Finale – Stephanie Garber

If you read my blog post about YALC a little while ago you’ll know that I bought this book there. When I picked this book up I read the blurb and instantly bought it then when I got home I discovered it was book number 3 in a series. Click here for my review of book one in the series, Caraval and click here for my review of book two in the series Legendary because you must read them before Finale as I don’t think it’ll really make much sense and regardless I can guarantee you’ll enjoy Finale more if you read the first two books prior.

Finale continues on the Caraval story following sisters Scarlett and Tella. A lot of happened since Scarlett first played Caraval, her sister Tella played in order to keep a bargain then somehow ended up falling in love with Legend along the way, now Tella discovers that yet again Legend was just playing a game and now she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Meanwhile, Scarlett has discovered a life changing secret which means she now needs to achieve the impossible. This book, no games are being played but somehow more than ever people are out to win.

I’ve mentioned this in every review of this series of books but wow! This series of books is honestly incredible and I can’t believe it took a whim purchase at a convention for me to have even heard of the series. From book one all the way to the end of book three the story grabs your attention and doesn’t let you go. Even after finishing Finale I just sat processing all that I’d read. It’s been a long time since I read books as quickly as these which just goes to show what wonderful stories they are.

Finale is told from both Tella and Scarletts point of view which worked perfectly for this book. You really needed to read the story from both in order to appreciate fully ever detail that was going on. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of stories told from multiple perspectives but it just worked so well in Finale. Even when the girls were apart it didn’t feel like you were missing much of the action from the other as the story is so cleverly weaved together. For example, a lot of the time the sisters were working together towards the shame goal but doing different elements of it to achieve what they set out to do.

I don’t want to spoil the ending in anyway but just know the ending of this book is so perfect and its one of the best endings to a story that I’ve read in a long time. The only thing is it definitely leaves it somewhat open to have a sort of spin off book and I for one would be more than open to this happening!

In conclusion, Finale was a fantastic book. It led me down so many different paths and the twists and turns I just never saw coming – is that not just the sign of an amazing book? I couldn’t recommend picking up this series of books more.

 Synopsis –

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…

 

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Confessions Of A Sex Kitten – Mila Rossi

If you saw last weeks blog post you’ll have seen that I was part of the blitz for Confessions Of A Sex Kitten by Mila Rossi. If you’ve not read this post yet then click here as it provides some excerpts from the novel and a chance to win an Amazon gift card! I was given a copy of this book to do an impartial review of so that is exactly what today’s post is going to be!

Confessions Of A Sex Kitten tells the story of Avery. Avery writes an anonymous blog called Confessions Of A Sex Kitten (hence the book name) but the reality is she isn’t half as adventurous in the bedroom as her blog makes her out to be. That is until James, the most attractive man Avery has ever laid eyes on, moves into the flat next door. The pair instantly have an attraction and struggle to stay away from each other, something which is only amplified when James stumbles across Avery’s blog. However, neither of them act upon their feelings towards each other, so instead James takes to putting on a show at his window just for his neighbours enjoyment. Surely sooner or later sparks will start to fly…

The minute I read the synopsis of this book I knew I would love it. I love a good romance novel and this book is definitely that. Plus the story is set in New York which is one of my favourite cities so I always enjoy reading novels set there. The storyline itself was relatively simple, neighbours who have the potential to fall in love. It’s a realistic situation but I loved the added twist that Avery has a sex blog. Each chapter begins with a snippet from her blog post and I think it gives an extra dimension to the story. You’re reading Avery’s most secret desires (you’ll soon realise she is not anything like her blog makes her out to be) and when you know that James is secretly reading those posts too it’s interested to see how he reacts from reading them.

Both Avery and James were both likeable characters and the story intermittently switches from being told from both of their perspectives. You discover more about them that way and get a glimpse into their individual family lives. Personally the family side of things was the big downfall for me. It was mentioned but for me I didn’t feel like the families were in the story enough to truly add much to the story when the way they acted could’ve provided a whole new element to the story. I would’ve enjoyed the story just as much if the family chapters were taken out but I completely understand why they’re a part of this book as it gives make you understand more about James and Avery’s characters.

