A strong start to a new fantasy series by author Elly Blake

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasy is quickly becoming my favourite genre to read and I’ve had the opportunity to read some really amazing books this year in this genre. As soon as I saw the cover for Frostblood I was intrigued, the UK cover of the frozen rose is beautiful and drew me in immediately.

This book kicks off with an emotional chapter where we meet Ruby, a fireblood. Ruby can control heat and fire, she can make and manipulate fire. Ruby, however, lives in a world where she is an outlaw, in the kingdom where she resides Frostbloods rule and the most dangerous of all sits on the throne. In this opening chapter, Ruby’s village is ambushed by the king’s soldiers who are searching for her and her mother is killed by them whilst trying to protect her daughter. Ruby is captured and taken to prison where she is taunted and abused by the guards.

Ruby is helped to break out of prison by an unusual monk called Brother Thistle and a mysterious man named Arcus, who agree to help her in return for her help in killing the Frost King and destroying his throne. Ruby, who is still seeking revenge for the death of her mother agrees to help them and so begins her journey to learn more about how to use her Fireblood powers in preparation for her task to kill the king. Along the way she makes friends and finds a place she can feel safe and call home.

This book was all about the characters for me, I really liked Ruby but the people she meets along the way were brilliant. Brother Thistle and Brother Gamut and Sister Pastel were amazing. The way they cared for Ruby and helped her to find peace after the death of her mother was great. Arcus was wonderfully mysterious throughout the book and although my suspicions were proven correct in the big reveal later in the book he was strong and supportive to Ruby and a wonderful hero.

The book is split into two sections, the first is based fully on Ruby’s preparation for her task to kill the Frost King whereas the second takes place in the court of the King where she must fight to the death to gain the respect and admiration of the ruler in order to get close enough to him to carry out her task to destroy his ice throne and remove the darkness which hangs over the kingdom.

I have heard some criticisms of this series that is offers nothing new in contrast to other books in this genre, however, this wasn’t something I had an issue with. I liked the premise of the frostblood versus firebloods, it had a little reminiscence of Frozen with the Frostbloods having similar skills to Elsa. The really outstanding thing for me about this book is the warmth of the characters and the interactions of them together.

I really enjoyed Frostblood, the first part of a trilogy it has set up the storyline for the second book nicely and has left us characters we want to spend more time with. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

A very special book about a bond of sisterhood and survival

One by Sarah Crossan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I sit and think about how to put into words my feelings about this book I am still somewhat stunned by it, having just read the final pages. I am trying to think about the last time a book left me feeling quite so emotional and quite so bereft now I have finished it. It’s hard to imagine that I only picked it up 24 hours ago and yet it has left such an indelible mark upon me that it may be one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The winner of The Carnegie Medal One by Sarah Crossan was somewhat of a revelation to me when I picked it up last night. I had picked it up in my local library having heard nothing about it and glancing at the blurb on the back had established it was a story of conjoined twins and their lives together. Finding it in the teen section I had expected a contemporary light-hearted read so you can imagine my initial surprise when I opened the pages to find that the book is written entirely in free verse. I have never read a book written in this style before and I initially wasn’t sure whether it would detract from my enjoyment of the story or if I’d struggle to immerse myself.

I found very quickly that this was not the case, yes the pages are generally very short, although it came in at 434 pages I literally flew through it, I read it in a day but I wasn’t sitting consistently reading so I reckon you could do it in just a few hours. The style of writing is engaging and draws you in, it isn’t rhyming prose but the way it is written is carefully structured to draw out the important parts of the story and to allow you to focus in on certain phrases and emotions making it a powerful and impactful read.

The story is that of Grace and Tippi, conjoined twins who are about to start high school for the first time. Told from Grace’s perspective we learn about their life together, the way that the world views them, the challenges they face and the most important thing of all – how they are two people with two different personalities and beliefs, not just one. Their story of beginning school for the first time and the way this makes them feel is heartfelt and this along with the story of the struggles their family face just to keep them cared for medically and the impact this has had upon each member is heartbreaking. It is the ongoing struggle the girls face to lead normal teenage lives that build the foundation of the book and their strength together that hits home.

