Blog Collaboration Day 1: Caraval Audiobook Review

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HEY, EVERYONE!

Today let me introduce to you a 3-day collaboration post with my best friend, Bea @WhenCuriosityKilledTheCat.

You might be wondering why we’re doing this out of the blue, but we’ve both agreed that we need to break from our normal routine and post something other than pure reviews. We’ve planned on doing this earlier, but because of personal matters and other holdups, we kept pushing back our schedule. But now, finally, we can get this out of our systems.

(Note: We’re just using this alliance to share our fangirling over Caraval. XD)

For now, we’ll start with giving our own respective reviews of Caraval. I’ll share my thoughts about its audiobook while Bea gives hers on the paperback version. Visit her at When Curiosity Killed The Cat to know what she thinks!

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ALRIGHT…

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CARAVAL

Author: Stephanie Garber

Narrated by: Rebecca Soler

Format: audiobook

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Published: Jan. 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books

RATING: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Synopsis: 

Remember, it’s only a game…

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

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

 

Listen to an excerpt here.

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Story-wise, Caraval has to be one of the most compelling plots I’ve ever come across. I was thrilled in a way I’ve never been, and to think I am not much of a fan of circuses and carnivals, this is really saying something indeed. Not only is it just a magical game, it’s an elaborate performance as well. My feelings got so easily tangled with its twists and turns. It feels as if I was being driven mad along with the main character Scarlett.

Aside from the game, it was also fun trying to figure out the other characters, especially Julian. He makes you suspicious one moment and trusting the next. Back and forth it goes, until you can no longer decide which is real and which isn’t. Same goes for the rest. Tella surprised me the most, but it was ultimately Legend who had me wondering most of the time. I waited for his appearance to come, and when it did, I was both disappointed and not. (You’ll know what I mean when you read the story.) And Scarlett – I love how far she would go for her sister. But sometimes she drives me nuts with the marriage thing and her obsession with finding her sister. I wanted her to have fun and be more adventurous. But from her point of view, I can totally understand how this may be a little difficult. Anyway, the whole cast of characters were fantastic and memorable. I love how Garber made each one of them shine – even the minor ones.

I also like the world Garber crafted for Caraval. Enchanting, magical, bizarre, whimsical and so utterly full of random surprises – it was a world that was so dizzyingly easy to lose yourself in. The descriptions were incredible to the point I can almost visualize them vividly. That’s how good Garber’s writing was.

And combine all that with Soler’s narration – you have got a masterpiece.

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting Caraval to live up to its hype. I even tried to stay away from it like it’s a plague. Then one day, out of nowhere, I just decided to open its audiobook version and started listening. Ten seconds into the audiobook, I knew I had a winner.

I think what really gripped me first was the childhood, dream-like quality in Soler’s voice when she was emulating Scarlett, writing her first letters to Legend. That was the only trigger I needed to keep going. I was truly amazed and enthralled by Soler’s performance. There were times when her accents slip, but then she blows me away with her soulful delivery.

She made an already compelling story even more compelling; she captured the essence of each character and gave them the most suitable voice; she just —- she simply brought to life the magic of this story. As a listener, I couldn’t have asked for more.

If it weren’t for the audiobook, I never would’ve guessed how great Caraval is. Until now, even after weeks of finishing it, it still excites me to hear about anything Caraval-related. This book really made me want to grab a copy of the real thing. And to those of you who’ve already read Caraval, I urge you to listen to the audiobook as well if you want an amplified experience. 🙂

 

P.S. If you read and loved Caraval, you might also wanna try A Crown of Wishes by Rokshani Chokshi. It’s the sequel to The Star-Touched Queen but can still definitely pass as a standalone. It has a somewhat similar plot to Caraval. They both have a pair of characters participating in a magical game wherein the winner gets one impossible wish as a prize. But before you get any doubts, I assure you – these two books are totally unique and set apart from each other. If you still doubt me, you can go ahead and read both books and see for yourself. 😉

 

Thanks for reading this post, lovelies! We’ll be back tomorrow. 😉

 

ARC Review: On The Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

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ON THE SPECTRUM

Author: Jennifer Gold

Release Date: September 12, 2017 (my birthday!!)

Publisher: Second Story Press

Date Started/Finished: June 6-7, 2017

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mental Health

Format: eARC

Source: Netgalley

RATING: 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

SYNOPSIS: (Goodreads)

Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment. Continue reading

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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The School for Good and Evil

Author: Soman Chainani

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date Published: May 14, 2013

Date Started: Jan. 1

Date Finished: Jan. 2

Rating: 2 stars (⭐⭐)

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.


MY REVIEW:

Hi, Lovelies!

I’m back again for another review.

The School for Good and Evil is basically a tale of two girls, Sophie and Agatha, who gets kidnapped like all the other children before them and taken into the fabled school that trains kids to be heroes or villains. Every year, it’s always a pair that gets taken. One good and one evil. However, Sophie gets put into the School of Evil while Agatha is placed into the School of Good. They think it’s a mistake, but what if it wasn’t?

I first learned about this book from a friend of mine who only told me a little about it. The book is 488 pages long, written in multiple POVs. Has a deceptively charming cover, a fast-paced writing style, engaging dialogues and fairytale themes.

While the story is certainly promising, I wasn’t sold on the writing. There had been too many issues for me. One, I cannot keep up with the events in the story. There are times when the scenes change abruptly or too fast, and the author inserts plot twists that really don’t fit in, and you don’t know which character is saying which line anymore. It’s all very confusing. Add to that, the story is super LONG, so I would advise anyone attempting to read this book NOT to read it if you don’t have the patience.