The romance side of this book is a slow burner so if you’re into novels that get to the relationship part quickly this is perhaps not the book for you. However, I felt like the slow build up was completely worth it. The book kept my attention and it didn’t take me long to read it as it was one of those quick, fun, romantic reads that makes your heart happy.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Sometimes you just need a romance novel and this one is great. It has two extremely likeable characters that you’re routing for from the beginning, some funny moments, moments that you feel genuinely sorry for the characters and a couple of sex scenes. If you’re looking for a quick romance novel that has a bit of everything then you will love this book.

Synopsis –

Striving to be the sex kitten Avery Taylor portrays on her blog is a lot harder than she imagined, but having a hot, new neighbor move in next door dude gets her imagination going. His green eyes alone would give a girl the vampire. And yet, getting involved with someone so close just isn’t in the cards for Avery, even if her inner kitten is tell her that all rules are meant to be broken once. Or twice. Or as many times as it takes to get familiar with James’s one billion abs.

James Mardin moves to NYC to focus on family and work. Quickly Avery just plops into his life out of nowhere. She’s the last thing he needs, and yet, he can’t seem to stay away from the damsel down the hall, especially after he stumbles upon her secret blog. A sexy goofball lusting after him? It just wouldn’t be proper if he didn’t make her fantasies come true.

With views to die for, neighborly favours to return, and secrets to uncover, James and Avery are in for a treat. The attraction is evident, but is it enough to get them through snarky family remarks, burning buildings, and the heat of a typical New York summer?

Confessions of a Sex Kitten Blitz & Giveaway!

Confessions Of A Sex Kitten by Mila Rossi was released on the 30th August and today, thanks to Xpresso Book Tours I’m going to be bringing you a sneak peak into this book! Click here to be taken to the novels Goodreads page!

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that my (not so) guilty pleasure is a good romance novel so it’s safe to say I was excited to read this book.

First things first is the synopsis of the book. I know the minute I read the synopsis I knew it would be the kind of book that I would’ve instantly bought. Hopefully if you’re reading this you may follow my blog and have seen my previous reviews what may mean you like the same kind of books that I do so I’m thinking this will be added straight to peoples to read list!

Synopsis –

Striving to be the sex kitten Avery Taylor portrays on her blog is a lot harder than she imagined, but having a hot, new neighbor move in next door sure gets her imagination going. His green eyes alone would give a girl the vapors. And yet, getting involved with someone so close just isn’t in the cards for Avery, even if her inner kitten is telling her that all rules are meant to be broken once. Or twice. Or as many times as it takes to get familiar with James’s one billion abs.

James Mardin moves to NYC to focus on family and work. Quirky Avery just plops into his life out of nowhere. She’s the last thing he needs, and yet, he can’t seem to stay away from the damsel down the hall, especially after he stumbles upon her secret blog. A sexy goofball lusting after him? It just wouldn’t be proper if he didn’t make her fantasies come true.

With views to die for, neighborly favors to return, and secrets to uncover, James and Avery are in for a treat. The attraction is evident, but is it enough to get them through snarky family remarks, burning buildings, and the heat of a typical New York summer?I have been gifted a copy of this book to read and although I’ve only recently started to read it I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. I’ll be posting my review of this book next week but if you’re still unsure about whether this book is going to be for you I have an excerpt from the novel below –

Excerpt – 

There was a large bed against the wall, overlooking the skyscrapers. Crisp white linens were accentuated by brown pillows, and a long bench by the window gave him a place to change his shoes or throw on his clothes.

She walked over to the bed and ran her hands over the cool sheets, imagining James stretched out after a long day. I wonder if he sleeps naked.

“Hey,” he said behind her, making her flinch as if burned.

She snatched her hand from the bed and faced him with rosy cheeks. “What are you doing here?”

He walked toward her with a smile. “I live here, remember?”

“I mean, I thought you were working. You got here so fast.”

“I thought my place was burning down, Avery. Did you want me to take my time?”

She shook her head. Of course not. He’d rushed home to make sure his place was still in one piece. The man did have excellent response time.

“I checked every room.” She tried to keep her face a normal color. “I didn’t smell any gas or smoke or anything.”

