Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Monday, 21 November 2016

Caraval | Stephanie Garber | Published January 31st, 2017
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository

Caraval is one of those books that grabbed my attention from page one and just wouldn't leave my mind. It took me by surprise in the best possible way with vivid world-building, an intriguing set of characters and a plot full of twists.

Scarlett and Tella live with their over-protective and abusive father, constantly in fear of what the next punishment will be. Their father has arranged a marriage for Scarlett which she hopes will be the beginning of freedom for her and her sister but then an invitation to the legendary Caraval arrives and is impossible to ignore.

The relationship between Scarlett and Tella is one that I really liked. Whilst there is a small romance, it didn't get in the way of the sisterly relationship and the drama going on there. They both know what their goals are and their love for each other comes before the boy they've just met.

One of the central points running throughout the book is that Caraval is just a game - nothing that happens is real. Things start to get darker and weirder as we get further into the “game” though and Scarlett, as well as the reader, just can't be sure. If you see something happen with your own eyes, right in front of you, then you can be sure that it's real, right? The mystery of what is actually going on, and who Legend is, is so well done. I had some theories early on, was convinced I had it figured out, and then the plot twists in a completely different way. I love that. There's nothing better than a story that keeps you guessing all the way through and presents you with a revelation that you just didn't see coming.

Full of action, intrigue and alluring prose, I was completely swept away into the bewitching world of Caraval. I can't wait to experience the further twists that the sequel is sure to present.

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Review: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Friday, 11 November 2016


The Fate of the Tearling | Erika Johansen | Published December 1st, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository

This was so good! I've been looking forward to this conclusion for so long and it was definitely worth the wait. If you think you had things sussed out in book two, or know where certain characters or relationships are going to go… think again!

The pacing felt a lot more quicker than in the previous books and this helped create a level of intensity that kept me fully engrossed until the end. The world is expanded upon again, and we all know how tricky it can be to stay on top of the different times, but it worked so well. I mentioned in my review for the previous book that I preferred being in Kelsea’s time but Katie’s narrative this time around was just so interesting. I found myself enjoying both times equally and I really loved learning more about Row Finn and the Fetch.

The other characters continue to be so well developed too. I love that whilst Kelsea is the main show, other people still get their own stories and time dedicated to them. Aisa, Javel, Ewen, Mace and Father Tyler were all compelling. They are each in the story in varying degrees but the fact I care what happens to every one of them is a sign of great storytelling. Kelsea and the Red Queen was an interesting relationship. It goes in a direction that I wasn't expecting but learning more about the Red Queen and how she became so treacherous was fascinating. As for Kelsea.. she is still so badass and not afraid to get her hands dirty. It's actually really refreshing to read about a heroine who isn't constantly pining over a man. She just gets things done and I love that about her.

I have conflicted feelings over the ending. I can't quite make up my mind as to whether I like it or dislike it. I think I'm wavering somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, I can see why the author decided to end things this way. It feels fitting for Kelsea who has spent the series with one ultimate goal: to protect the people of her kingdom at all costs. On the other hand, it feels quite bittersweet and anticlimactic. The ending comes about rather quickly and it is different than what we’re used to so maybe another chapter of exploration would have made a difference. I did really love the last line though which I think is very fitting for the series as a whole.

I've really, really enjoyed this series and getting to know the world and its characters. It's not always an easy ride (the Tearling is not an easy world to get to grips with!) but it has been a fascinating and exciting adventure. I can't wait to see what Erika Johansen’s impressive imagination comes up with next.

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Review: What Light by Jay Asher

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

What Light | Jay Asher | Published October 20th, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository


What Light is a sweet and sugary Christmassy read dealing with friendship, family and first-time love. There's nothing too heavy or serious but rather it's lighthearted and cute.

Sierra and her family own a Christmas tree farm and for one month every year, during the Christmas period, they move to California to run their Christmas tree lot. One of the best things about What Light is the theme of Christmas trees running throughout. It was interesting to get an insight into how the tree farms work as well as how Sierra essentially has two different lives: her life at home and her home away from home in California.

