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New Release Tuesday: Happy Book Birthday to Caraval!

Happy New Release Tuesday!


Today's spotlight is on the highly anticipated new release in YA  fantasy fiction, Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

Here's a little synopsis on Caraval from Amazon:


Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic 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.

Ya'll - I am so excited to read this book! It has outstanding reviews and it sounds like everything I want in a great book - strong relationships, magical elements and a twisty plot.

I've had the book pre-ordered for quite some time, so I'm excited to read it as soon as it lands on my doorstep - which better be later today.

Buy it on

Anticipated New Release: Always, Sarah Jio

Thank you Netgalley for sending me an advanced copy of this book! All opinions of this book and review are mine and not those of the publisher or other parties involved with the publication of this book.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Sarah Jio's newest novel, Always. To say that I couldn't put it down is an understatement.
I binge read the entire book within a Sunday. It was so good!

Kailey Crain is engaged to a great guy, she has an amazing job as a reporter, and everything she could want from life. But some part of her questions whether this is the life she truly wants.

After a romantic dinner with her fiancé at Seattle's chicest restaurant, Kailey spies a ghost from her past as she's leaving. He's someone that she never thought she would see again, Cade, her first love and the man who vanished from her life ten years earlier. Formerly the owner of one of Seattle's most successful record labels, Cade had been a charismatic, energetic young man with a great career ten years earlier. The Cade of present is a gaunt shell of a man who is living on the streets.
Confused and conflicted, Kailey must confront her past to move on with her future.

This novel tackles relevant social issues and offers a great love story that I think readers of this genre will enjoy. Kailey finds herself torn between the past and present in a way that is heart wrenching and conflicting. Jio does a wonderful job of capturing the city of Seattle and takes on one of the city's most prominent social issues in a way that pulls at the reader's heartstrings.

Told in a two part (past and present) narrative from the protagonist's point of view allows the reader to experience a younger, more carefree version of Kailey as well as the grown up woman she becomes. Sometimes this style of writing can be confusing and jumbled for me, but it works for this book and I appreciated both points of view.

I found this book to be enjoyable, readable and entertaining - although maybe slightly predictable. I also was left wishing the ending had been more fleshed out with a better conclusion. I was left with some questions in the end. Perhaps Sarah Jio will write a sequel - if she does I will definitely be reading.

Always is available to add to your TBR of romantic novels just in time for Valentine's day on February 7, 2017.

Buy it on

Red Queen Refresh with a link to an Excerpt of King's Cage

In honor of quickly approaching release date of King's Cage - the highly anticipated third installment of the Red Queen series, I thought it would be good to refresh our memories with a review of the first two books and share some thoughts about what I'm hoping to see in the third.

If you're not already familiar with the Red Queen series (have you been living under a rock?) this is a great time to familiarize yourself with the books before the third book comes out.

Red Queen

Mare Barrow is a red blooded girl, living in a land of Silver Rule. In a world where red-blooded common folk suffer at the hands of the elitist silver-blooded rulers, Mare does what she can to keep her family alive in the brutal, desolate community she lives in. Fated to live in her small impoverished town or face certain death fighting in the King's war - she's doing all that she can to avoid being sent away from her family.

When, in an unexpected twist of fate, Mare displays abilities that only the silver blooded elite posess she is whisked away by the Royal Court and betrothed to one of the Princes under the guise of a lost silver princess in an attempt to hide what she is - red blooded, but with a silver ability - from the rest of the world. While in the Royal Court, Mare has a role to play and is expected by all to play it well.

But as she becomes more involved in the court of the silver rulers, she begins to question her loyalties and her heart. Using her position in the court as a way of gathering intel - she secretly joins the Scarlet Guard, a rebel group of red bloods who are organizing the one thing that could change the sway of power and their world, a red rebellion.
Mare's capabilites, heart and loyalties are tested in this fast paced, dazzling novel.

I read Red Queen very quickly and loved every second of it! It's very much in the same vein as other dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent, so while the plot is fairly recognizable there were a lot of elements that kept me reading. Mare's ability is interesting, she seems to be a fairly strong character and the supporting cast seems to be fairly well developed. Mare also has a lot of flaws and for the most part this works in her favor except the glaringly obvious fact that she's a TERRIBLE judge of character.