“Coolio,” he replied, mimicking her earlier text message response.

She was so mesmerized by his green eyes watching her, that she didn’t realize how quickly he was approaching until he stopped mere inches from her. Her racing heart would have alarmed a medical professional.

“I think you’re the only person left on this planet who still uses that word,” he said, grinning.

“Yeah well, someone’s gotta be the last man standing. Or woman.”

“And what were you doing just now, last woman standing?”

She swallowed and tried to think of something to say, but her mind went blank. Completely, utterly blank. Crap!

“I, uh, was checking this room last. No fire or leaks here. All good.” She tried to sidestep him, but he blocked her path.

“You were checking to see if my bed was on fire?”

She lowered her gaze, but he tilted her chin up, forcing her to look at him. The green of his eyes was replaced by an almost dark brown as he cupped her cheek and his thumb stroked her bottom lip. She tried to hold her ground, but with every pleasurable jolt shooting through her at his caress, panic set in. The room continued to get warmer by the second and she was ready to fling her clothes out the window just to cool off. Which was a terrible idea, considering that the look he gave her dared her to do just that—strip down to her birthday suit so he could show her a good time.

“Well, no,” she mumbled, hearing her own heartbeat pounding loudly in her ears.

“Sounds to me like you didn’t check good enough then. Maybe you should check once more, just to make sure.”

She had no idea what he was talking about, but her panic clock was ticking louder and faster. “I should go.”

He grabbed her waist and pulled her against him so swiftly, her eyes widened in surprise. “You’re not going anywhere.”

She couldn’t for the life of her move away. Move away? She suppressed a hysterical laugh. James was looking at her as though he was about to make her forget every thought in her head and she should pull away? Yeah right. 

His fingers weaved through her hair in a slow and deliberate caress before he grazed her scalp, causing sparks to shoot all the way down to her toes. Her eyes fluttered closed and a sigh escaped her. She was melting into him, her eyes starting to glaze over when he cupped the back of her head and dug his fingers into her locks, pulling hard. She gasped as her head tilted back. His mouth was so close, she could practically taste him.

“Still want to run away?”

She shook her head, unwilling to stand the anticipation much longer. If he wasn’t going to put her out of her misery soon, she’d attack him herself.

His teeth caught her bottom lip in a bite. “What do you want?”

“You. Everywhere. Now.”

Judging by the darkening of his pupils, she must have said that out loud.

Competition Time!

Lastly if the book doesn’t sound exciting enough, if you click the below link you’ll be taken to a Rafflecopter page where you have the opportunity to win a $25 Amazon giftcard!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks again to Xpresso Book Tours for allowing me to be apart of this book blitz tour!

Album Review: Lover – Taylor Swift

First of all hello to all new followers! I blog mostly book reviews but every so often I’ll write about concerts or musicals I’ve been too or in this case an album that I really love. I’ll check out everyone’s blogs in a little while as I have quite a few to read and I want to take a good look at everyone’s blogs and read peoples posts.

Now on with today’s post…

At the time I’m actually writing this post it is Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, release date. It’s absolutely no secret that Taylor Swift is my favourite solo artist (to the extent she’s probably the only person I’d cry in front of if I ever met her) and I have loved her music for well over ten years now so I’m at that stage now where I would just buy anything she released as I know that I’m bound to like it.

Taylor’s last album reputation wasn’t an instant love for me in the slightest, it was only when certain events happened in my life that I started to click with the lyrics and truthfully that era ended up being on of my favourites of hers so I’m somewhat anxious to hear the new music. I loved the message that the album had and the confident, independent, don’t care what people think about you feeling that reputation came with both from the songs and the powerful presence that Taylor had and from the singles from Lover I’m feeling this album will have a completely different vibe. It’s also worth mentioning that as I’ve been a fan for so long I still have a certain country Taylor expectation so her latest few albums have been growers more than instant loves for me!

I have held off listening to the album all day so I could sit down properly and listen and write this post so I can’t wait to finally get listen.

