Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Series Salute: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber was such a fun ride. I thought the series got better with every book and went out with a bang. (Series featured here and here.)

About the Books

For years sisters Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have dreamed of escaping life with their oppressive father and attending Caraval, a traveling circus-like extravaganza where the visitors are part of the show. When they finally get their chance, the sisters find themselves at the heart of Caraval's high-stake competition. The game is suddenly very real. The first book in the series follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister amidst the magic and mystery of Caraval. With the second book, Donatella gets top billing as Caraval moves to the capital city. The series concludes with both sisters sharing the spotlight as the stakes grow ever higher. 

Why I Love Them


1. The Magic of Caraval

The magic of Caraval is what initially drew me to the series. The dreamlike setting has Scarlett questioning what is real and what is not, and the reader is right beside her asking those same questions.


2. Scarlett

It's hard to always be the responsible sister! I love how much Scarlett grows in this series and that she learns to stick up for herself. 

3. Tella

I'll admit, Tella is my favorite of the Dragna sisters. A bit impulsive, Tella is such a fun narrator. I love how lively and determined she is.

4. Sisterhood

I love a book about sisters, and the Dragna sisters are there for each other. Except when they're not. It's hard to navigate the world of Caraval, which seems intent on pulling people apart.

5. Legend

We could not have Caraval without the creator. Whether Legend's identity is shrouded in mystery or he's right there in front of the characters, there is nothing straightforward about him.

6. The Fates

The Fates are intriguing and pretty frightening, and they add so much to the series. I loved book two and three when the mythology and reality of the Fates becomes a key element to the mysteries. 

7. The Love Triangles 

Both Scarlett and Tella get wrapped up in a bit of a love triangle. I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of love triangles, but I really enjoyed how Stephanie Garber handled the multiple love interests in her series.

8. Valenda

I love a good atmospheric setting, which is one of the reasons I love the mystery of Caraval. Caraval combined with the capital city's creepy shops, beautiful palaces, and mystical temples ups the intrigue. 

9. The Audiobook narrator

I'm a big fan of audiobooks, and the narrator for the Caraval series, Rebecca Soler, is one of my favorites. She brings so much to the story.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Movie Magic

Let's go to the movies. Or, if you'd rather stay in, here are some books about movies and movie makers.

The Actress:
Lacey Barnes is a debut actress hoping this film will be her big break. But show business isn't all fun and games. The director is worried about her chemistry. Accidents on set seem to happen when she's around. Most embarrassing of all, Lacey's dad keeps reminding everyone that she's the only underage actor on set. He even hired a straight-laced kid named Donovan from the local high school to tutor her. Kasie West did it again with Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss. This book is so delightfully charming. Lacey's spunk makes her so much fun to read about. The zombie movie is entertaining; the mystery is intriguing, and the romance is the sweetest. Out February 5, 2019. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Hosts:
Best friends Josie and Delia host a creature feature that airs every Friday on a public assess television station. Now that graduation has come and gone, Josie and Delia are facing the big "what comes next" when it comes to the show and their friendship. For Josie, television has always been the goal, for Delia, the bad horror movies are a link to her absent father. It's never easy to say goodbye. Once again Jeff Zentner managed to get me to laugh out loud and cry while reading Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee, and that's why I love his books. This one leans more toward the comedic side than his previous tearjerkers, but there were still plenty of real, hard topics and poignant moments (clearly). Out February 26, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Manager:
Green Street Cinema is Ethan's home. It's where he went to deal with the pain of his dad's death and where his dad's memory is most alive. Ethan's basically running the place these days, which is why it's up to him to save the cinema when they get an eviction notice. This Book is Not Yet Rated is a poignant and meaningful story about love and loss. I really liked Peter Bognanni's writing style, which conveys angst so well. This book is also populated with a very fun cast of side characters. The employees of Green Street Cinema are super quirky and colorful. There's also Raina, Ethan's best friend who made it big in Hollywood and is now back in town after a breakdown. Out April 9, 2019.

The Studio Owner:
Dario Heyward is the heir to Moldavia Studios, the castle where his father wrote, directed, and filmed the type of B-list horror classics that Rayne and Delilah screen on their show. Dario has six months to turn the studio around, despite the fact that he never wanted this job and he swore he'd never come back after becoming legally emancipated at the age of twelve. Scream All Night was much more serious than I thought it would be. Dario has to confront some real demons from his past (pardon the pun), and he feels a lot of pressure to do right by the residents of Moldavia. The book is also laced with black humor. The scenes with the Ciller Cauliflowers were both hilarious and cringe-worthy. I loved the setting Derek Milman created in his debut novel and the story within a story nature of a book about a film. Out July 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Filmmaker:
Maya Aziz is a Indian-American Muslim teen growing up in Illinois. Her dream is to become a filmmaker and go to NYU, but her conservative parents don't think this would be a suitable career. In fact, Maya hasn't even told them she applied to NYU. Love, Hate & Other Filters is a coming of age story. Maya is wondering how to best assert her independence. She is navigating what it means to be a Muslim teen in America, what kind of life she wants to lead, and whether or not the expectations of her parents and her religion are right for her. About halfway through this novel, an event occurs that turned the book on its head for me. I was impressed with Samira Ahmed's handling of this serious issue. Out January 2018.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Blog Tour: The Oddmire, Book 1: The Changling by Will Ritter

I am a big, big fan of William Ritter's Jackaby Series, and when I was asked if I would like to be part of the blog tour for the first book in his new middle-grade series set in the same world as Jackaby, I said, "Absolutely!" And let me tell you, this book is a real treat.

The Oddmire, Book One: The Changling by William Ritter

Publisher/ Year: Algonquin Young Reader - July 16, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Source: Review copy from the publisher


The first book in an action-packed fantasy adventure series featuring witches, shape-shifters, and other creatures of fairytale and folklore, including two brothers—one human and one a goblin changeling—on a life-changing quest into the Oddmire.

“Funny, exciting, and ultimately epic. Wow. I can’t wait for the next one.” —Adam Gidwitz, author of the New York Times bestseller A Tale Dark and Grimm

Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

In The Oddmire 1: Changeling, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jackaby series brings to life a bold new adventure, the first in a series about monsters, magic, and mayhem.

 Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Book Depository


The Oddmire, Book 1: The Changling is absolutely enchanting. The best part, for me, was the relationship between Tinn and Cole. The two brothers are in it together for the long haul. They both wish for the best case scenario, not for themselves, but for their brother. I just loved reading about these twins. They are clever and kind and mischievous. It's really the best combination.

Another bright point in the novel is Tinn and Cole's mother, Annie Burton. Annie might just be my favorite character in the whole book. You know how parents tend to be absent and/or non-existent in middle-grade fantasy novels? Well, that is not the case in this book, and it is so refreshing. William Ritter demonstrates that you can send kids on adventures and have a present, fiercely devoted, and protective parent, even in a fantasy book. Annie is such a spitfire.

The magic of the Oddmire is very fun. This book feels like a traditional fairy tale where, once you go into the wood, magic is everywhere. I really liked the characters we met in the Wild Wood. Some were funny. Some were mysterious. Some were frightening. Some were all three.

Also, the book is also illustrated by the author, and I the silhouette drawings at the beginning of each chapter make the book a little extra special.

I read this book aloud to my fourth-grader, and we had such a fun time reading it together. I highly recommend sharing this book with the younger readers in your life.


Here's what an actually middle-grader (my fourth-grader) had to say about the book:

I think this book is kind of mysterious. I really liked the mystery in the book. I kept reading because I wanted know which brother was the goblin. I also liked the other characters, especially the ones the boys met in the Wild Woods. Those characters are both very mysterious and funny. I won't tell you much about them because I think you should meet them yourselves and be surprised. I couldn't wait to keep reading this book so that I could find out what happens next. 

And there you have it, folks. It's always fun to find books that he enjoys. We're already looking forward to reading the next book in the series together.


William Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark. The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling is his first book for middle-grade readers. 

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Highly Anticipated Book Releases for the Second Half of 2019

The year is half over, which means we can start looking forward to all the fall releases. I have a hefty list of highly anticipated new books this time around. I'm looking forward to the next book in several series. I'm eager to read new books by several authors who I absolutely adore. I've also got a few new to me authors on this list, and I can't wait to give their books a go. What books are you eagerly awaiting?
The Philosopher's War by Tom Miller
The first book in this series, The Philosopher's Flight, was such a surprising delight. It was one of my favorite books of 2018, and I'm so excited for the sequel. (series featured here)

Maybe This Time by Kasie West
I've read nearly all of Kasie West's books, and this one about a girl who works for a local florist sounds delightful. (Kasie West's books featured here)

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I've never read any of Stacey Lee's books, which is a real shame because I love historical fiction. I'm going dive into her oeuvre with her newest book about a girl who works as a lady's maid in turn-of-the-century Atlanta.

House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig
This debut novel is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. It's been too long since I've read a good fairy tale retelling.

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake
The conclusion to the Three Dark Crowns series. Need I say more? (series featured here, here, and here)

Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis
Earlier this year I read the first book in this series, and I loved it. I'm excited to find out what happens next. (series featured here)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
I wasn't expecting to love Carry On as much as I did. I really, really loved it. I'm up for more Simon, Baz, and Penny. (series featured here)

The Tyrant's Tomb by Rick Riordan
I love the Trials of Apollo series. Now that we know who the three emperors are that make up the evil Triumvirate (which I successfully guessed, by the way), what's going to happen? (series featured here)

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
I love Jenn Bennett's contemporaries, and I love historical fiction. I'm excited to journey to the Carpathian Mountains with these characters. (Jenn Bennett's books featured here)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction. Her newest book is set in General Francisco Franco's fascist Spain in 1957. (Ruta Sepetys's books featured here)

Our Year in Love and Parties by Karen Hattrup
I adored Karen Hattrup's debut novel. I read it in one sitting, and it was one of my favorite books of 2016. I'm so excited to read her sophomore book. (Frannie and Tru featured here)

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
Bone Gap was my favorite book of 2015. A World War II novel by Laura Ruby is almost too good to be true. (Bone Gap featured here)

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
I've been a big fan of Diana Peterfreund's books for years now. This new book sounds like so much fun. It's a mystery based on the board game Clue. Basically, it sounds like the perfect Halloween read. (Diana Peterfreund's books featured here)

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
This books takes place during Christmas, and I love the idea of reading it during December. It's about Sophie who, after a bad breakup, gets set-up on a series of blind dates by extended family members.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Kiersten White is taking on the Arthurian legends, and I am here for it. (Kiersten White's books featured here)

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Like so many people, I am so excited that the author of The Night Circus has a new book out this November. 

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
I will never not be excited for a new Maggie Stiefvater book. She's returning to the world of The Raven Boys with this series about Ronan Lynch and his family. (Maggie Stiefvater's books featured here)

Supernova by Marissa Meyer
The conclusion to the Renegades series! (series featured here)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Reading on a Theme: American Girls Abroad

These books gave us a serious case of wanderlust. I love to read books about traveling in the summer. They are the perfect books to take on a trip, or, if you aren't traveling, they allow you to dream of exciting new places.

Doha, Qatar:
Zayneb gets suspended for challenging an Islamophobic teacher, and her parents send her to Doha, Qatar to stay with her aunt. Adam is traveling home to Doha for spring break and dreading having to break some bad news to his father. Turns out, Zayneb's aunt and Adam's father work at the same international school, and the two spend their break together and learn to face their fears. I loved S.K. Ali's first novel, and her sophomore book is just as wonderful. I enjoyed so much about this book. I really loved the Doha setting, Adam's kindness, and Zayneb's passion. The "Marvels" and "Oddities" journal format made for a really clever telling as well. Love from A to Z was out April 30, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley. 

London, England:
Shane's college experience isn't going so well. Sure she has fantastic grades and is on track for medical school, but she doesn't have any good friends and her romantic prospects are even worse. Plus, med school is more her parents' dream than her own, so Shane takes matters into her own hands and decides to reinvent herself on study abroad in London. But, in London, Shane learns she's still Shane, and it will take courage to go after her dreams. I adored Again, but Better. I found it so compulsively readable. Christine Riccio's debut brought back all the joy and all the insecurities of my study abroad experience. I loved the quirky characters. I love that they took advantage of their time abroad and saw things and went places. A fantastic tale of second chances. Again, but Better was out May 7, 2019. 

Sevilla, Spain:
High school senior, Emoni Santiago dreams of becoming a chef, and the new culinary arts program at her school is proving that Emoni has what it takes. Emoni desperately wants to go with the class on its study abroad trip to Spain, but with a two-year-old daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, the more responsible thing may be to stay home. I loved Elizabeth Acevedo's debut, The Poet X, and this book is every bit as magical. The prose is a departure from Ms Acevedo's early verse novel, but the narration is still so beautifully lyrical. I loved Emoni's voice and maturity. The imagery in this book is so vivid, and the characters so well drawn. With the Fire on High was out May 7, 2019. 

Kyoto, Japan:
Kimi Nakamura has been keeping a secret from her mother, and when the secret comes out, it seems like the ticket to Japan from her estranged grandparents couldn't have arrived at a better time. So, to escape her mother, Kimi hops on a plane a flies halfway around the world to stay with grandparents she's never met. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is such a cute read. I love books about family and finding family, and it was so delightful to see Kimi connect with her grandparents and start to see how that connection could help her understand herself and her mother better. There's also a very sweet romance in this book with a boy who occasionally dresses as a giant mochi mascot. I Love You So Mochi was out May 28, 2019.

Oxford, England:
Ella Durran is finally living one of her life-long goals: she's a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. She's also just been offered a job that's got her poised to have a promising political career once she returns to the States. Well-laid plans go awry when Ella falls for her English tutor, Jamie Davenport. At first it's just a fling, but things get real when Ella discovers that Jamie is keeping a big secret. My Oxford Year is voice actor Julia Whelan's first novel, and I found it completely engrossing. The connection between Ella and Jamie is so mesmerizing, and I was on the edge of my seat hoping that things would go right for them. Listen to the audiobook if you can, it's narrated by the author. My Oxford Year was out April 2018.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Favorite Audiobook Narrators

June is Audiobook Month and that is exactly the kind of non-holiday I can get behind. I am a huge audiobook fan. I listened to 89 audiobooks in 2018, and that number is so large it's almost embarrassing. I almost always look up the narrator of my audiobook. I just like to know if I've listened to their voice before. As you can imagine, with so many audiobooks under my belt, I definitely have some favorite narrators. So, in celebration of Audiobook Month, here are eleven of my favorite narrators.

I've included links to Audible so that you can see what else these voice actors have narrated.You can find more audiobook recommendations here.

Fiona Hardingham:
Fiona Hardingham is a much beloved voice actor. She has narrated over 180 books. My favorite performance is her interpretation of Kiersten White's And I Darken trilogy. It's absolutely a tour de force. Other favorites narrated by Fiona Hardingham include Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series, Julie Berry's The Passion of Dolssa, and Megan Shepherd's The Secret Horse of Briar Hill.

Kate Rudd:
I love Kate Rudd's narration. She had narrated several books (and big ones too, like The Fault in Our Stars), but I didn't cross paths with her until I listened to Rysa Walker's Chronos Files. I loved that series and Kate Rudd's narration so much that I've kept my eye out for her ever since. I chose to listen to the audiobooks of Rysa Walker's next series, The Delphi Trilogy, and Maureen Johnson's Truly Devious because Kate Rudd was narrating.

Julia Whelan:
By including I'll Give You the Sun, I'm getting a two for one. Julia Whelan narrates Jude and Jesse Bernstin narrates Noah. I've loved many of the books Julia Whelan narrates, including Highly Illogical Behavior, Educated, and her own book, My Oxford Year.

Jesse Bernstein:
Jesse Bernstein is great as Jude's twin brother Noah in I'll Give You the Sun. I also really love his narration of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I have fond memories of listening to those books on a road trip with my brother and sister.

Bahni Turpin:
Bahni Turpin has narrated some huge books in the last few years, and she has more than delivered. I loved her voice acting for Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. She also narrated The Sun is Also a Star and Children of Blood and Bone, but I think my favorite is her narration of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland.

Robbie Daymond:
Robbie Daymond is so great as Apollo in Rick Riordan's Trials of Apollo series. Just thinking of his narration is making me smile because he delivers Apollo's bad poetry so well. Robbie Daymond has also narrated some of my other favorites including The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, John Corey Whaley's Highly Illogical Behavior (which I listened to in one sitting), Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum, and One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus.

Neil Gaiman:
Neil Gaiman is an author who does a fantastic job narrating his own work. I once saw Neil Gaiman in person at a book event, and it was weird to have his voice coming out of his mouth because I was so used to listening to his disembodied narration. Some of my favorite Neil Gaiman books that he narrates himself are Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Norse Mythology.

Katherine McEwan:
Katherine McEwan's narration of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein made that book so much creepier. I really love her voice. It's very soothing and smooth. She also narrates Helene in The Ember and the Ashes series and reads Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. 

Rebecca Soler:
Rebecca Soler has narrated so many of my favorite books, and whenever I see that she's the narrator, it makes my decision of whether to read or listen that much easier. I found Rebecca Soler through Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. She also narrates Stephanie Garber's Caraval series, Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood, and Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. 

Lincoln Hoppe:
I absolutely love the full cast audio of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's Illuminae Trilogy. Everything about it is so engaging, but my favorite narrator of the bunch is Lincoln Hoppe who is absolutely remarkable as AIDAN. I was so happy to learn he was back narrating for Kaufman and Kristoff's new book, Aurora Rising.

Moira Quirk:
Moira Quirk is kind of a new favorite. I knew that I loved her when I listened to Gail Carriger's Finishing School series a few years ago, but what really solidified her on my favorite's list was her voice acting on Mackenzi Lee's The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, which is just perfection. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Dragons

Dragons are undeniably one of the best mythical beasts out there. We love seeing how each author makes the dragon mythology their own, and we have thoughts about this. If you are in the mood for a dragon book or two or five, might we suggest one of these?

Dragon Sanctuary:
Mira Minkoba wishes she could spend all her time at the dragon sanctuary, but as the Hopebearer and the face of the Mira Treaty, she is expected to behave far more properly. But even being the famous Mira Minkoba can't save her when she discovers something that threatens her home, the treaty, and the dragons she so loves. Before She Ignites alternates between "Before" and "After," allowing the mystery to unravel slowly as we came to know Mira. Jodi Meadows truly built a beautiful world. The Fallen Isles are full of rich cultures and interesting religions. I read the second book in the series immediately after finishing this one, and I'm looking forward to the conclusion, When She Reigns, out in September.

Night Dragons:
Onyx and Ivory follows the stories of Kate and Corwin. Childhood friends, the two have long-since been separated due to the traitorous actions of Kate's father. However, when a new threat arises in the form of drakes who attack in the daylight, Kate and Corwin's stories intertwine once again. Onyx and Ivory is another example of beautiful world-building. There's a medieval feel to the whole story and I was interested in the different kinds of magic and the rituals in this world. The drakes were a different kind of dragon, both fascinating and terrifying. I really enjoyed this read by Mindee Arnett and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, Shadow and Flame, out June 4, 2019.

Travels with Dragons:
Though ostensibly about a girl who's on a journey with her lesser-dragon companion to find a mythical beast, Tess of the Road is really about so much more than that. This new addition to Rachel Hartman's world of Seraphina is very philosophical and introspective. It's about healing from abuse, not fitting into your family, figuring out how to make your own way, and proving that you are capable. Tess of the Road is a hero's journey in the traditional sense because it really is a journey of self-discovery for Tess. And that self-discovery involves a heap of feminism and a dismantling of rape culture. Don't expect tons of action, but do expect greatness. Out February 27, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.

Dragon Stories:
Asha is the daughter of the king of Firgaard.. She's also the Iskari, the fiercest dragon hunter in the realm. Asha has a secret. She's been telling the forbidden old stories to the dragons, and they listen. In The Last Namsara, Asha must uncover the truth about why the old ways are forbidden. I really enjoyed Kristen Ciccarelli's debut novel. The premise that dragons would listen to stories and tell their own back is pretty fantastic. I also really liked Ciccarelli's writing style. It helps to create a quiet, magical atmosphere, and it also has a folktale feel to it. I loved how the old stories were mingled with the narration. A companion novel, The Cage Queen, is out now, and the third book in the series, The Sky Weaver is out in November 2019.

Shape-Shifting Dragons:
The children of Vallen all dream of being ice wolves and defending their home against scorch dragons. All except siblings Anders and Rayna who are simply trying to survive on the streets. But when Anders discovers that he is an ice wolf and Rayna is a scorch dragon, he seeks a way to save her from the brutal dragons. This middle-grade selection by Amie Kaufman has the fantastic premise of people taking the shape of ice wolves or scorch dragons and I enjoyed watching Anders' understanding of his world change throughout the book. I will say that it took me some time to get into Ice Wolves, but I really enjoyed it in the end. The second book in the series Scorch Dragons was out March 26, 2019.

Before She Ignites, Onyx & Ivory, and Ice Wolves reviewed by Paige.
Tess of the Road and The Last Namsara reviewed by JoLee.
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