The end of this book leaves the reader just wanting more - more, more, more!
Which brings me to...

Glass Sword

Glass Sword picks up exactly where Red Queen ended.
Cal and Mare have barely escaped Maven’s kill order only to find themselves picked up by the Scarlet Guard. While Mare is among those with the same goal as her, Cal is not. Reeling from the betrayal of his brother, he's at the mercy of the Scarlet Guard and the plans they have for him.
Because of what she is - Mare could be used as a weapon in anyone's court, not just that of the Silver's.
When she discovers that there are others like her, she and Cal set out to find them and convince them to help bring down King Maven and aid the Scarlet Guard with the Red Rebellion.

Maven is mad. Really mad. And he'll do anything to get Mare back.
Even if it means hunting and killing those like her.

Ultimately, as the players take their places, Mare is forced to reconcile between what her heart tells her and where her loyalities lay. How far does Patriotism go, before it becomes terrorism? And how can Mare save those who mean the most to her without them becoming collateral damage in a war that she never wanted?

I asked for it - I wanted more, more, more and that's exactly what I got.
Victoria Aveyard really expanded Mare's world with this book and introduced so many new elements that it verges on chaos. We have an imminent war, multiple rescues, an enraged King, slow burn romance/weird love triangle(?), and now multiple political interests vying for the power that the "newbloods" can offer. It's insane and I have no idea where to look next!

A few things -
I wanted to smack Mare in the face with her own book. Anyone else?
Cal is obviously the best - but I wanted to see him stand up to Mare a little more often.
We are headed in so many directions by the end of this book that I don't know what the point is.
And then there's the last sentence. WTF, Victoria Aveyard!? You can't just do that to a person and then make them wait another year for the next book!

And finally we have King's Cage:

I have not read it yet so here's the synopsis from Amazon:
In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?
Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Someone please send help. I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through this one if anything terrible happens.

I'm really looking forward to this book and here is what I'm hoping to see:
  • Cal grows a backbone. You had better believe that I am hoping for a well calculated rescue from Cal but in the process I really want him to stop letting his feelings for Mare boss him around. And now that Mare is actually out of the picture for a while, I'm hoping we get to see him do what he does best - which is fight.  VA - please make our golden boy worth all the hype.
  • I want a more cohesive plot line and all the little sub-plots to fall neatly in line behind. There were too many sub plots in the last book and it made everything overwhelming and confusing. What are we doing? Saving newbloods? Starting a war? Killing Maven? Working with some random country? I don't know. Please make it easier for us mere mortals to follow along.
  • Perspective from someone other than Mare. I think we're going to get this because other wise we have no idea what is happening with Cal's group. I'm really looking forward to getting some fresh perspective from the other characters.
  • Mare stops whining. Please, just make it stop or I will be forced to smack her upside the head with her own books.
  • Maven dies. The end.

Ok - so probably we won't get that last request until the final book of the series (did I mention there are four?), so I'll settle for a really good maiming.

If you're as excited to see what becomes of the characters in the Red Queen series as I am before the book comes out, you're in luck! You can get a jump on King's Cage and read an exclusive excerpt of the book over at Epic Reads.
Here you go --> Exclusive Excerpt from King's Cage

In the meantime, get ready for what I expect to be a crazy ride on the Victoria Aveyard Red Queen Train beginning February 7.
Pre-Order on

Dear Sarah J Maas - Please Don't Sink the Ships

I'll be the first the admit it, I was late to the party. I had not even considered reading Sarah J Maas's wildly popular A Court of Thorns and Roses or it's companion, A Court of Mist and Fury.

I'll be honest, I'm a superficial thing and I did not find the covers of these books appealing or the synopsis all that interesting. But after being berrated at the last book signing I attended for not having read them I decided I had better give them a shot. Better to know, don't you agree?


So far, these have been two of my favorite books this year and I am highly anticipating the next and final installment in the trilogy. My pre-order trigger finger couldn't help itself and I am impatiently waiting for May 2. So good news readers, if you haven't read either of the first two books you have ample time to read them before the last one comes out in May!