I’ve not really done many posts like this but here we go…my attempt to write my thoughts, track by track, of Taylor Swift’s Lover album –

1. I Forgot That You Existed

I think this song is the perfect track one on Lover. It’s the perfect introduction to the style of music that is on this album. I adore the way that Taylor speaks some of the lyrics too, it adds to the meaning of the song. It’s an appropriate first song too as it’s about moving on from the haters which reputation focussed largely on so it’s the perfect bridge between both albums. I think if you’ve ever been in the situation where people ever called you out for something or if you’ve hated someone and have moved on you will relate to the happy place you get to when you just move on.

2. Cruel Summer

From what I’ve seen on Twitter, this song appears to be a particular fan favourite! It explores a relationship taking place over the summer. I love the verses of this song as they’re so crazily catchy but personally for me, the chorus is going to be a grower. I can see this becoming a song that I really love after a few listens though. Also Taylor screaming about the devil in this song?! How unexpected was that! You can already imagine the crowd screaming this line back at Taylor when she tours this album.

3. Lover

Vocally Taylor sounds fantastic on this song. As with Cruel Summer I think this song with absolutely be a grower. I like it now but not to the extent that I would say it was a favourite from the album. The second half of this song however is so good and I could listen to that part on repeat so I can’t wait for the rest of the song to grow on me. This song you can already imagine the stage set up for this one. Adding to this one as I’ve just watched Taylor’s VMAs performance of this song. Listening to this song acoustic makes me love it a whole lot more – what a performance!

4. The Man

I think Taylor sums up what every single female has thought at some point during this song. It’s basically going on about how her life could be different if she was a man, would she have had the same stick if she was a man, would she have got to where she wanted to in life quicker etc? Taylor effortlessly weaves in parts of her life and writes about how she thinks things would’ve gone down if she was a man. The song is insanely catchy and definitely one of my favourites on the album. Regardless of the fact that I love this song, I think that it’s so important for someone with Taylor’s influence to do something that recognises gender equality and she does it so fantastically in this song.

5. The Archer

I’m so sad to say that this was my least favourite of the songs Taylor released prior to Lover being released. I do like this song and I know that I’ll look back at this post in a few weeks and think how did I not love this track. I think my issue is that so many people were comparing this song to All Too Well, and for me you just can’t compare these two songs. I’m very intrigued to hear Taylor to sing this song live too as I feel it could be one she strips back to an acoustic performance.

6. I Think He Knows

This song is Taylor embracing rap and it completely works! Its perhaps a different kind of song for Taylor for this reason but it still manages to contain moments that are so Taylor, for example it’s full of parts that you can instantly sing along to. When the song started I initially wasn’t overly sure but whilst writing this I’ve played this song on repeat about five times so it’s safe to say I like it! I have zero chance of ever being able to sing along to the rap part though!

7. Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince

I feel like this song is a nice combination of old Taylor and new Taylor, it fits perfectly on Lover but at the same time it would fit on her previous albums too. I like the lyrics, I like the catchiness of it – after first listen this is one of my favourites from Lover. Lyrically it has a nice nod to the old Taylor in terms of high school, marching bands, prom dresses but then on the other hand she’s singing about America losing it’s glory which brings us straight back into present day. I hope this song ends up being a fan favourite as I need to see Taylor sing this song live.

 8. Paper Rings

You know those songs you hear and within the first 10 seconds you know that you instantly love it? Well for me, Paper Rings is one of those songs! It reminds me of the catchiness of Stay, Stay, Stay from Red or a song that you’d hear in a teen movie. It’s a pure pop hit and is one of those songs that you can imagine dancing happily along to at Taylor’s next tour. It’s a toe tapping hit and if this doesn’t end up being a single I’ll be very disappointed as I think it’s the best song on the album. I’ve been stuck writing about this song longer than I should admit as I’ve just been playing this song on loop, I absolutely love it. I already know this song is going to end up being in my list of favourite Taylor Swift songs of all time.