The girls are clearly beginning to struggle medically and are scared to think about what this might mean for their future and this book takes us on that journey with them. All the time you root for these girls, you want them to be happy because as they say in the book being conjoined twins isn’t the worst thing in the world. Surely there are many worse things that could happen to a person than being joined to the person they love most in the whole world?

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, I know I’m going to bore everyone for the next year or so recommending this one as one of those very special books that will remain with me forever. I am so very glad I didn’t allow it’s format to sway me not to read it. I am so pleased that I took the time to delve into the world of Grace and that her story has been recognised by so many as worthy of recognition. Sarah Crossan has delivered a very clever, touching and inspiring book. I’d give it more stars than 5 if I could.

A great fun contemporary read about falling in love unexpectedly

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of the breakout Young Adult contemporary books of this summer. Everyone who is anyone has been reading and raving about this novel over the past few months. I felt it only proper to read it before the summer drew to a close.

This is a novel about family values and culture versus the need to break out and find yourself and your own voice. Dimple is about to go off to college to study her love of coding but her family are keen for her to make an arranged marriage and become a good wife who will be there to support her husband and family. Dimple is independent and strong-willed and while she loves her family she loves coding more and she is not ready to give up her dreams just yet. She is surprised when her parents agree to her attending a summer coding programme at San Francisco University and she heads off determined to give it her all and win the coveted prize at the end of the programme, hence showing everyone that she is as good as she thinks she is and has a bright future.

On her first day Dimple is thrown when a young man comes up to her and tells her he is her future husband. You see Rishi has already been told all about Dimple, he’s going to the summer programme at SFU for the sole purpose of meeting the girl his parents have told him he is going to marry at the agreement of all their parents. The only problem is that no one told Dimple!!

This story was really funny, from the time when Dimple meets Rishi we fall in love with Rishi immediately. He is in a really difficult position as he likes Dimple, a lot, and he has been told that she is aware of their marriage and so when he finds she has no idea he has to backtrack and pretend that it doesn’t matter to him and he enters that dreaded ‘friend zone’. He’s such an endearing character, he’s instantly likeable and you feel for him as he is trying to be the devoted Indian son, making a marriage and going off to study a subject he doesn’t necessarily love in order to provide for his family in the future.

The way in which Dimple and Rishi impact each other’s lives is lovely, from a misunderstanding they grow into friends and from friends into a relationship which will change their lives for the better. They are each other’s biggest cheer squad, they learn about what it means to see life through the other’s eyes. Dimple to learn that complying with her cultural values needn’t mean giving up her dreams and Rishi in living his own dreams doesn’t mean he cannot be a good son and make his family proud.

This was such a quick book to read, the chapters are all quite short and snappy and we flick from Dimple to Rishi’s perspective every page or so to ensure we are aware of both points of view throughout. It’s nice to see how they each view their blossoming relationship and how they help each other to grow throughout the narrative.

It’s a great contemporary summer read, funny and emotional and with great characters leading the story.

A breathtaking end to Bardugo’s duology about a misfit gang of thieves and crooks

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So this month it was my ambition to read the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo and having read Six of Crows earlier in July I moved onto Crooked Kingdom and was excited to continue the stories of Kaz, Inej, Matthias, Jesper, Waylan and Nina the gang of misfits who managed to break into the unbreakable Ice Palace to rescue a Sui boy a secret so dangerous it could change the world.

Crooked Kingdom picks up immediately after the end of Six of Crows with our characters having just arrived back in Ketterdam and been double crossed by Waylan’s mercher father who has reneged on his payment for the job they did on his behalf. Inej has been captured by him and is being held until Kaz hands over the boy he broke out of the Ice Palace.

Now after Six of Crows we know what to expect, we can look forward to lots of double crossing and criminal genius from Kaz and his associates as they come up with another elaborate plan that will allow them to gain their revenge on the evil Van Eck and get the payment they have all staked their futures on. This book did not disappoint and from very early on we are cheering as Kaz makes his first genius move of the book in order to recover his friend and wraith Inej.