Now is the fun part where I start my review:

Shall we start at the beginning with ACOTAR?

A Court of Thorns and Roses:

Dangerous things lurk in the woods - faeries with the ability to slaughter and terrorize mortals have been crossing the wall from their realm of Prythian into the mortal lands in which humans dwell.

Feyre is the sole breadwinner for her impoverished family. Once part of the wealthy merchant class of their town, the family has lost everything and struggles to survive in poverty. Hungry, cold and motivated by survival Feyre shoots and kills a wolf while hunting in the woods on a dark winter's day. The pelt from such an animal could fetch a good price, giving Feyre and her sisters the money they need to survive another week.

What Feyre doesn't know - she's just murdered a faerie beast and is about to pay for her crime.
In retribution for shooting and killing one of his own, a great beast like faerie darkens the door of  Feyre's home demanding she serve him for the rest of her life in Prythian. The beast whisks her off to the Spring Court of Prythian and to his estate. When the beast turns out to be the High Lord of the Spring Court - a high fae with frightening and powerful abilities Feyre finds herself conflicted between learning to live among the faeries and the mysterious world around them or returing to her father and sisters on the other side of the wall.

This is partially a beauty and the beast type story. There's a beast, a curse and a human girl. And that's where the similarities end. In the first installment of this trilogy, Sarah J Maas crafts a captivating world complete with whimsical and complex characters. Feyre is akin to many other female YA heroines - she's fierce, sassy and a survivor. But she's also just another teenage girl and makes many mistakes which I believe gives sense of relatability to her.

The world building is magical. Maas develops the Spring Court and the darker parts of Prythian so well that I had no trouble envisioning them. The rituals, politics and history of the world in which the book takes place are developed well enough to garner a sense of the place. I appreciated that.

There are romantic elements in this book - some readers have questioned whether the love scenes are appropriate for a YA audience - I have this to say on the matter: if you're a mature young adult who can tell the difference between fantasy and what is real, you'll be okay. Also, if it makes you uncomfortable to read graphic sex scenes - skip ahead. You won't miss out on much.

If you love fantasy with a good dose of romance you'll like this.
If for no other reason, read this one so you can get to the second one, because it's SO MUCH BETTER.

A Court of Mist and Fury

I was afraid that ACOMAF would suffer from second book syndrome and I'm so happy to say that it was far superior to the first book of the trilogy!

ACOMAF begins a few months after ACOTAR ends. Feyre and Tamlin have returned to the Spring Court. After the brutal events that occured under the mountain, Feyre is left reeling and trying to come to terms with the acts she committed while saving Prythian from Amarantha's rule.

She's still indebtted to Rhysand - the wicked High Lord of the terrifying Night Court and their bond requires she spend one week a month with him for enternity. Outraged, Tamlin is willing to do anything posible to save Feyre from Rhysand's clutches and break the bond between them.

Also, it seems a war between Prythian and Hybern is inevitable. So there's that.

People - I'm not going to go into specifics here because I don't want to give anything away.
Here's what is so much better about the second book without spoilers:

  • Continued world building. Prythian is expanded so much more in this book. It's a huge world, unique its own way and all encompassing. I loved it! The reader experiences more than one realm in this book and it is so much more fun. Can I go live in the Night Court?
  • Character development is on point. In ACOTAR, Feyre was mortal. She was inexperienced and naive. In ACOMAF she's really coming into her own as a strong primary character. The character development of the supporting cast is so much better than the first book. Finally, we have some great supporting characters that readers can root for.
  • All the Ships! I'm not naming them - you have to read to decide which ships you're about. All I can say is please please please don't sink the ships, SJM!!!
  • Better plot development. I felt so much of the first book was world building that the plot came second. The second book allows the reader to catch on to the main plot of the story (along with all of the subplots) a lot faster in the second book. 
If you're looking for a good fantasy trilogy to sink your teeth into, I cannot recommend this series enough. Unless I read the third book and SJM sinks all the ships. In which case, I will be forced to retract my review. Please don't make me do it, SJM.

