Book Review: Finale

finaTitle: Finale

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb (from Amazon):


A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

Review:  Finale is the third and final book in Stephanie Garber’s #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series.

I was fascinated with Caraval, loved Legendary, and eagerly pined for FINALE to the point that I pre-ordered it the day it became available. Stephanie Garber is an author I admire for her perseverance in the industry, her imagination and creativity. Her stories are intricately weaved together and she goes beyond the boundary of what writing can be and creates new paths for authors to learn from. Her writing is captivating and the CARAVAL series is by far my favorite series in the last year.

Setting: From the first book, Garber created a very detailed, colorful and rich world and culture within Caraval. Its full with historic flavor, colors, character–her imagery is provoking and very sensory. Valenda, where Finale takes place, is mixed with beauty, magic, wonder, and danger. There are gardens, and castles, and gambling dens, and spice markets, and hidden magical markets. 

Pacing: As with all of the Caraval books, Finale is hard to put down. Not only are you totally invested in the characters but the conflicts and heart-wrenching choices leave you with a sense of urgency.

Plot: There are many pieces that all must be put together here: Julian and Scarlett and her ex-fiance, Nickolas, and there is that small thing about her true identity…then there is Donatella and Legend’s very complicated relationship. Her mother, the past, and well, a short but deep life changing moment. Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, and his obsession with Tella, and well, finding a way to stop the Fates from destroying and ruling Valenda. And of course, love. It did feel a bit quick in how she wrapped up certain threads, but at the same time, I was fully invested into all of them.

Characters/Voice: Here is where the book shines. Her characters have unique voices/personalities and are very relatable, complicated, funny, deep, thoughtful, and daring. Even her sub-characters are all interesting with backstory of both pain and love. We’re drawn to them all and want what they want. The main characters, Scarlett, Julian, Tella, Jacks, and Legend are some of my favorite characters in fiction. It’s like Garber embodied some of the deepest human emotions and put them into characters. It shows how much thought and time she put into developing them.

Themes: Love and sacrifice. Honesty and bravery.

*I’d recommend this series for older teens and adults.

Signing off,  Nova McBee

 

 

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Book Review: Sky and the Deep

skyTitle: The Sky and the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Blurb (from Amazon):

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Review: The first time I picked up the book I wasn’t in the right mindset to read it, but the second time I flew through it, captivated, and so, so happy I did. Now I’m waiting eagerly for Young’s second book to come out!

Setting: I want to start with the setting for Sky in the Deep because it felt so real.  Her world building, based on Norse Mythology/Culture/Geography/Languages was amazing. The images were so clear and vivid, heavily influenced by Nordic countries, Vikings, etc. It drew a beautiful picture of scenery and culture. The villages were so earthy. They way she created healers, the way the world used the roots and land. I just loved it.

Pacing: The book moved along quickly. You won’t have any trouble flipping pages.

Plot: The book had an intriguing concept from the get-go and set up an interesting conflict, both internal/external, emotional and physical. The MC, Rhen, watched her brother die in battle but then sees him in battle later–but fighting for the enemy. This creates all kinds of questions and puts her and us on a journey of answering them:

What do you do when you’re confronted with the opposite truth of everything you’ve been taught? Who really is the enemy?

Both Rhen and her brother must deal with her brother’s lie and killing their own people. It’s intense and thought-provoking.

And of course, there is romance. Yay!

Characters/Voice: The MC was really interesting and I liked her. She had great agency and we could easily follow her. I found myself wanting to know more about her, though, realizing she was not as relatable as she could have been. Her identity came mainly from being in war, battles, and fighting the enemy. If there was no war, we would have no idea of who she would be or what she wants. Still, you root for her in every way.

Themes: I think this book is really about finding faith. About growing up and figuring out what you actually believe. There are also themes of humanizing the enemy, and seeing them from new eyes.

Sensitivity: There are vivid descriptions of battles and violence.

Book Reviewer: Amaris Glass

 

 

Book Review: Bridge of Clay

BOCTitle: Bridge of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Blurb: The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome? Continue reading

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

cinder

Title: Cinder (The first book in The Lunar Chronicles.)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Blurb:

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

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

With high-stakes action and a smart, resourceful heroine, Cinder is a Cinderella retelling that is at once classic and strikingly original. MM.jpg

Review: I want to start my review with the quote (below) from Entertainment Weekly. This quote–the concept for Cinder–hooked me into reading the book in a way my friends couldn’t. I was so intrigued by mashing these genres/titles together, I simply had to see how she had done it.

“An interesting mash up of fairy tales and science fiction . . . a cross between Cinderella, Terminator, and Star Wars.” ―Entertainment Weekly

 

All I can say is WOW. I was blown away by the creativity and imagination that went into creating this plot & series!

Characters/Voice: Once I started the book with this quote in mind I easily slipped into Cinder’s voice. She was sympathetic and I loved getting to know her story, and of course the quote had me rooting for her from the beginning. Prince Kai, Queen Levana, Peony and Cinder’s step mom were all well done; easy to read and follow and had depth. I could easily see their motives. The book moved between the scenes and characters with such great timing I was invested in each story line and character.

Pacing: The pace kept me reading and invested the entire time. It was hard to put down.  Mainly because that same quote had me asking questions. How will Meyers do this? I loved the weaving of the plot and the mystery. Seriously, it was so well done!

Plot:  The plot is super creative because as you read in the blurb, Cinderella is a cyborg set in a future world with the threats of wars and conspiracy. The main plot and sub plots are complex and full of mystery and suspense. It’s believable and fun.