I loved the multiple points of view in this book, as with Six of Crows the different chapters allowed us to continue to explore the individual stories of all the characters and to develop our love for them that began in Book 1. For me my favourite character remains Kaz because of the different complex emotions he keeps bubbling just below his surface. The wonderful way he just does the unexpected and always comes out on top and his management of the people around him.

The relationship I loved most was Jesper and Waylan, from the first book when they were just discovering each others criminal skills and jokingly having Jesper drive Waylan crazy it has become one of the gems where they will do anything for each other, Jesper is helping Waylan to adjust to the fact he is now wearing the face of Sui escaped prisoner Kuwei and the ongoing rejection and double crossing from his father Van Eck. Jesper in this book reveals more about his background with the arrival of his father in Ketterdam and now Waylan is helping him to reveal the truth about his present criminal activities to his father. Their growing closeness and eventual unbreakable bond was beautiful to read about.

This whole duology was so exciting, the way the story arced across both books and took so many crazy twists and turns, the breathtaking moments of suspense and then the literally arm pumping punching the air times when the gang came through were just amazing. It is a series I will look back on very fondly and would highly recommend anyone to read.

A fast paced adventure with it’s roots solidly in friendship, an amazing book

Six of Crows
 (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been continuing to challenge myself by reading new authors and different genres over the past few months and the Six of Crows duology has been raved about by so many people that I literally couldn’t help but delve into this wonderful book by Leigh Bardugo.

Set in the Grisha world this book has the same setting as the Shadow & Bone series and I wasn’t sure if the fact I hadn’t read this earlier trilogy would mean I couldn’t delve into Six of Crows with the same understanding. To reassure any readers with similar reservations I can confirm that in no way did my not having read Shadow & Bone reduce my understanding of the world of Six of Crows.

Six of Crows is a wonderful novel about a group of six misfits who are hired to conduct a heist into an unbreakable island and rescue a political prisoner. A mix of unusual characters from different walks of life they are pulled together by Kaz Brekker, gang mastermind, and together they must travel across their country to another realm where if they can rescue a scientist, held prisoner they will be paid a huge sum beyond their dreams.

Immediately when I began this book I loved the setting, it has a feel of old fashioned Netherlands, the language and speech patterns the characters use reflects this and it sets the atmosphere wonderfully. It also begins with a slight Gangs of New York vibe also, as gangs in the barrel battle to hold the position of top dog. Kaz Brekker is a misfit, a boy with a tangled past and a score to settle and to do this he needs to raise as much money to help him so when the offer to lead this heist comes up he can’t say no. Kaz is the best at what he does, he’s a criminal mastermind and with the help of his chosen assailants, he is sure they can pull off the impossible.

This book was wonderful, it was told from all the multiple points of view of the different gang members. We have lots of back stories to learn and Bardugo does a wonderful job of outlining these throughout the book and before we know what’s happening we care deeply about each of them and the threads between them and their loyalties have grown and they make wonderful heroes to read about.

This book is full of excitement and action and it moves along at a wonderful pace. The plan the gang is following is held back from us and we only learn as it unfolds and this makes it wonderfully mysterious and keeps you reading chapter after chapter so quickly your head will spin. This is a substantial book and yet I read it really quickly. We are left with an unresolved ending and we are clearly going to resolve this in book 2, Crooked Kingdom and so I now cannot wait to move on and read this.

A really strong book and one I would highly recommend.

A magical book full of Eastern Promise and beautiful romance

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath & The Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was young I always loved the fairy tale Aladdin because the setting of the Far Eastern world seemed so exotic and colourful and full of life. I loved the Disney adaptation and think that to this day it remains one of my favourite Disney musicals of all time. To find a book set in this wonderful fairy tale setting is exciting and to then find it is loosely based on the tales of Scheherazade’s A Thousand And One Nights is even more so.

