain that I might not come across a book this year that I would truly enjoy, but Caraval may have saved the day!

Caraval has been on my want-to-read list ever since it came out last year and I’ve almost bought it a dozen times while in Books-a-Million, but for some reason would decide to go with something else.  However, Amazon came through (or I suppose the publishers of the book did) when it was a Kindle daily deal sometime back in January or February.  I immediately bought it and couldn’t wait to start reading because I knew by reading the description of the story that Caraval was just going to be a book I would love.

And I was right. This was exactly the type of story I like.  It’s fantasy with romance and a magical world to get lost in, which are all prefect elements to books I love to read.  I will admit though that the beginning was a little slow for me, however that isn’t very uncommon in fantasy novels because world building is apart of the genre and that usually takes up some of the plot.  It was easy to get over though because once the main characters were in Caraval the story really began to take off and I couldn’t put it down. T

There is so much mystery surrounding the game of Caraval and it’s creator, Legend, that as the reader you seem to get lost in this magical place as much as Scarlett does.  And I think this makes her as the narrator of the story  a great idea because you see Caraval through all of Scarlett’s first time experiences with the game.

Also the imagery that came to my mind while reading the book showed to myself at least how much I liked Stephanie Garber’s writing.  She brings Caraval’s world to life well by her descriptions of the places and people Scarlett meets while in the game. I didn’t feel overwhelmed at anytime by the magic in the story or the world building either, but I could tell while reading the book that there was so much more to explore in this world in future books.

Which I’m super excited for the next book in the series that I already pre-ordered.  When I finished the book and knew I had to pre-order the next one, that was the best way for me to tell I really liked Caraval.  Plus I don’t have to wait that long, as it comes out the end of this month. Yay!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

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The Address: Book Review

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Title:  The Address

Author:  Fiona Davis

Publish Date:  August 1, 2017

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Reading Format:  Hardback Book

Summary:

Told in the perspective of two different characters, The Address follows Sarah Smythe in 1884 as she is given the opportunity to become the lady managerette of The Dakota in New York City after a chance encounter with the architect Theodore Camden at her former job in London.

The other perspective follows Bailey Camden in 1985, who fresh out of rehab is given the chance to start a new by her “cousin” Melinda to renovate her apartment, the former home of Melinda’s great grandfather Theodore Camden.  Bailey, who’s own grandfather was the ward to Theodore, has always known the rumor that surrounds Melinda’s apartment; which is that the famed architect was murdered by a former servant of the Dakota, Sarah Smythe.  But Bailey soon begins to uncover the truth behind that tale.

Review:

One of the reasons I’ve hesitated to write some book reviews as of lately is that I haven’t really been enjoying some of the books I’ve been reading in the past few months.  I feel as though most of these books have so much potential to be great but end up falling flat in the end.  I also don’t love writing negative reviews.  I find them unpleasant to write and never like trashing something someone has spent a lot of their time on creating.  However if I want to keep my blog going I’ll have to write reviews that are both good and bad, and I always want to be honest about how I feel about the things I read.  So with all that said The Address was not my favorite Historical fiction book.

For starters I don’t love dual timelines. I find that if they aren’t written well I can get the characters mixed up or find it hard to follow.  Also Bailey’s story wasn’t really interesting to me.  I realize that she is used to uncover the mystery surrounding Theodore Camden’s death, but I could have done without her all together and purely had a story that only was told through the eyes of Sarah.

Sarah’s story also takes a weird turn.  It is almost as though the author came across some interesting history during the time period and decided to add it in, but she speeds through it so quickly I wonder if it was even worth telling the story that way.  In my opinion Fiona Davis could have found a better way to tell this part by going a different path.  But what do I know?

By the last one hundred pages I was ready to stop reading The Address all together.  I had more or less figured out how it would end and had almost completely skimmed all the Bailey chapters to get to the end as soon as possible.

I feel that if I’m going to read a Historical Fictional novel I would prefer it stuck to one time period instead of two.  I know it is possible to have a dual timeline that works, for example The Wedding Dress that I read back in February did a nice job.  And my all time favorite novel The Nightingale also does a nice job, but it only touches on a more present time period all of three times and mainly focuses on past.  I guess what I’m trying to say is the author of The Address just didn’t have writing style I was looking for, and I know it could have been better.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

At Water’s Edge: Book Review

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“In all its beautiful, tragic fragility, there was still life.”
― Sara GruenAt the Water’s Edge

Title: At Water’s Edge

Author:  Sara Gruen

Publish Date:  March 31, 2015

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Reading Format:  Paperback

Summary:

Maddie is married to Ellis, who comes from a very wealthy family.  Maddie and Ellis financially depend upon Ellis’ parents until Ellis drunkenly embarrasses his father at a New Year’s Eve party and finds himself and his wife cutoff from the family fortune.  Determined to defy his father, Ellis decides to do the one thing his dad could not which is to find the Loch Ness monster.

With the help of their best friend Hank, Maddie and Ellis set out to Scotland in 1943 to find the monster.

