Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #133: awesome manga & graphic novels

Today's Topic: 
Top Ten Eight Favorite
Manga & Graphic Novels

I don't read a ton of manga or graphic novels but there was a time when I read quite a few! In all the ones I had the chance to read, these are my favorites. I'll totally admit that I haven't finished most of these series yet, especially the longer manga series, but I definitely plan to! 

Bizenghast by M. Alice LeGrow
Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon, & Chase Conley

Klaus by Grant Morrison & Dan Mora
March Story by Kim Hyung-Min & Yang Kyung-Il
Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness by Mike Johnson, David Messina 
Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, January 30, 2017

ARC Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Pages: 448

Add to Goodreads

//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

I'd like to start this review with a story: I first saw Labyrinth sitting in my bunk bed on an Air Force Base in Afghanistan. One of my best friends on deployment was obsessed with the movie and was appalled that I'd never seen it! I remember sitting on my bed wondering what in the hell I was even looking at on my laptop screen. Still, something about Labyrinth hooked me. Even though the puppets are bizarre, the music is weird, and Sarah is annoying, the character of Jareth has always fascinated me. When I found out about Wintersong and realized that the Goblin King was going to get a romance, I had to have it!

Wintersong is unique because, while it is a retelling of the Goblin King and does sort of feel like Labyrinth, it is an entirely new story. The main character is Liesl and, instead of trying to rescue a baby brother, she is trying to rescue her sister Käthe. In order to retrieve her sister, Liesl must agree to marry the Goblin King and stay with him Underground. But of course, there wouldn't be much of a story if things didn't become a bit more complicated than a quick marriage.

Let me be clear, I loved every character in this book. Liesl is the ugly sister, the plain one who has only ever wanted to compose music. She's insecure and unsure of everything about herself and I identified with her so hard! I loved her unsteady strength and independence and her relationship with her siblings. But even more than I loved Liesl, I loved the Goblin King.

He remained mysterious all the way until the end, but I loved it. I have always had a thing for love interests who are a little hard to pin down and the Goblin King certainly kept his secrets. Although he has a distinct character apart from the Goblin King of the film, I pictured him as having (younger) Jareth traits and it made the reading experience that much more fun (for me, at least). His story did become more clear towards the end, but I feel like there is still a lot that could be learned about the Goblin King and I'm really hoping for another book!

I've seen some mixed opinions on the actual romance of Wintersong, but I have to say that I loved that too! The relationship between Liesl and the Goblin King was tense and a little angsty and their romance was definitely a slow burn. The Goblin King has his own past to contend with, while Liesl is trying to figure out what it is that she wants. I am not usually one to enjoy slow burn, angsty romance, but this one was sweet and perfect.

Although this is marketed as YA and the main character certainly fits that category, Wintersong didn't necessarily feel like a young adult book. The writing was heavy and lyrical and, while the romance isn't quite to the level of Sarah J. Maas, there were (thankfully) some bits that you might not find in a typical young adult book. I felt like Wintersong combined the best of both worlds. The ending of this book is also not as clean cut as you may be used to. I've seen that some people didn't love the way it wrapped up, but it definitely left me wanting more!

I expected to love Wintersong when I was granted a review copy (thank you, Netgalley!) and I was not disappointed. This is already at the top of my 2017 reads list and I am anticipating that it will stay in my top five. I honestly can't say anything negative! If you're a Labyrinth fan, this is definitely the book for you! Even if you've never seen Labyrinth, though, I think Wintersong is a book that any fantasy lover will enjoy.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekly Recap: 1/22 - 1/28

Tracy's Happenings Off the Blog

This week's recap is going to be short because I'm really, really exhausted and there's a new BBC show waiting on my TV! This week was largely recovering from ALA, which was a lot of fun, but very hectic. I spent the first few days of the week unpacking books and purging my shelves of older things I'll never read. I still don't have enough room, but I'm planning on adding a couple new shelves soon! Several of the friends MC and I were with at ALA are already planning to go to ALA in Chicago this summer, but I'm not anticipating going to that one. Thankfully I think I have plenty to read for awhile! This week I also started Blogilates on the suggestion of Nick from Nick & Nereyda's Infinite Booklist. I'm currently regretting my decision, but I'm hoping it will pay off! Currently I'm watching And Then There Were None, which I spotted at Best Buy today and picked up with a savings code that was about to expire. I'm off to find out what happens!