Sierra was generally a likable character. I didn't really have any strong feelings about her either way, but I didn't dislike her. I wasn't a huge fan of her friends who didn't come across as particularly nice and I think the story probably would have been ever better without them. I did like Caleb and the romance between him and Sierra was cute. I really liked the theme of not believing what you hear about someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt. The small town mentality of a rumour getting out of control and everyone gossiping about what a terrible person someone is was nicely dealt with. Caleb was lovely and although their romance felt a little insta-lovey in some places, I was still smiling away at the enchantment of it all.

The story is brimming with festivity and that was absolutely my favourite thing. The descriptions of all the trees, the peppermint mochas, the Christmas jumpers, cookies and lights were all so perfect. As someone who absolutely loves Christmas, I was just in heaven. What Light is a perfect holiday read. It's light and fluffy in the best possible way and is sure to put a smile on your face.

 


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Review: The Last Beginning by Lauren James

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


The Last Beginning | Lauren James | Published October 6th, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository


This was So. Much. Fun! I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Next Together, and was so excited to get my hands on the next installment. As someone who doesn't really gravitate towards historical fiction or time travel, this series has the perfect blend of those two things coupled with contemporary, science fiction and romance to make it an all-round engaging and fun read.

One of the main things that really stands out in The Last Beginning is the amount of effort and care that has been taken by the author. There are a lot of small details that relate back to the first book and the number of different time landscapes could have easily been confusing but it works seamlessly. Considering how much jumping between time there is, I was never once confused and it was always clear which time period we were in. I can't praise Lauren James enough for that as I can't imagine just how tricky it must have been to keep on track!

I was really pleased that Matthew and Katherine made appearances in this book. We go back to some of the times that we visited them in the previous book, and it was so interesting to see those times from a different perspective, and for details from then to now make more sense thanks to following those stories through the eyes of someone else. Our main character this time around is Clove and her narrative was really fun. I really enjoyed the romance between her and Ella and the way it develops throughout the book without being the main focus but still has plenty of cute moments.

The format of The Last Beginning is similar to its predecessor in that its told through a series of articles, emails and social media interactions as well as standard narration. I think that's a really nice touch which fits in well with the story. I also love Clove's AI Spart who was a source of great humour!

Overall, The Last Beginning is a sequel which has been intricately woven together with its partner to create a story that is cleverly executed with a perfect blend of genres. I'm so glad I gave time travel a chance with this duology and I can't wait to read what Lauren James writes next.


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Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Monday, 10 October 2016

Replica | Lauren Oliver | Published October 6th, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository

Having only read Lauren Oliver’s contemporary novels up until now (I have yet to read the Delirium series) I was really intrigued to see how her style would work in a dystopian novel. Dystopia is a genre that is extremely popular at the moment and I think it would have been easy for Replica to blend in but its unique format and intriguing plot line help it to stand out in a busy crowd.

First, the format: you can read this book in three different ways. Some might say this is a bit of a gimmick, and I guess it is in a way as it does its job of making the book memorable and gets people talking, but I liked it. It's something different and I found it quite fun to read a book in a different way from normal. You can choose to either 1) read Gemma’s story first, 2) read Lyra’s story first or 3) read them both with alternating chapters. I opted for option 3 and I liked this method as it meant I wasn't going into a “second” story where I already know what happens. (Just make sure your bookmark doesn't fall out when you're flipping the book around!)

Gemma is from a wealthy family and spends her days going to school and worrying about being overweight whilst dealing with her overprotective parents. Lyra, on the other hand, is living in a cloning facility where her days are full of repetitive testing and the island the facility is on is surrounded by armed guards so there is no way to leave. An explosion at the facility results in the two girls coming face to face.

The pace is strong but Gemma’s side of the story definitely feels more fleshed out. I guess this makes sense as Gemma knows more of the world whereas Lyra has only ever known the facility which she’s just left and is having to readjust. We get more information from Gemma’s perspective though so her half was more enjoyable to read. I do like the way the story intertwines between narratives and the fact the writing style switches to accommodate the differences in the characters. I would have liked more detail of the world and the romances weren't really all that necessary (although Pete was cute) but there were enough plot twists to keep me invested.

Overall, I thought Replica was pretty good. I didn't enjoy it as much as some of Oliver’s contemporaries but I like the idea and I'm sure I'll be back for the sequel.


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