Setting: Loved this imagined future world. Loved the scientific developments and new technology. Loved the descriptions of New Beijing and the Eastern Common Wealth and Luna, the moon civilization. Loved the backstory on the history of World War 3 and 4, and how the earth was redivided. Her writing and description was not dry in any way.  A perfect balance between setting and plot and character and pace.

Themes/ Audience: The themes that were most obvious were standing for what is right and finding your true identity and being ok with who you are. As for audience, I gave this book to my Dad because he loves Sci-FI and he loved it! LOL. He is already on book 3 (as am I.) It is also totally appropriate for younger ages. Needless to say, I would totally recommend this book to younger and older teens (and even adults who love fantasy, fairytales, or sci-fi-fi action books!)

wagas cafe author photo 1

 

Nova, Author of YA Contemporary Action/Adventure & Fantasy, signing off! See Nova’s book stuff here and her latest book news announcement – I’ll give you a hint–film is involved.

Book Review: Just For Clicks

just for clicks book mockup photoTitle: Just For Clicks  (Release date: February 19, 2019)

Author: Kara McDowell

Blurb: Mommy blogs are great . . . unless the blog happens to belong to your mom.

Twin sisters Claire & Poppy are accidental social media stars thanks to Mom going viral when they were babies. Now, as teens, they’re expected to contribute by building their own brand. Attending a NY fashion week and receiving fan mail is a blast. Fending off internet trolls and would-be kidnappers? Not so much. Poppy embraces it. Claire hates it. Will anybody accept her as “just Claire”? And what should Claire do about Mom’s old journals? The handwritten entries definitely don’t sound like Mom’s perfect blog persona. Worse, one of them divulges a secret that leaves Claire wondering what else in her life might be nothing but a sham . . .

Review: If you love Contemporary YA, especially ones with swoony unique characters, slow burning romance, fresh concepts and plot twists you CANNOT guess, then you will love Just for Clicks!

I had the privilege of reading an early copy this book–be jealous! kara mcdowell author photo 2

 

Characters/Voice: One of the aspects I love most about this book is the VOICE. So well done! Claire is one of the most relatable characters and I could identify with her immediately. Poppy and Rafael, even her mom, get under your skin too because you get to know them all in a very real, vulnerable way.

Pacing: The pace and plot were steady and fresh the whole time and kept me turning pages and man– the twists— I did not see them coming. Well done, Kara. Sorry, y’all == no spoilers!

Plot:  As for the story, the plot is wonderfully executed and thought out. (see synopsis above!) I thought the plot (& concept) was genius for today’s audience and I was amazed at how well Kara wrote it! The phenomenon of youth online, blogging, texting, youtube, reality shows, etc. It was so real to me, I felt that this could be an actual story online the entire time! lol.

Setting: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Arizona and I loved it. It was so different from where I’ve lived that learning about how the weather at Thanksgiving could be 90 degrees and how that effected life made me feel the setting in a fresh way. The high school was a typical American set-up, but in each place Kara set the moment, whether at home or outside. I was there.

Themes: “Breezy and fresh meditation on privacy and relationships in the internet age, with a likable protagonist who would rather code than braid her hair for a fashion vlog.” (Fiction. 12-18)

**This is a clip from the Kirkus Review, which I recommend reading the full review here.

Audience: I would totally recommend this book to younger and older teens (and even moms!)

wagas cafe author photo 1

 

Nova, Author of YA Contemporary Action/Adventure & Fantasy, signing off! See Nova’s book stuff here.

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

to all book

Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (first of a trilogy)

Author: Jenny Han

Blurb: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

jenny han

Review:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was on my TBR list for quite a while. Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the movie adaptation came out on Netflix and I couldn’t resist all the gushing reviews, so I—GASP!—watched the movie first. Let’s just say the book immediately jumped the queue on my reading list and was just as enjoyable as the flick. You’ll cheer Lara Jean on from start to finish, swoon over Peter Kavinsky, and crave a bite of every cookie Lara Jean bakes. The story is charming and will give you all the warm and fuzzies as it takes you back to your first crush and first love.

Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" Los Angeles Special Screening

Characters/Voice: What’s not to like about Lara Jean? She is such a compelling, likeable, and relatable narrator…someone you’d want to be friends with. You’ll adore the two other Song girls—Margot and Kitty—too. Even as secondary characters, they shine with their own backstories, motivations, and insecurities. Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty’s sisterly love will have you wanting to be one of the Song girls as well. And then there’s Peter. And Josh. You’ll be fans of them, too.

Pacing: This is one of those books you can easily settle into a comfy spot and finish in one or two sittings. You’ll keep flipping the pages to find out what happens with Lara Jean and her letters next. 

Plot: The plot is wonderfully executed. The idea of writing secret love letters that are suddenly mailed is irresistible, especially as the consequences ensue and Lara Jean has to juggle all the new complications in her life. The story ends at a point where you’re satisfied, but also giddy with the knowledge that there’s more left to the story—two books, in fact!

Setting: Of all the places described, you’ll want to curl up on the couch in the Covey household and let the scent of freshly baked cookies wash over you as you witness the hilarity, drama, and heartache the Song girls experience together.
Themes: This story deals with relatable themes like the value of family, friendships, and telling the truth even when it’s difficult.

Now onto books 2 and 3: P.S. I Still Love you and Always and Forever, Lara Jean!

Jessica Jade

Jessica, signing off.

 

Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary cover

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name. Continue reading

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval book cover

Title: Caraval 

Author: Stephanie Garber

Blurb:

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. Continue reading

Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish (standalone)

Author:Akemi Dawn Bowman

Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. Continue reading

Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Story Peddler Cover resized

Title: The Story Peddler, The Weaver Trilogy Book One

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

Review by: Jennifer Lindsay

Blurb: Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

Continue reading