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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 407
Goodreads

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

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.

2.5 Stars

Caraval could’ve made for an outstanding read, for the general storyline creates tension and the setting is enchanting. But the characters are neither memorable nor fleshed out and therefore cannot pull their weight. Considering how Garber throws around with colours in her prose, the characters remain astonishingly colourless.

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world.

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. JohnstonA Thousand Nights Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 328
Goodreads

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

4 Stars

Always, it seemed, men would overlook unpleasant things for the sake of those that went well. The statues’ eyes for the melodious sounds of the fountain. The deaths of their daughters for the bounty of their trade.

There was great beauty in this qasr, but there was also great ugliness and fear. I would not be like those men who turned their eyes from one to see the other. I would remember what those things cost.

Amidst the dozens of YA fairy tale retellings, A Thousand Nights stands out. It will immediately be compared to The Wrath and the Dawn, even if the two could not be more different from one another. If you go into this one expecting it to be like TWatD, you will be disappointed. The two books attempt completely different things, though in my opinion both succeed in what they are trying to achieve.

A Thousand Nights has gotten a mixed reception and it only takes a few pages to realize why. The writing style does not have the same easy readability and accessibility that people expect from YA books. It’s quite dense and the whole book is very literary; a fast-paced adventure is not what you will find in these pages. There were times where I struggled with this: I would have to reread paragraphs because my mind drifted elsewhere or had to go back a few pages because I had missed one of the subtle hints. So this book wasn’t always enjoyable, and yet I really liked it.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Book Trends I’m Tired Of

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Lainey from Ginger Reads Lainey and Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday of the month, readers and bloggers present their Top 5 Wednesday choices for a specific topic. Today’s topic are book trends we’re tired of, which can refer to both the appearance of books as well as their content. Because I’ll find something positive about almost every book cover, I’ll be focusing on content-based trends and tropes I’ve grown tired of. Of course, my top choices would be insta-love and love triangles since we still seem to get those worn-out tropes, especially in YA, but I’ve tried to come up with a few a bit more creative trends I wish we could erase from the publishing industry for good.

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Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn HamiltonTraitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 512
Goodreads

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

3.5 Stars

Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I cannot in all honesty say that I enjoyed the sequel less than the first book, even though Traitor to the Throne received a slightly lower rating from me. I have, however, become more critical of the literature I read. Traitor to the Throne was gripping, action-packed, and spun an intriguing plot, which was somewhat overshadowed by a rocky start of info-dumps and issues I had with the characters and world-building.

Idealists make great leaders, but they never make good rulers.

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The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay BurokerThe Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Series: The Emperor's Edge #1
on December 22nd, 2010
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 324
Goodreads

Don't miss out on the best-selling Emperor's Edge series (2013 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee).

The adventure starts here...

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

3 Stars

The Emperor’s Edge had been on my Kindle for almost a year, patiently waiting to be read. I bought it on a whim and because it was cheap. Don’t judge me. It turned out to be a nice, quick read, but nothing more than that unfortunately.

With The Emperor’s Edge, Buroker has written an entertaining fantasy novel with an enjoyable squad of outlaws at its centre, weaving a solid plot of mystery and court intrigue with a feminist touch. It would have, however, needed a polish to stand out amongst other fantasy works. Its biggest flaw was its utter mediocrity. There was nothing special to distinguish Buroker’s work from your average fantasy. Nonetheless, I had a good time with this book, even if a forgettable one. 

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Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Windwitch by Susan DennardWindwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #2
Published by Tor Teen on January 12th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 382
Goodreads

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

3 Stars

Second Book Syndrome, I spot you.

I feel so conflicted about Windwitch. It was one of my most anticipated sequels but it just didn’t live up to my expectations, albeit not being a bad book per se.

The first book had me hooked for several reasons. Those, however, disappeared in the sequel. A fast-paced plot? Negative. Safi and Iseult kicking ass together? Negative. Safi and Merik banter? Negative. Albeit offering an entertaining storyline and some extras like an LGBTQ+ character, Windwitch was clearly a filler, which definitely caused damage to my interest in this series as a whole. If you assume that the 3 stars are largely due to Aeduan and Iseult, then you are (sadly) correct.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Underrated Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Lainey from Ginger Reads Lainey and Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday of the month, readers and bloggers present their Top 5 Wednesday choices for a specific topic. Today’s topic is a pick of five favourite underrated books which, much like the last topic, presents an opportunity to alert you guys to books you would’ve maybe overlooked. The books are ordered by release date and clicking on the book title will direct you to the respective Goodreads page. Speaking about underrated books gives us the chance to shine the spotlight on books that somehow got pushed to the back by the hyped and popular books, even though they’d deserve the same recognition. So, here are my top five underrated books I’d like to push on you!

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Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Mafiosa by Catherine DoyleMafiosa by Catherine Doyle
Series: Blood for Blood #3
Published by Chicken House Ltd. on January 5th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

4 Stars

Mafiosa was by far my most anticipated instalment for 2017. So imagine how ecstatic I was to find it on my doorstep on January 30th, a couple of days before the official release date. I swear, I didn’t make the Godfather an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or, make a pact with the devil (though I would have). Or, bribe the publisher. It was a miracle.

The fact that the sequel Inferno remains my favourite book in the series means that not everything about Mafiosa went according to plan. For the most part, Mafiosa was the addictive, gripping and action-packed rollercoaster I hoped it would be. I sat down, forgot about the world and blew through this in one sitting. Sadly, there were a couple of things that got in the way of my complete and utter bliss with this book.

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The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little on November 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 424
Goodreads

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

3.5 Stars

This was my first ever Ryan Graudin book, and the first thing I discovered was that Ryan wasn’t a dude. Hence, I had an interesting start with this book 😉

The Walled City was inspired by Hong Kong’s historical Kowloon Walled City, and its general atmosphere was therefore inherently dark. Very dark. Which made this dystopian tough to rate because, though I enjoyed the gloomy setting and strong female lead, the read was slow-going at times and I couldn’t get on board with the romance.

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Top 5 Wednesday: 2017 Debut Authors I’m Excited For

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Lainey from Ginger Reads Lainey and Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday of the month, readers and bloggers present their Top 5 Wednesday choices for a specific topic. Today’s topic are debut authors we’re excited for in 2017, and I have plenty of those to share with you. The books are ordered by release date and clicking on the star will direct you to the respective Goodreads page. I personally think this is an incredibly important Top 5 Wednesday topic, as debut authors have a harder time showing up on people’s radars (though GR definitely helps with that) and competing against established authors when it comes to hype and sales. Therefore, I’d like nothing more than to share a few debut authors whose debuts have exciting premises, which I’m really looking forward to in 2017!

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