Review:

If you place any book in Scotland I’ll probably read it, especially a Historical Fiction novel.  At Water’s Edge has both those elements and was an easy purchase to make.  Finding the time to read it was a whole other story as it only took two years to finally pick the book up after I had bought it.

My first impression when I had finished reading At Water’s Edge, was the author Sara Gruen does not have a fondness for husbands.  This might be a slight spoiler to the novel, but Ellis is anything but a good husband (or person for that matter).  And I make that comment because she also wrote Water for Elephants and the husband in that book was also an awful person.  Though I’ll confess I haven’t read Water for Elephants, but I have committed the cardinal sin of seeing the movie without reading the book and in the movie the husband is a horrible person. So with that assessment I can conclude husbands in Sara Gruen novels equal not good people.

After making that assessment (and small tangent), I found that At Water’s Edge was entertaining but not overall satisfying.  3/4 of the book is mostly build up to the climax of the story and then it quickly wraps up everything, which left me feeling a bit confused and as though I had been cheated out of the plot line. Sort of.  Though I suppose it was set up that way because you are following along with Maddie and she is really naive and then suddenly enlightened by the end.  Which is how I felt as the story unfolded.

The story line is also a little odd and I’m not just talking about the fact that three rather wealthy Americans decided to hunt for the Lock Ness monster, but that they would be allowed to go to Scotland while a giant war is happening in the first place.  At Water’s Edge is set in 1943, so literally smack dab in the middle of World War II, and they manage to be allowed to cross the Atlantic to go to Scotland.  Call be crazy, but wealthy or not, there is no way any private citizens were permitted to travel to Europe during this time. Let alone be willing to do it. Though *gasp* I could be wrong.

There is also the fact that Ellis and Hank aren’t serving in the military during this time because Ellis is colorblind and Hank is flat footed.  Both men claim to be ashamed of the fact they can’t serve and are embarrassed by those who shame them for it.  So logically why not go to the front lines of the war, obviously they’ll be super supportive of you….Oh wait! They aren’t.  I just feel as though the author wanted the drama of the War but the story would have been better suited for about 10 years after, or it just should have been a World War II focused book.

Honestly At Water’s Edge was not really what I expected.  It is one of the better books I have read this year so far, but that isn’t really saying much because I have truly read some duds this year.  The writing as a whole was pretty good and I like Sara Gruen’s writing, I just wasn’t fond of some of the plot holes that show up along the way.  I think if you are looking for a book set in Scotland there are so many others you could choose from, so maybe pass on this one if you have another book in mind.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Counted with the Stars: Book Review

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Title: Counted with the Stars

Series: Out of Egypt

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publish Date: April 5th, 2016

Reading Format: Kindle book

Review:

Over the summer I was given the opportunity to review Wings of the Wind, the 3rd book in this series Out of Egypt, but at the time I had thought it was a standalone book.   It hadn’t seemed to matter that I’d read the last book first; however, now that I’ve started from the beginning I’m seeing how different Wings of the Wind could unfolded as some the characters would have been familiar.  Counted with the Stars makes the title of the series more understandable, as the first book is mostly set in Egypt.  The novel follows Kiya, the daughter of a prominent man in Egypt, who is sold into slavery after her father loses all of his money.  Kiya serves in a house along with Shera, a Jewish slave, who begins an unlikely friendship with Kiya and can explain all of the strange things happening in Egypt.

This book is a Christian Historical Fiction novel and it centers on the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and follows along with the events during the seven plagues.  Much like the other story I read in this series, the author writes the events that happen during the Old Testament from the points of views from those who would have witnessed them first hand.  Biblical Historical Fiction in Christian novels are far more preferred by myself than those set in Victorian or early 20th Century eras.  I find the latter to often feature the lead female of these novels with weakened character traits who are too enamored with romance and toil over seemingly mindless things.  While Biblical Fiction can be more adventurous and have stronger female characters that I often like reading about better.

Counted with the Stars flows much like Wings in the Wind did, which is common in most books written by the same author.  This wasn’t however too evident while reading Counted with the Stars and I didn’t feel that the plot was becoming overly predictable.  I enjoyed following the events through Kiya’s eyes.  Seeing it as an Egyptian who witnesses the plagues before her and not understanding it as Shera did, Kiya makes for a great narrator.  When I originally read the summary I assumed that half of the book would focus on Egypt and the other would concentrate on the exodus, but much to my surprise a majority of the book is set in Egypt.

I would rate this book higher than Wings in the Wind, though barely.  The series has been really great so far and I look forward to when I’m able to read the second one.  As has been the case with other book series I’m almost certain the second book will be my favorite.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Anna and the French Kiss: Book Review

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“Boys turns girls into such idiots.”

-Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Series: Anna and the French Kiss Series

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA Romance

Publish Date: December 2nd, 2010

Reading Format:  Paperback

Review:

I’ve seen this book floating around on Booktube for a while now and I finally broke down and bought it.  Anna and the French Kiss is about an American girl who is sent to France by her estranged father to spend her senior year at a boarding school in Paris.  There Anna meets Étienne St. Clair, a boy she becomes best friends with and wants to potentially be something more, except one problem he already has a girlfriend. (Of course)

The book is a fast read.  I read it in one weekend and for me that’s an accomplishment because I am a slooow reader.  It’s a YA contemporary romance that comes with all the drama and angst one would both expect and hope for.  This story was cute and frustrating all at the same time and I was entertained from start to finish.  Typically I don’t often read within this genre because I can find teenage lead female characters to be too whinny.  Anna did not come across that way to myself but others may disagree.  Étienne would have been totally crush worthy to my teenage self had I meet him when I was 17 and he makes a great love interest in the book.

Anna and the French Kiss is the first in a series of three novels.  I was hoping to have already read the second book by now, but I accidentally picked up the third book and haven’t gotten around to buying the second yet.   I’ll get around to it I’m sure but I’ve got so many other books I’ve either started to read or am hoping to get too eventually soon, and this series may have to be saved for next year or next summer.  There is something about YA contemporaries that I feel they should be read during the summer, perhaps it’s because they make great vacation reads.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Mariana: Book Review

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Title: Mariana

Author: Susanna Kearsley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: August 1st, 1995

Reading Format: Kindle

Review:

Susanna Kearsley is easily my favorite author. I’ve never read a book of her’s I didn’t love, and her use of historical fiction with paranormal elements in her novels makes many of her books some of my favorites. I literally have all of her books downloaded onto my kindle and I’m slowly reading each one. The latest book of her’s I read is Mariana which I believe is one of the first books she ever wrote, but don’t quote me on that.

Mariana is about Julia Beckett who at 5 years old on a family trip comes across an old house in the English countryside instantly knows that is her’s. She is immediately drawn to it and several years later comes across the house again where she learns it’s for sale and buys it. The house, known as Greywethers, seems to have some magic; or at least that is how it appears to Julia who finds herself transported to the 17th century as a young woman named Mariana and travels between her own time and her potential former life.

This novel really drew me in. I was reading it quickly and yet at the same time I was trying to savor every moment by trying to slow my pace. But this book is too good not to put down and Susanna Kearsley did not disappoint when it came to the plotlines in this novel. I was in engrossed in both the story of Julia as I was with Mariana. I’d highly recommend this book if you have ever read anything else by Susanna Kearsley or if you like a bit of time travel within your contemporary romance novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Book Review

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Title: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Series: Sisterhood Series

Author: Ann Brashares

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

Publishing Date: September 24th, 2002

Reading Format: Paperback

Review:

I’d like to call the year of 2017 as the year of the reread. At least on a personal level, I can’t really speak for everyone else. But for myself I have reread several books this year, such as the Doon series and The Falconer series. And to give myself deep nostalgia I decided to buy all of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and keep the train rolling on my need to read what I have read before.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was my favorite book between ages 16 and 20, and I wondered before starting it again if the book would hold up to what my late teen self thought of it. To put it briefly I don’t feel like it did. I’m 28 now and that changes the perspective I have on a lot of things as well as my attitude toward certain ideals I may have had on life at 16 versus how it feels now that I’ve become an adult.

If you have never read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants then let me explain what it is about. The book follows four friends: Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen. All four girls have grown up together and are the best of friends, and for the first time in their lives are about to spend the summer away from each other. Lena is going to visit her grandparents in Greece; Bridget is going to a summer long soccer camp in Southern California; Carmen is visiting her Dad in South Carolina; and Tibby is stuck in their hometown working at Walman’s. Before each one embarks on their new adventures Carmen comes across a pair of jeans in a thrift store that miraculously fits all four girls. This brings about the idea that the pants are to be shared by each of them and the journeys they all take over the summer.

When I first read this book in 2005 I deeply related to Carmen and Lena. Bridget seemed a bit too spontaneous and Tibby was too cynical to match my personality, so Carmen and Lena took center stage when it came to my favorite characters in the book. While I still can relate my 16 year old self to Carmen, I’ve come to look at all four main characters differently. For instance, Bridget is spontaneous because she is brave and doesn’t fear the consequences or rejections that may happen with her actions. I myself am a more timid person. I shy away from actions that may cause me notice or could potentially hurt my feelings. While Bridget’s actions in the book do have consequences that leave a lasting impact, her bravado was more intriguing to me while reading this book again. I was also more disappointed with the romance in the book. For whatever reason I remembered Lena and Kostos having a better romantic story line than what I read a couple of months back; and that had initially been one of my favorite things about the first book, but the romance between them is pretty much nonexistent throughout the story. Perhaps my memory isn’t how it use to be, or I read better romances in other novels over time.

While my love for the books hasn’t changed completely, I don’t hold it in as high regard as I once did. I still think that at 16 this is justifiable to being my favorite, but I’m a more active reader then I previously was and somethings just don’t stand the test of time.

Rate: 16 year old me would give it 5 stars, 28 year old me gives it a 3.75 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan