Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: High fantasy/fiction/action/adventure
Ratings: 4/5 Goodreads
Personal Rating: 4/5
Summary: Caraval is a story about two sisters: Scarlett and Tella Dragna who have never left their little island. From a very young age both sisters have dreamt of visiting the mystical Caraval which is a once a year performance in which the audience participates. It is run by the ever elusive Legend and participation is by invitation only. Scarlett has been vying for both of them to attend for years after falling in love with the epic tales that her grandfather spun of the performance. The Caraval is a game, one that ends with a prize for the one who is lucky enough (and cunning and intelligent enough) to decipher all the clues and reach the end first. Once Scarlett has been promised to an unknown Count for marriage, she gives up all hope in ever attending the Carval. But after years of letter writing to the Legend, she finally receives a response – tickets to the Caraval! However, upon her arrival her sister is kidnapped! Scarlett is forced to learn that Carval is not so magical after all and forced to face a cruel twist of fate. She must look beyond the magic to scour for the elusive clues that will lead her to her sister before it’s too late and before her malicious father, Count Dragna, finds her.
Review: In all honesty the first fourth of the book is rather boring. Although, it provide insight into the personalities of the characters and establishes crucial details later relevant to the latter part of the story it simply contains no action. However, the reaming portions of the book are filled with imaginative description and well thought out plot. There is one major plot twist in the book towards the end that catches even the most observant of readers off guard, yet it is delightful to read and doesn’t feel fake. Its illusions and intricacies challenge you to look beyond the surface. In addition, this book is a relatively light read since it doesn’t have any heavy emotional turmoil attached it. This isn’t to say that the characters are flat but more so to point out that it isn’t one that overly taxes your feelings such as An Ember in the Ashes. Caraval is an adventure at heart as well as an opportunity to allow yourself to believe in magic again (even if some of it turns out to be a little evil). An opportunity to immerse yourself in wonder. I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this genre or topic. It provides a great escape into a different world and is very enjoyable to read. May the magic of Carval charm you too!
Author: Michelle Obama
Ratings: 4.8/5 (Barnes & Noble)
Personal Rating: 4.8/5
Summary: Becoming is a fantastic memoir providing many insights to people. Whether you’re a girl, a person of color, or just someone who is curious about what it feels like to live in the white house then this is a wonderful read. It is nicely broken up into three sections. The first section tackles Obama’s youth and her more personal life not known to the general public. The second portion has more to do with the different turns her career took, her life with Barack Obama, and the process she takes to find herself. The third and last section has a lot to do with the run for President. It provides readers with an insider view about what it means to be a black person in South Chicago. The opportunities that she had because her talent was encouraged and supported by her parents. She speaks about what kind of decisions she made going into college and choosing a career. Obama honestly writes about her career changes and the ugly side of politics. She speaks about things normally not considered by the general public. The privacy her family gave up, the distance between her family, and how their lives were honestly impacted.
Review: Regardless of what stage of life that you are in I think that this memoir has a lot to offer. It is not only entertaining but has a degree of transparency and honesty that comes across to the reader as touching. Michelle Obama truly made herself vulnerable in this book and along with imparts knowledge to her readers that requires an intimate relationship which Obama goes above and beyond to establish. She tackles the nuances of race, being a woman in the workforce, what it means to be a mother and maintain a level of privacy not available in the public eye. It is also meant to be able to connect with people. Her voice doesn’t show that she feels superior in any sense but that she wants to meet eye to eye, as equals but more importantly as humans. I really enjoyed the honesty that is written into the book. However, Obama manages the delicate balance between honesty and pessimism. She isn’t afraid to let her readers know her true thoughts about certain topics and that is commendable. She shows her vulnerability by revealing mistakes that she has made and doesn’t just skip over them but accepts them as an important part of her narrative. Many people today want to cover up their failures and mistakes, with good reason, but Obama shows that it is more important to reflect and learn than hide. Overall this book s a must read! Everyone should pick it up and at least wrestle with a few chapters. The book touches upon almost all major life events and can be a great example of how to handle them. Michelle Obama is truly a good influence and an intelligent woman. This book was her way to impart her thoughts to us readers and anyone who is willing to pick up the book will not be disappointed.