New Books

This Week I Read

MC's Happenings Off the Blog

Hi everyone! Tracy and I are back from ALA! We met for the first time in person and it was awesome! ALA was absolutely amazing. It was so much fun hanging out with everyone and I have to say that being able to meet Tracy was one of the highlights of my trip. I loved seeing everyone else too, but I had met them all before. While ALA itself was great, it was a pretty rough weekend to be in Atlanta. The weather was awful, and between the Women's March and the playoff game at the Georgia Dome, traffic was horrible. And I came home from ALA and promptly got sick, so I missed a bunch of work this week. But all in all, it was a great experience and I hope that I can make it to another convention soon. I love surrounding myself with books, but the best part is always getting to hang out with my friends. Check out the pictures of what my ARC shelf looks like now! I can't wait to get reading!

New Books

This Week I Read

In Case You Missed It

Monday ARC review of Gilded Cage
The topic was ALA books I'm excited about for Top Ten Tuesday
Thursday audiobook review of Scarlet
On Friday I talked about recommendations that didn't work

Upcoming Reviews

We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Friday, January 27, 2017

5 Recommendations that really didn't work out

Before I blogged I picked 99% of the books I read on a whim. I'd walk through the library or the bookstore and pick up whatever looked good. Sure, it took me hours to decide on my next read, but I had no one to blame when I hated it except myself. These days I get most of my new reads via friend/blogger recommendations and it has worked amazingly for the most part! But sometimes one creeps up on me that I fully expect to love and end up fully disliking. Today I'm here to call out the people who have caused me to suffer through books I seriously wish I'd skipped, all in good fun of course! (I actually love all of you.)

Recommended by: Literally everyone
My rating: 1 star (review)

This book. What is it? It was pitched as fantasy, but it just.was.not. This book is 150% historical fiction in a weakly disguised England and the American Frontier. I don't even understand what the author was trying to do with this giant mess of a book, but it has certainly inspired me to pay much closer attention to reviews and rely less on Goodreads genres. Because they lie. Even beyond the fact that this was definitely not fantasy, The Glittering Court has all kinds of issues, not least of which is a heroine who escapes an arranged marriage by selling herself to the highest bidder. Just... avoid.

Recommended by: Cassi
My rating: DNF (review)

This book has SUCH an interesting premise and it still makes me so, so sad that I never was able to finish it. I DNF'd it multiple times and kept trying to finish because I was actually totally intrigued to see how it ended! The problem was it just dragged on and on. And on. Once the idea of the island that people literally couldn't leave was introduced it became extremely repetitive and, well, kind of boring. Honestly, please send spoilers if you've finished it because I do want to know! I just can't seem to make it all the way through. 

Recommended by: Grace
My rating: 1.5 stars (review)

Confess was the second book I read by Colleen Hoover and I was seriously underwhelmed. Grace wasn't the only person to recommend Confess because pretty much everyone seems to love it! I decided to give her another shot since Confess was so popular but unfortunately it just was NOT for me. The drama and angst levels were way too high for me to handle and I guess this is how all of Colleen Hoover's books are written. I'm glad that everyone else can enjoy her books, but this one wasn't for me!

Recommended by: Cait
My rating: 1 star (review)

I actually really disliked Shatter Me, but I listened when I was told that book two was much better. I was assured that Warner made it all worth it and that the romance was the most swoon-worthy thing ever written! Warner was slightly better than the other characters in this book, but not by much. I trusted all of you! It ended up being one of the most painful books I've ever attempted to get through. Even worse than the characters were the endless ridiculous metaphors. Somehow I did make it to the end, but I never have had any desire to read the last book in the series.

Recommended by: Jen
My rating: 2 stars (my review)

My friend who somehow knows my reading preferences better than I do and usually gives me fantastic recommendations told me that I would probably love Uprooted. I did not love Uprooted. The main character was really, really dumb. She did a lot of dumb things that made me want to slap her. The romance was also extremely weird and kind of out of nowhere. But my biggest problem with Uprooted was that there was way, way too much crammed into its 438 pages. Hate is probably too strong a word for this book, but I really didn't like it as much as I (and others) expected.

What recommendations have your friends gotten completely wrong?
Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Audiobook Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 1, book 3, book 3.5, & book 4

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

My journey with my reread of the Lunar Chronicles continues this week with Scarlet. If you read my review of Cinder last week, you will know that I really enjoyed the first book, but I was very much looking forward to continuing on with the series and meeting the rest of the wonderful cast of characters that Marissa Meyer has created. I got exactly what I was looking for as I picked up Scarlet and I wasn't disappointed.

Scarlet picks up immediately following the events in Cinder. Cinder is on the run from the Eastern Commonwealth and Levana and has enlisted the help of Captain Carswell Thorne (think dysfunctional Han Solo) to help her find more information on the missing Lunar Princess Selene. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a new character, Scarlet, who is trying to find her missing grandmother. When Scarlet meets a mysterious street fighter named Wolf, she realizes she may be tied up in something bigger than she ever could have imagined. Scarlet, Wolf, Cinder, and Thorne eventually cross paths and set the stage for what will happen in Cress and the following books.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say again how much I completely adore the characters in this series. Cinder, Kai, and Iko are still the lovable characters that we met in book one. But the addition of Thorne, Wolf, and Scarlet really brings the series to another level. Scarlet is pretty  awesome, but nothing compares to Wolf and Thorne in my book. I completely love those men. I rarely get excited about love interests in books, but the men in the Lunar Chronicles will forever be some of my favorites.

A lot of people say that Scarlet is their least favorite of the series, but I love it. I will admit that I think the plot lags in a few places. But overall, I love the way the story continues in this book. We get to learn so much more about the world that Cinder is living in and how the tensions between the Earthens and Lunars developed. My only complaint about the audiobook of Scarlet was that sometimes the narrator sounded a little strange. It was like she would sometimes try to give the characters accents, but they weren't very good, and they weren't always there. It threw me off a bit while listening, but it wasn't enough to deter me from finishing the audiobook.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #132: ALAMW books I can't wait to read

Today's Topic: 
Ten ALAMW Books I Can't Wait To Read

I'm back from ALA Midwinter! It has been a crazy weekend and I got a lot of amazing things, so I decided to use my haul for this week's top ten freebie! Since I haven't fully unpacked and looked at what I brought home, I'm not calling this my top ten. Instead, these are ten books I brought home from ALAMW that I am extremely excited to read!

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, January 23, 2017

ARC Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Title: Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)
Author: Vic James
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Pages: 368
Add to Goodreads

//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Gilded Cage has been one of my most anticipated books of 2017 since I first read the synopsis. I was immediately intrigued by the magical Equals and I couldn't wait to find out what Abi's terrible choice was. Not to mention the revolution that was hinted at. I went in fully expecting to love it. Now I have so many feelings about Gilded Cage and not all of them are good.

This book has multiple points of view. In fact, there are chapters told from seven different points of view with some characters getting one chapter each and never appearing again. Multiple POVs can be really hit or miss, but with this many different characters it's almost always going to be a miss. I had a hard time connecting to many of the characters because they'd disappear and by the time I got back to them I had to think to remember who they were.

Abi and Luke are arguably the main characters in this story. Abi has put her med school career on hold for ten years in order to get her family cushy slave days (more on that later), but when it doesn't go as planned, Luke get sent away while Abi stays with the rest of her family. Unfortunately, I didn't particularly care about either of them. I did find Luke's story to be a bit more exciting, but I still wasn't terribly concerned about his well-being and that's never a good sign.

The real bright spots in this story were the Jardine brothers - Gavar, Jenner, and Silyen. Gavar is the family heir and undoubtedly has an extremely intriguing backstory but, oddly, none of it was revealed. In the prologue we find out that he shot his baby's mother for reasons (?) that are never discussed in the 368 pages of this book. Jenner is the brother with no magic, also for reasons (?) that are never discussed. Finally there's Silyen, the mysterious brother with an absurd amount of power for reasons (?) that are never discussed and who I would love to read an entire book about. All of them seem to fall somewhere into gray on the spectrum and I'm certain they're going to be fascinating when everything about them is finally revealed.

My real issue with Gilded Cage is that very few things are sufficiently explained. The world building is never fully fleshed out. The slave days, for example, are confusing. The normal people of Britain - all those except the Skilled Equals - are forced to give up ten years of their lives to "slave days" where they will be considered sub-human and carry out hard labor. I'm not sure how a system would work where normal citizens go off to become slaves for ten years and then reenter normal society. To be honest, I think this book could have been better without slavery. There could have easily been inequality and need for a revolution between the Equals and unskilled without slave days and it would have made more sense, at least to me.

All of that being said, the story is interesting. I was intrigued by the talk of revolution and was eager to see how it would play out (or even get started). I also really wanted to see where each of the Jardine brothers would fit into this political shift - which side would they end up on? I was riveted by every single thing that happened with the Jardines! But the weird thing about this book is that it doesn't feel complete. Absolutely nothing is answered by the end and, although I know this is set up to be a series, each book should still wrap up to some extent. This one just created more questions as time went on and never really resolved anything.

At the end of the day, I'm most baffled by the synopsis. I never did figure out what Abi's "terrible choice" was. The romance that is hinted at never really gains any momentum and neither does the revolution. I want to know more about the aristocrat who "will remake the world with his dark gifts." Re-reading the synopsis after finishing the book, it seems like an overview of the series because many of the things mentioned never happened.

If everything in the synopsis actually happened in this book, it would have been much better, although the magical and political systems would still be unbelievable. What I would really love is a book about the Jardine brothers, specifically Silyen. Based on this character alone, I will be reading the next book in the series. I was definitely disappointed by Gilded Cage, but I'm holding out hope that book two will answer a lot of questions and hopefully give more insight into the Jardine family.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weekly Recap: 1/15 - 1/21

Tracy's Happenings Off the Blog

We're at ALA! As you're reading this, I am probably wandering around somewhere in Atlanta, although our trip is coming to a close soon. This week was pretty much all preparing for ALA, so there isn't much to tell. I had to find a dog sitter, stop stressing over leaving my dogs with the dog sitter, pack, and stop stressing over packing. It was a slow posting week because of it, but now we're here! I'll be posting a full ALAMW recap next week!

New Books

This Week I Read

MC's Happenings Off the Blog

ALA is here!!!!!! By the time you read this, Tracy and I will have finally met in person! This week has been pretty stressful. I've been super busy at work and I've been really stressed about getting ready for ALA. I'm really bad at calming myself down before a trip, so it was a long week. But now we are here and exhausted and sore from all the walking around...but we are surrounded by friends and books and that makes everything better! As you can see, I haven't been reading much this week, so hopefully I can change that soon! (Especially since now I have a ton of books to try!)

New Books

None this week!

This Week I Read

None this week!

In Case You Missed It

Monday ARC review of Caraval
The topic was underrated books for Top Ten Tuesday
Thursday audiobook review of Cinder

Upcoming Reviews

We're linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 2book 3, book 3.5, & book 4 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So, I have to admit, I was pretty late to jump on the Lunar Chronicles bandwagon. Years ago, I downloaded a sample of Cinder to my kindle and read the first few pages before deciding I wasn't interested. I literally did this FIVE TIMES. I kept trying to get into it because everyone said it was amazing, but it just wasn't hooking me. Finally, I decided to just get the whole book and push through. I read it and really enjoyed it a couple years ago, and now I've just finished listening to the audiobook.

I really enjoyed the way this retelling is handled. Personally, I don’t much care for retellings that are very similar to the original story (see: my review of Heartless…sorry Tracy). In Cinder, the elements of the original Cinderella story were there, but there was so much more to the story. Set in the future, Cinder is a cyborg living as a mechanic in New Beijing, fixing androids and hovercrafts. She lives in a world where people live on the moon and the world is plagued by letumosis, a rapidly-spreading disease that has killed hundreds of thousands. Not your typical Cinderella story.

The Lunar Chronicles is one of the few series I've read where I actually like all of the characters. There aren't any characters that I don't enjoy...except the ones we are supposed to hate, that is. (*cough* Levana *cough cough*) Cinder is amazing - shy and totally awkward, but also brave and strong and not afraid to get dirty. And Kai - oh, sweet Kai. I'm pretty sure the heart eyes emoji was made specifically for him. I don't think this is how he is described, but I totally picture Li Shang from Disney's Mulan as Kai. Or the Prince Charming from the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella movie staring Brandy. Does anyone remember that? I know, one of those men is a cartoon character and the other is a hunky Filipino-American actor, but I can't help what my imagination comes up with.