Keep the ships afloat and save Prythian.
Can't we all have what we want?

If you've read ACOTAR and ACOMAF what did you think?! 
I haven't read the Throne of Glass series, someone tell me if it's worth it.

PreOrder A Court of Wings and Ruin available May 2, 2017

Wayfarer (Passenger #2) and Why Wasn't this a Trilogy?

Remember that time last year when I read an absolutely wonderful YA timetravel  novel? I loved it. I raved about it! And then I had to wait for the second installment to see what would become of my beloved characters and their quest to destroy the astrolabe and save all humanity from the treacherous clutches of the Ironwoods.

So twelve months later we receive the second (and final installment) of the Passenger duology - Wayfarer.

And I'm not sure about you, but I found Wayfarer to be totally unsatisfying.
Before everyone jumps ship and flips me the bird, please let me be clear; I love this duology. I really liked Wayfarer, but I did not love the book in the same way I loved Passenger.

Here's why:

These books should have been part of a trilogy. A duology is not enough pages to adequately tell this story and keep everyone excited. I think a trilogy would have offered a better story arc and all of the questions would have been answered.

Alex Bracken - why did you not make this a trilogy? I wish you had, but I digress.

Wayfarer begins where Passenger leaves off. Sophia and Nicholas have found themselves separated from Etta who has disappeared in a wrinkle and is now in an alternate timeline. While Nicholas and Sophia are determined to locate Etta and correct the timeline, Etta has found herself captured by the Thorns who are led by her father, Henry Hemlock. Like everyone else, the Thorns are searching the Astrolabe - a magical apparatus that can create new passages in the timeline. Armed with the knowledge that the Thorns are looking for same thing she is, Etta decides to work with her father to locate the astrolabe instead of looking for Nicholas! Meanwhile, sweet Nicholas is desperate to find Etta which leads him on his own journey through time.

Etta and Nicholas are apart for about 90% of the book - sorry folks. I believe that this will be the primary complaint from those who were fans of the first book in the duology because it's what made the dynamics of the first volume work!  People want to see Nicholas and Etta chasing the astrolabe together! While each character is on their own journey and it all works out in the end, I really wanted to see them find eachother much sooner than they did. Authors take note, please do not have your main characters apart for the ENTIRE book, it's not cool.

So while I really wanted the romantc elements to be in the book I have to give credit for the historical story telling. The historical elements and creation of the alternate timeline was amazing. I really enjoyed those aspects of the story and I know that this part of the book is what the author is really passionate about. It's very well written, easy to follow and entertaining.
Character development was good - we see a lot of growth from Nicholas and Sophia. Not as much from Etta - she's still kind of a hot head. Another reason I wished we had a trilogy - I feel that there is so much more to be explored with these characters. Especially supporting characters like Rose, Henry, Li Min and the Belladonna. But I'll take what I can get, I suppose.

Despite the obvious holes in the plot and the unsatisfying relationship stuff, I will grant that the book was well written, offers a tidy ending that readers will appreciate but overall it was much weaker than the first novel.

Have you read this? If you're a fan of Passenger, did you think Wayfarer stood up to the hype?

Buy Wayfarer and Passenger on Amazon

Conflicted and Confused - Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Have you ever found an author so likeable in person that you want to read their books, only to find that you are completely confused at the end?

That is my current dilemma with Susan Dennard’s novel, Truthwitch. I saw Susan Dennard at an event where she was on tour promoting her latest novel in the series, Windwitch, and liked her personality so much that I figured I would give her books a shot.

I will say this, while I liked Susan Dennard, I am not sure how I feel about this book. I like it and at the same time I have so many questions!

Dennard’s writing is wonderful, her characters are enigmatic and fun, the world building was sort of there and it is fast paced from the first page. However, there are some gaping holes not only in the plot of this story but the character development and world building as well.

There is the obvious girl power concept – I love the idea of two friends that are so close they would do anything for each other. It’s great premise that I think we should see more of as I often find that female characters are competing with one another instead of playing supportive roles to each other in these types of books.