An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: YA fiction, fantasy fiction
Rating: 4.3/5 (Goodreads)
Personal Rating: 4.5/5
Summary: An Ember in the Ashes is a captivating story about a Scholar slave fighting to save her only remaining family member – her brother, and a soldier fighting to desert his cruel way of living. Although the two main characters come from starkly different walks of life their paths converge and their fates become intertwined. Laia, the Scholar, witnesses her grandmother and grandfather brutally killed by the Mask (the kingdoms equivalent of an army) and her brother being captured for being suspected of conspiring with the Resistance. Laia has no chance but to find the Resistance and beg for their help to find and free her brother. Elias, the Mask, on the other hand, has been training to become a Mask all his life and his family situation isn’t much better. His mother, the commandant of Blackcliff (the academy in which Masks are trained since they were children) sought to get rid of him as a baby and was only found when his Grandfather, along with other Masks, raided the Tribe that he was adopted into. Elias hates the life of a Mask. He despises hurting innocent civilians for their caste and wants to desert it all until the Trails come to Blackclliff. His plans are destroyed when he is one of the four students chosen to compete and if he wins, he will become emperor of the Kingdom. Laia has her own battles to fight. The Resistance agrees to help free her brother only if she spies on Blackcliff while acting as a servant for the Commandant. A job that is not only treacherous but impossible. The Commandant has weeded out every single Resistance spy and has brutally killed them, in a more gruesome way than the way she tortures them when they don’t follow orders down to the most minute details. It is here that Elias and Laia meet as they both fight for and against the people they love for the greater good.
Review: I thought this was an awesome book considering it had every element of a good YA fiction/fantasy novel. The right amount of sorrow, passion, questioning if the side your on is the right one, fighting for the right reasons, death, betrayal, the power of friendship and love, and last but not least a battle to the death – obviously those are just to name a few.
However if you are one to be sensitive to violence and suggestive scenes then I do not reccomend this as a book for you. This book is Sabba Tahir’s debue novel and personally speaking I think this book was extremely well written for a debut novel. In fact I would go as far as to say that this book was better than some of the more experienced writers that I have read as well. The plot line keeps you flipping the pages late into the night (wayyy past your bedtime). I was captivated by the books fast pace, Sabba Tahir wastes no time on useless details. Every small movemis interconnected and in the end it only proves what love for family means and how strong it is.
Another thing that I liked about this was the main character arc. Of the two maincharacters one stays relavtively the same but I wouldn’t go as far as describing him as static because he provides great thrill in the story with his actions and thoughts. On the other hand, the second main character has a very intricate, and in my beliefe, a well thought out character arc that is satisfying. When you ulyimately finish the novel it will leave you in hunger for more, to have the story continuye as you flip the pages, and maybe bite a nail or two. With all elements considered I think that the setting, plot, conflict, and characters really bring the story alive. It’s one thing to be able to clearly envision the story as you’re reading it and it’s a completely different thing if you can live the story with the characters as you are reading it. This novel is the latter.
Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Rating: 4.3/5 (Goodreads)
Summary: A land where magic once flourished and was used to help mankind survive and live a life for the better is no longer existent. Saran, the king, violently killed all the maji and reduced them to nothing but slaves. All remnants of magic destroyed and all praisers of magic killed ruthlessly to set an example for the remaining. Maji became the scum of the earth and soldiers and remaining civilians could do or behave however they wanted with maji leading them to live the worst lives imaginable. The main character Zelie trains with Mama Agba with a staff to learn how to defend herself against the king’s soldiers who taxed maji relentlessly and would often kill or harm them for fun as a sport. Her brother trains in the sport of Agbon in hopes to win and bring home enough money to sustain the family. Her father reduced to nothing after the family witnessed the traumatic death of their mother, a Reaper maji ( a maji that has control over the death). The two siblings watched as the king’s men physically beat up her father and break her father’s fighting spirit. The family barely survives because of Zeileis mark as a diviner, the unmistakable white streak that runs in her hair. By a stroke of luck, or some may call a curse Zeile meets Princess Amari and the two along with Zelie’s brother start a quest full of love, betrayal, happiness, and heartbreak to try and restore magic to the maji.
Review: For anyone who loves a good fantasy novel to curl up with and feel the magic flowing through their veins, this is a must-read. The book has a beautifully written in the views of multiple protagonists. Each chapter telling parts of the story from their point of view, similar to the writing style of Rick Riordan in his Percy Jackson series. There is a wonderful balance of magic and reality. Although there are moments where readers must suspend their belief, it is worth it for the fast-paced story that leaves one guessing for what could possibly be the fate of the characters.
The book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and intricately weaves rich African American culture and history with a world of magic, kings, and wars. The book describes the small details of the architecture and facial features of the characters that really allow the reader to vividly imagine the story and feel as they themselves are part of an adventure.
As I was reading this book I saw myself empathizing with many of the characters feeling the happiness, betrayal, and shock that they did. This book was a breath of fresh air and is a truly unique work in the fantasy industry. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down, willing to lose sleep just to find out if magic would be restored in the land of Orisha.
Although the book ended in a cliffhanger and my heart was still beating in anticipation of what was about to happen, it wasn’t too frustrating of an ending because there is the promise of a sequel. Children of Blood and Bones is actually the first book of a trilogy so it is guaranteed that we will definitely be seeing a lot more of Zelie’s determination, Amari’s conviction, Tzain’s loyalty and hopefully be introduced to more maji along the way.
Personally, I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it to anyone. Even if you aren’t a big fan of fantasy and fiction I still recommend that you get your hands on this book at least to experience such a well-written tale. The 4.3/5 rating is well-deserved anyone who reads this book is bound to feel like a maji themselves.