Ok, let's get back on track....I love the main characters of Cinder and Kai, but I also just adore the supporting characters. Iko and Dr. Erlund are some of my favorite sidekicks ever. They intrigue me and keep me laughing and add so much depth to the story. I really feel like all of the characters are my friends. I feel like I know them so well and I can't wait to open a book and hang out with them. Well, maybe not Levana...

While I really enjoyed Cinder, rereading it has made me realize just how much I prefer the other books. I do like Cinder, but the series really comes into its own as the cast of characters grows and develops. Cinder is a great first book for the series. It introduces you to an awesome cast and a captivating story...but it is lacking that wow factor that appears in the later books as the story develops. It took me forever to get into Cinder, but once I finally gave it a chance, I really enjoyed it. And once I continued on with the series, I was hooked. I absolutely devour these books and I can't wait to continue on with the series. I'm currently rereading the first three in preparation for finally getting around to reading Winter for the first time. I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #131: underrated books

Today's Topic: 
Ten Eight Underrated Books I've 
Read In The Past Year Or So

Although there are a ton of underrated books out there, I haven't found very many of them in the last year! These are the eight that I feel are either literally underrated or just under-hyped. I can't wait to see what all of yours are!

Alight by Scott Sigler
The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
Beast by Brie Spangler
Floor 21 by Jason Luthor

The House by Christina Lauren
Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, January 16, 2017

ARC Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 416
Add to Goodreads
Review for book 2

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.

There are books that I enjoy, books that I love, and then there are books that are pure magic - books that feel like magic. Very few fit into the last category, but Caraval does. I first heard about Caraval at the ALA annual conference in Orlando last summer. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Stephanie Garber, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of her book. Without seeing any of the hype for this book, I dived in and was amazed. Caraval deserves every ounce of hype it has received (and I'll happily add to it)!

Scarlett is the main character of this story, and I loved her. She has wanted to go to Caraval since she was young, but has never had the chance... until now. Scarlett's mission while in Caraval is to find her sister who has been mysteriously kidnapped and not everything is as it seems. In Caraval everything is a game, nothing is real. At least, that's what they tell everyone who who goes inside. As Scarlett discovers, though, it's difficult to remember this when the stakes get high. I found Scarlett to be both strong and intelligent. She wasn't scared to take chances and be brave when she had to in order to save her sister, but she was never reckless (a trait I cannot stand in "strong" MCs).

Of course, Scarlett doesn't enter Caraval on her own! Julian accompanies Scarlett and her sister to the game and throughout the book. He is a wonderful character who I just couldn't get enough of. While I loved Scarlett, I adored Julian! My favorite kind of love interest is the kind that's a little dark, a bit of a scoundrel, and a little mysterious - the kind of guy that you're never quite sure about. The relationship between Scarlett and Julian was perfect! It was a bit of a slow burn and I tend to be impatient, but I loved the way things played out between them.

Although this book shines in every aspect, my favorite was most definitely the world of Caraval. I didn't know quite what to expect when I jumped in, but it wasn't this magical world. I knew from the synopsis that Scarlett would be fighting to recover her kidnapped sister, but I didn't expect the darkness in Caraval... and I loved it! Things are never what you'd expect and there are clues at every turn. I didn't have a map in my advance copy, but I still felt like I was able to picture the world in my head. Of course, when I was able to get my hands on the map, it made it even better! I can't wait to get my finished copy and do a re-read with the map within easy reach!

The story itself is mysterious and gripping. I was pulled in very quickly and once Scarlett got to Caraval I knew I was a goner. There is never a dull moment as Scarlett and Julian race to beat the clock and constantly run into new and exciting people and places. There are even super secret, mysterious (dangerous) tunnels! Thankfully, this is going to be a series! But I'm happy to report that there are no cliffhangers here. This roller coaster of a book wraps up nicely enough that you won't want to throw it at any walls, though it may leave you with a serious book hangover.

I loved every single thing about Caraval, in case that wasn't obvious, right down to the gorgeous cover. The characters were fantastic, the world was pure magic, and the story grabbed me from page one. I plan on reading this again as soon as I get my pre-ordered copy and I'm already dying for book two! I definitely recommend picking this one up if you enjoy fantasy.