On a positive note, I did like the absurdity and humor of this book. You can’t help but laugh along at Sophie’s notions of being ‘good’, Agatha’s exasperation, the silliness of their classes, and other ridiculous things that should annoy you but would entertain you instead. It was also interesting to see how Agatha and Sophie’s friendship would turn out, seeing as how different they are and the schools they were put in. Their friendship is mainly one of the reasons I continued reading and haven’t DNF’ed the book.

Overall, The School for Good and Evil makes a really entertaining read if not for the writing issues and unreasonable plot twists that I mentioned above. In fact, the whole time I was reading, it felt like I was watching a CARTOON instead of reading an actual book. At least this book IS really meant for children though I highly doubt that it actually sends the right message, since the girls here highly depend on boys and the concept ‘good and evil’ was taken too pettily.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review! 

(I think I’ll be doing a book tag next time soon ’cause I miss doing ’em. 😉 Anyone care to recommend some?)

Later, lovelies!

ARC Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

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NOTEWORTHY

Author: Riley Redgate

Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary

Date Started: April 15, 2017

Date Finished: April 16, 2017

Rating: 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

SYNOPSIS: (Goodreads)

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

 

Blogger’s Note: Special thanks to Netgalley and Amulet Books for providing me an eARC of Noteworthy to review.

 

MY REVIEW: 

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Riley Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie. So knowing about her latest upcoming novel Noteworthy, I didn’t hesitate to give it a try.

Basically, the story revolves around Chinese-American Jordan Sun who crossdresses her way into the school’s elite all-male a capella group The Sharpshooters. Yes, you heard that right. There is crossdressing involved. But not to worry since it’s actually the most fun part. Desperate move it might be, after being constantly rejected to play in musicals, Jordan is eager to prove herself worthy. When she joined the Sharpshooters, she never intended to get close with any of their members. But little by little, she gets to know each of them personally and becomes close to them anyway. On the other hand, pretending to be Julian Zhang had its consequences. As Jordan finds her place within the group, she also unravels a lot of things about herself that she never paused to consider before, things she liked and things she wanted the most.

It pleases me that despite the cross-dressing and LGBT aspect, I didn’t cringe. The cross-dressing bit is tricky so I was doubtful that the author could actually pull this part off, but again – Riley Redgate proved me wrong – it was handled pretty well. Plus, I also found Jordan’s slip-ups freaking hilarious.

As for the LGBT facet, it was hands-down amazing – one of the best LGBT books I’ve ever read in my life. A few characters in the story are either gay or bisexual, and some of them were actually my favorites. I’m not telling you which ones are which, but it’s safe to tell you at least that Jordan is one of them, though she hasn’t realized this until the middle part of the story.

I really felt for Jordan because in some ways I can relate to her. I think every girl (or guy) has at some point questioned their own sexual preferences. Even me. I admit that I’ve experienced girl-crushes before, but not to the point where I actually wanted to go out with one. Anyway, I really do appreciate the fact that the author portrayed Jordan’s bisexuality without being gross since most of the LGBT books I’ve encountered before were either very lewd or over-the-top inappropriate.

Aside from gays and bisexuals, this book has plenty of other diverse characters. Take The Sharpshooters members for example. We have the overly serious musical director Trav, the happy-go-lucky president Isaac, funny fat Mama whose real name is Theodore, the attractive but dyslexic Jon Cox, egalitarian Marcus and socially awkward Erik. Each character had their own issues and unique personality, but all together, they make a pretty great and fun team.

Also, the way the author explored the issues in this book? It was clear how much research Redgate put into this book, while at the same time managing to retain respect for her chosen genre.

Noteworthy truly did not disappoint. It’s highly fun, exciting, and recommended especially for lovers of Pitch Perfect, a capella and just music in general. If you’re looking for a good book with lots of diversity, music, assorted characters, multiple sexualities and just really great humor, then Noteworthy is the one for you.

P.S. Noteworthy is going to be released on May 2, which is only a week away from now, so fans need not wait any much longer! 🙂

Thank you for reading my review and see you lovelies ’til next time! ❤

Blog Tour || Queen of Chaos by Kat Ross (Spotlight + Giveaway)

Queen of Chaos
Kat Ross
(The Fourth Element #3)
Publication date: January 18th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Persepolae has fallen.

Karnopolis has burned.

As the dark forces of the Undead sweep across what remains of the empire, Nazafareen must obey the summons of a demon queen to save Darius’s father, Victor. Burdened with a power she doesn’t understand and can barely control, Nazafareen embarks on a perilous journey through the shadowlands to the House-Behind-the-Veil. But what awaits her there is worse than she ever imagined…

A thousand leagues away, Tijah leads a group of children on a desperate mission to rescue the prisoners at Gorgon-e Gaz, the stronghold where the oldest daēvas are kept. To get there, they must cross the Great Salt Plain, a parched ruin occupied by the armies of the night. A chance encounter adds a ghost from the past to their number. But will they arrive in time to avert a massacre?

And in the House-Behind-the-Veil, Balthazar and the Prophet Zarathustra discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. But is it enough to redeem the necromancer’s bloodstained soul and thwart his mistress’s plans?

As a final showdown looms with Queen Neblis, the truth of the daēvas’ origins is revealed and three worlds collide in this thrilling conclusion to the Fourth Element series.

Goodreads / Amazon


Previous books in the series:

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Author Bio:

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys || Some Letters Shouldn’t Be Opened

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D E A D   G I R L S   S O C I E T Y

Author: Michelle Krys

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Published: November 8th 2016 by Delacorte Press

Synopsis:

“You are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.”

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.
Continue reading

The Secret Of A Heart Note by Stacey Lee || What If Love Was Just Right Under Your Nose?

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T H E   S E C R E T   O F   A   H E A R T   N O T E

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance, Magical Realism

Published:  December 27th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Synopsis:

An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs. Continue reading