The Wrath And The Dawn is the first book in Renee Ahdieh’s Wrath & The Dawn duology and follows Shaharzad, a 16-year-old girl who chooses to marry the King. Under normal circumstances, this would be every young girl’s dream but this King has been taking a new bride every night and his brides always meet the same fate, killed as the dawn rises the day after their marriage. Shahrazad’s best friend Shiva is one of the brides that Khalid has killed and Shazi marries him for one reason, to kill him and gain her revenge for the death of her friend.

Shazi begins to realise that this King whom everyone hates is hiding a secret, the real reason why he is killing these young women and as she begins to get to know him she finds herself doing the unthinkable and falling in love with the man she had set out to kill. There begins a love that encompasses them both but which could put their whole kingdom in jeopardy.

This book was just wonderful right from the outset. There are lots of new words and descriptions for the old Eastern weapons and dress but once you become familiar with them you are transported to this beautiful world full of spice and colour and beauty. Ahdieh manages to bring this to life and really pulls you into the atmosphere of the novel and it feels like true escapism. If I put the book down I couldn’t wait to get back to it so I could enjoy being in that world for a while instead of Scotland in what has been a cold, wet, windy summer.

We meet a wonderful cast of characters, Jalal the cousin of Khalid and Captain of his Guard, Despina the handmaiden of Shazi who is initially sent to spy on her but who becomes her close friend and confidante. Tariq, the childhood friend and love of Shazi who sets out to rescue her from the palace the fate that has befallen all the other brides of the Caliph. Ahdieh spins a wonderful tale, we know that Khalid hides a secret but we aren’t given this too early on in the novel so this means that the relationship built between Shazi and Khalid feels built upon their real feelings for each other despite the uncertainty Shazi faces about her future.

The ending leaves things wide open as we don’t arrive at a neat conclusion but instead we have a cliffhanger that will lead us into book 2, The Rose & The Dagger which I cannot wait to read. I find duologies are often really nice as 2 books is a good number that means you get to spend a good long time with characters that you love without having to commit to lots and lots of novels. I am excited to add this to my completed duology list of 2017.

This is absolutely one of my 5 star reads this month as it’s a book that was entierly different in setting from lots of books available and a unique take on old fairy tales.

A touching story of teenage love against the odds

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young adult fiction is one of my guilty pleasures, although I now beyond the age group where I could ever be considered a young adult I find this genre is currently burgeoning with brilliant authors with some strong stories to tell and I enjoy reading them, they are an escape from the adult world back to a more innocent time when you didn’t have to worry about what bills to pay and what everyone is having for dinner that evening. A time when anything was possible and you have your whole future in front of you.

Jennifer Niven has become very highly regarded in this genre after her last novel “All The Bright Things” received rave critical reviews, I haven’t read that book yet however and I decided to start with Holding Up The Universe. I was lucky enough to listen to this book via audiobook as well as reading parts and whilst I do not regularly listen to audiobooks as I sometimes find they interfere with my enjoyment of the story, this adaptation was exceptional and it is highly recommended if this method of enjoying the book appeals to you more.

This is a great story of Libby Strout and Jack Masselin, two teens who are preparing to return to school after the summer break. For Libby however it is a huge undertaking, she was one “America’s Fattest Teen” unable to leave her home and having had to be cut out of her bedroom by emergency services very publicly a few years before. She has spent the last years losing weight and addressing the demons which caused her to eat excessively after the death of her mother. Not having attended school for many years she is now ready to return and face the world and her peers, she is fierce and happy and with a dream to be a dancer she makes one of the most endearing heroines I’ve read for some time. Vulnerable and yet feisty and strong it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Libby.

Jack doesn’t face a world without difficulties either, popular and enigmatic he is the centre of the popular kids at school but Jack is hiding a strange and unusual secret, he suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition which means that he is unable to recognise faces. Even the faces of the people he holds dearest he is unable to recall, he has to learn people by other identifying features such as their hair or size or sticky out ears in the case of his younger brother. Nobody is aware of Jack’s secret and he tries disguising it each day, leading to awkward situations such as when he kisses his girlfriends cousin thinking it’s his girlfriend and suddenly everyone is outraged at him.