Safi and Iseult are witches with different abilities – Safi is a truthwitch who can tell the difference between a truth and a lie, Iseult is a threadwitch, meaning that she can sense the emotions of others and the world around her. Their magical abilities and steadfast friendship makes them a unique pair. They are as close as can be, but I would have liked their friendship and their background to have been built up a lot more. I know they would do anything for each other, but I do not have any background information as to why that is. We get a glimpse into each girl’s past, but nothing elaborate or meaningful to the reader.

The world building – it is sort of there. However, I do not understand the political dynamics between the different lands in the Witchlands. I know that there is a war coming – there are politics at play, but once again, this part of the story falls short for me because there is little to no background or character building. Safi’s uncle is part of a larger plan to keep peace between the lands (not sure what to call them) or was he trying to start another war? I am not sure. It becomes a little hazy to me.

I am also confused about all of the abilities that the characters have – aside from Safi and Merik’s abilities, which are straightforward. Iseult’s ability is more interesting and I would have loved so much more depth and insight to her ability. The concept of the threads was confusing and lacking explanation. What are the threads? Why does everyone have threads? I do not know. Someone smarter than me, please explain.

There is nonstop action – but a lot of it seems to be filler action to keep the story moving and plays no particular role in the story other than as a vehicle to get from one scene to another – because once again the story is lacking background and history.

Romance – for those readers who are looking forward to the romantic elements in this book, be wary, it is there but barely. While insinuated, I felt the romance between the two characters was predictable and shallow. The exchanges between the two characters are lacking depth – why do they all of a sudden love each other? I get it – the people want kissing! But, I want relationships to be natural and interesting – Merik and Safi are neither. Iseult and Aduan, however, could be the real stars of the show – so I am hoping that in the next few books we get a dynamic and complex relationship between them.

While reading this book my mind was prone to wander and I wonder if that is because the author bit off so much that it all felt jumbled and disjointed and never really came together into the cohesive story that I wanted to read. As of this review, I have not yet read Windwitch so I am unsure of whether the story gets clearer with a definitive point and purpose or if it is just more of the same swashbuckling action with no real destination. I know that this review seems negative – I do not think this is a bad book at all – just lacking direction and details. Dennard is completely capable of building a world that we want to inhabit – I just felt that there was not enough in this first attempt.

I hope that Windwitch can offer what Truthwitch lacked.

Buy the book on Amazon

Book Review: The Gilded Years, Karin Tanabe

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
Print Length: 401 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: June 7, 2016

Anita Hemmings is bright young woman with lofty academic aspirations and goals of someday becoming a professor. Her grades certainly show promise and she is well liked among the faculty and students at the prominent campus of Vassar College – the only university she ever wanted to attend.

Anita’s dreams of bettering herself through a college education at Vassar are coming true, and while she seems to be just like every other female student at the college – Anita has a secret that could ruin her.

She’s a descendant of African American slaves – and if her race were known by the administration of Vassar college she would be removed immediately. With her senior year upon her, and rooming with the illustrious and infamous Lottie Taylor, the daughter of one of New York’s most prominent families, will Anita be able to maintain her white façade and graduate from Vassar with her true origins undetected?

Set in the late 1890’s, The Gilded Years is based on the true life of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to graduate from Vassar College at a time when African American women were not admitted. Unlike some of the other Seven Sisters schools at the time such as Radcliffe and Wellesley, African American women were not allowed entrance to the school – and while some of these universities did admit black students, they were very few in number. I found this novel absolutely engrossing. Anita’s story is fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. Passing as a white woman in one of America’s elite female colleges during a time when racial tensions ran high and racial equality was not a social normality, Anita Hemmings chose to live a double life to pursue her dreams of a Vassar education at the risk of losing everything.

Beautifully written, Tanabe dazzles the reader with descriptions of an antiquated and elite way of life with a protagonist who is relatable and charming. I found this novel to be easy to read and very interesting, which allowed me to finish it in only a couple of days. While well written and very interesting - it's a little slow to start but quickly builds as the reader becomes more familiar with the characters, customs and plot of the story.

I believe that fans of women’s historical fiction will enjoy this one, I know I did!