Jack and Libby’s worlds are about to collide, at the outset of the book we are told Jack is going to do a bad thing but we aren’t aware what that thing is going to be. It is, however, going to be the catalyst that throws them both together and once they meet it begins a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.

I literally loved this story, Jack and Libby are both incredible characters. Jack is cocky on the outside but struggling to hide his illness on the inside and so he uses his bravado to get him through. Inside he is a good guy, he tries to run with the crowd but his conscience jars him and we know he a decent human being. Libby is outwardly strong and feisty but inside she’s still struggling with people bullying her for her size and shamed by the fact everyone knows about her having to be cut from her home years before. It’s a story about how difficult high school can be to manoeuvre, the judgements teens make on each other and how cruel their jibes can be. How even the simplest of things can make you stand out from the crowd and how if your crimes are as heinous as Libby’s and you dare to be physically different to the extreme people will go to any lengths to let you know you aren’t wanted.

I read this book at the same time as watching the TV series 13 Reasons Why and whilst this book doesn’t by any stretch cover bullying to the same extent the themes resonated through both and left me feeling that for all that we have become more aware of the impact bullying can have there still seems to be no end to the ability for people to be cruel in their judgement of others in the ability to make themselves feel more secure. As is said in 13 Reasons Why, of course the popular kids are cruel that’s how they got popular in the first place.

I loved spending time with Jack and Libby, they are beacons of hope in a world where people allow themselves to become boxed in by the standards of others. They lift each other up and make us want to root for them and that is a very special thing.

A beautiful conclusion to Rhysand and Feyre’s love story

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns & Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I kicked off my July reading this month with the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas. I’ve read this series quite quickly over the past month or so and it was my first experience of this author but I’d heard such great things that it drew me to this series and I am so glad that I did.

This third book in the series will be the final one Maas writes from the perspective of Feyre and her mate Rhysand, we are anticipating more books in the world Maas has built but they will be focusing upon different characters from the world and so this book was where Maas had to really bring together all the threads of Feyre and Rhysand’s stories and make sure she also laid the groundwork for the book that is to follow.

This means that we pick up in this book immediately after the end of Book 2, with Feyre returning to The Spring Court with Tamlin having been torn apart from her mate Rhysand. Feyre is playing double agent though and has pretended she never felt anything for Rhys and is now going with Tamlin for the sole purpose of trying to infiltrate his court and find out all she can about their alliance with Hybern and the King of Hybern’s plans to attack the human realm. This return to the Spring Court was a great opening to this book, it allows us to connect with those characters we fell in love with in Book 1, Lucien and Alis and to allow us to re-examine the relationship with Tamlin and see just how dysfunctional it could have been.

The subterfuge Feyre undertakes to cause disharmony in the Spring court is a wonderful opening to the book, the wiles she uses to make Tamlin trust her while sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of those close to him about his actions are brilliant. Feyre has reached the point in this book where she is strong and sure of herself, she has learned much about the strength of her powers and is willing to use them to ensure she protects the human world and to get back to the night court and Rhysand.

There is so so much that happens in this book, at nearly 760 pages and each one full of so much action it would take a long long review to break down each and every plot point and would also spoil for readers who haven’t delved in yet, however, there are a few areas I feel worthy of discussion at this point.

Firstly is the way in which this world and it’s characters have expanded over the course of the three books. When I think back to A Court of Thorns and Roses I now realise how small the world Maas painted was compared to where we finish at the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin. Throughout the books she has added to the world piece by piece and book by book until at the end of this series we have met such a rich cast that the world feels truly three dimensional. This is one of the things I have loved most about this series, Maas never makes any character feel short-changed from their time on the page. She takes the time to develop them all enough, to give them light and shade and a back story that we feel engaged in them, we like or dislike them enough that we truly care about their fate. This is really exciting because as we move away from Feyre and Rhysand in this series there are so many possibilities of who we could focus upon next that it is going to be so exciting to find out who Maas may choose. Will she follow Feyre’s sisters and their mates? Will she follow the story of Myriam and Drakon, who’s story was only hinted at near the end of this book? Will she explore Lucien’s backstory and his uncovering of his heritage? Each and every option sounds amazing and this is because of the way Maas builds her characters and weaves them in so that you never feel overwhelmed or confused about who is who but she almost without you noticing builds a whole world fo you to lose yourself in.

The second thing about this book was the way in which the action unfolded, I found this book had a really strong start, it immediately was back into the story with no stopping to fill in any backstory just moving the story along. I did find a little dip around 100 pages in and I’m not sure if that was down to me and I had a little struggle for 50 pages or so then suddenly I was back the moment and I could not put this down. My husband took my children out for the day on their school holidays and I got some precious alone time and for the 4 hours they were away I read this solidly getting through 250-300 pages. When my daughter came home she asked me how I could read that long without getting bored and I said to her that this book had had me shouting out loud at it’s pages. Punching the air in joy and at it’s ending crying my eyes out. It took me through so many emotions that it left me feeling drained by the end. There were such wonderful high moments and then heartbreaking moments that Maas had been building to over the course of all the books. Characters we had only touched on had their moment in the spotlight and left us loving them in ways we never thought they would evoke from us.

Finally, I am going to be sad not to follow Feyre and Rhysand in the next book, I love them and their relationship. They have become one of my all time favourite couples in any books I’ve read because of the way in which they support each other without question through all they do. The way they each are happy to let them be their own individual people with thoughts and decisions of their own whilst they are absolutely devoted to one another. We are given a small and unusual glimpse of what is to come in their future in this book and that was one of the most touching moments for me. I would dearly love to touch on them from time to time as the series moves on but whoever Maas focuses upon next has a huge legacy to live up to in this couple. They have been a joy to follow and I know I am not alone in having them very high on my favourite literary couples list.

I am delighted I have discovered Sarah J. Maas as an author and will be taking time over the months ahead to delve into her Throne of Glass series also, although I have a couple of other series I’d like to complete and try first. I now fully understand why so many readers were excited about this series and can say these books absolutely do live up to the hype they have received.

A mystical tale of a magical carnival filled with intrigue and adventure

Caraval (Caraval #1)by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a debut novel and the first book in what is rumoured to be a new series of novels. Written by Stephanie Garber, Caraval is a magical novel with a mysterious and fantastical setting which has set the Young Adult world alight this year. I had to, therefore, give it a try and see if all the hype around this book lived up to the reality.

SSet on the fantasy Isle of Trisda, we meet sisters Scarlett and Donatella. Brought up by their father the governor of the Isle of Trisda we become aware that is is a calculating and cruel man who controls his daughters by punishing them physically when they disobey him, but adds his own twist to this by punishing Donatella when Scarlett steps out of line and vice versa, meaning the sisters know that if they disobey their father their sibling will feel the physical pain of his displeasure. Scarlett has had a marriage arranged by her father to a mysterious Count whom she has never met and her marriage is due to take place within a few weeks but she has never met her future husband.

Scarlett has been writing her whole life to a magical and mysterious figure called Master Legend who runs a magical game called Caraval. Caraval is a festival to which you have to be invited and if invited you are allowed to participate or simply watch the game in progress. The game takes place over 5 nights and you follow a series of clues, almost like a scavenger hunt, which will lead you to a prize beyond your wildest dreams. Scarlet and Donatella have been dreaming of going to Caraval since they were children and suddenly a few weeks before her wedding, they receive invitations from Master Legend himself to attend as his special guests.

With the help of a young sailor called Julian, Scarlett and Donatella run away to Caraval which is being held on Master Legend’s private island. When they get there, however, Tella is kidnapped and Scarlett quickly learns that the item everyone participating in the game needs to find that year is her sister. All the clues will lead them to Tella. The prize at the end will the granting of one wish by Master Legend. Scarlett and Julian must, therefore, work together to try and reach Tella first but the mystery of Caraval is that whilst you must take it seriously you must never be so swept away that you forget it is just a game.

Garber has created a really fantastical world in Caraval, it is magical but has a certain darkness to it. Things are mysterious but you never know whether you can quite trust them to be real. The characters themselves are often hiding secrets and you are never sure which of the people are actors within the show and which are genuine participants. Behind it all, we learn that whilst Caraval is just a game a young girl died there a few years before when she became too swept away and people warn that Caraval can drive you mad. Master Legend himself is said to wear a different face each game and finds it fun to make girls fall madly in love with him.

I loved the writing within this book, Garber uses really good descriptions to set her world of Caraval, using lots of food related descriptions of the world around her such as the sand looking like spun sugar or the sky appearing a buttery texture. She makes it feel full of mystique and her characters are described really well and she focuses a great deal on the elaborate costumes and places that Scarlett visits. You lose yourself in the wonderful world you are reading about.

I found the first half of the book to be a little slow as it took a time to build up the actual setting for the book and therefore most of the action was packed into the second half. I also found myself getting frustrated with the lead character as she became too bogged down in the romantic entanglements she found herself in and lost focus on the game of Caraval itself and the actual goal she had, which was to find her sister. I would have preferred less romantic focus and more action and twists and turns in the game of Caraval instead.

The ending of the book frustrated me a little as well as we build up lots and lots of tension and emotion in events at the end of the book which are then negated a few chapters later as just being “part of the game”. It felt like the toils and turmoil Scarlett endured were suddenly worth less than we had invested in them as a reader. It was nice to have resolution but a little of it felt too easy.

The ending is clearly setting up for the next book in the series but it’s unclear as yet whether this will be one book, making this a Duology or whether we can expect several more books to take this to a full blown series. I will absolutely read the second book as we have too many unanswered questions and relationships that I would like to spend more time immersed within and we still have much to learn about Master Legend himself which I feel is going to be an ongoing theme to a climax later in the writers story. In fact on reflection this book appeared to be a great deal about creating the setting and the stage for the books that will follow and it has certainly done that and created many many fans along the way.


I loved my first novel by Sarah Dessen, a tale of friendship and growing up

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve heard only great things about Sarah Dessen’s books and Saint Anything was the first one that crossed my radar a few months ago now and I knew immediately when I read the synopsis that I would be adding it to my To Be Read pile, if not only in part because the cover art for this book is absolutely beautiful.

A contemporary story this is a beautiful story with its roots very much in the importance of family and friendship. Sydney is a high school junior when her brother Peyton is sent to prison for a DUI accident which leaves another young teen in a wheelchair. A culmination of a long series of criminal misdemeanors and drug issues means that Sydney has no illusions about her brother’s culpability but her parents still seem to be blinded to their golden child’s faults. Struggling to escape the shadow her brother casts over their lives Sydney moves to a new school and there meets Layla, Mac and their close family who run a local pizza restaurant and their friendship and welcoming home suddenly offer a safe haven that Syndey is badly in need of.

This book is so heartwarming, it is a character focused book in which we truly fall in love with the people we meet throughout. Sydney is a great character, she is intelligent and hard working and clearly struggling to feel noticed within a household where the entire attention of her parents has been focused on her wayward brother. She is clearly having to be self-sufficient and struggling with the presence of her brother’s creepy best friend who keeps hanging around their home.

When she meets Layla and her family you instantly fall in love with them. The unquestioning way Layla accepts her family’s troubles and the warmth she offers Sydney mean they are impossible to dislike. The joy of this book is the absolute focus that Dessen puts into building a story about the importance of a strong support network and the people you choose to surround yourselves with. Friends, family and those you love. For Sydney, this has been missing and it’s wonderful to follow her journey from loneliness and isolation to feeling part of a family.

For the first book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen I was blown away, I loved it. I read it in just under 2 days and literally could not wait to keep reading it. Chapters flew by as I just wanted to lose myself in this book. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author in the weeks and months ahead. I know in the UK that Sarah Dessen is perhaps a little less well known alongside other Young Adult writers but from having read this book I truly fail to understand why.