9. Cornelia Street

I really like Cornelia Street. I can only assume this is the memories that happened when she lived here and I think that everyone can relate to tying memories to a certain place. Cornelia Street is one that I can so vividly imagine ok her inevitable upcoming tour, she’s obviously going to create the street in her tour graphics and walk the crowd through the story which makes me very excited. I know I’ve said this about a lot of the songs but I think this will become a firm favourite of mine. I’m assuming this song is about New York’s Cornelia Street so three guesses what’s just been added to my holiday visit list…

10. Death By A Thousand Cuts

I already know that this song is likely to be my surprising one of the album. That one where you listen and think ‘hmm yeah this one is ok, nothing special but it’s good’ and then within a week it’s suddenly become one of your favourites. Lyrically it’s fantastic and the song captures my attention enough but it’s absolutely going to be one of those songs that grow on you in the best possible way.

11. London Boy

I spent a number of years living in London and my geographical knowledge of the area absolutely stresses me out when listening to this song. Taylor’s idea of spending a day in London is a pure logistical nightmare and some of the places she name drops I just don’t understand why she desires to spend time there. I have a list a mile long of my issues with the places but for one…Camden Market in the afternoon?! I also don’t really like how this song starts with Idris Elba speaking, for me it just feels abit unnecessary and I don’t understand what it adds to the song. Don’t get me wrong this song is unbelievably catchy and if it didn’t feature London places I would love this song but for me at the moment I can’t detach myself from my place knowledge to fully enjoy the song.

12. Soon You’ll Get Better Featuring Dixie Chicks

This song is exactly why I started liking Taylor’s music. It’s so nice that even though she progresses as an artist and brings completely different sounds to each album that she is still able to provide songs that do a nod to the past. It has a very similar sound to The Best Day which is only fitting giving the subject matter of the song. This song is quite possibly the saddest song that I’ve ever heard from Taylor as she sings about her mum’s battle with breast cancer and the experiences she went through with that. I feel like this song will be quite underrated compared to the upbeat songs that are on Lover but I absolutely adore this song and I hope other people love it too as this song shows Taylor in her best, a great song that is tied with such powerful, relatable lyrics. I can imagine given the subject matter that perhaps this will be a song Taylor won’t perform live so much but I truly hope it isn’t the case.

13. False God

All albums have that song that you’re just not sure about and sadly I think False God is that song for me. The thing with Taylor’s songs is that I either love part of it that I get stuck in my head, or the catchy tune or I end up relating to the lyrics then love the song that way. Unfortunately at the moment I haven’t done any of that with this song yet.

14. You Need To Calm Down

You Need To Calm Down was my favourite of the singles Taylor released prior to this album being released. It’s so catchy and I know this will be one of my favourites to see her perform live (this was supposed to be just first impressions but I can confirm it’s one of my favourites to see her perform…did anyone see the VMA performance of this song, it was incredible) as is anyone able to listen to this song without dancing along? Throwing it out there early…Taylors tour is going to be full of so many people wearing gowns and crowns because of this song!

15. Afterglow

I feel this song is so heavily underrated. I’ve barely seen anyone say that it’s on of the favourites from the album but as of now I really love this song. This song deserves way more hype than it’s currently getting as vocally Taylor sounds great plus lyrically it’s a good song too!

16. Me!

I like this song but it’s been played so solidly on radio since its release that with this album its just a skip song for me at the moment. If you listen to a mainstream radio station you’ll have absolutely heard this song at some point. However, having heard the rest of the album now I can completely see why Taylor chose this song to be first single from the album, its a nice nod into the new albums sound. Going to have to google why the lyric, ‘hey kids, spelling is fun’ has been ditched from the album version though.

17. It’s Nice To Have A Friend

To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of this song its just a little too out there for my taste in music. Its ok, but its probably going to be a song I’m always feel indifferent about. However, what I do like about this song is that Taylor sampled a youth music program so they’ll be getting royalties from this song which I think is an incredible way to ensure the future of youth music programs.

18. Daylight

I think Daylight is the perfect end to Lover. reputation was all about how her reputation got tarnished and Daylight sums up so wonderfully how those things will always have happened but you can move on from that and start trusting and loving people again. The voice memo at the end too, what a lovely touch! I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album end with a voice memo weaved in a song but it really should happen more. Taylor’s speeches on tour are one of the things I love the most so the addition of this is fantastic.

In conclusion I like this album. A few of the songs on this album are absolutely incredible songs. However, I always find that the complete change in sound on every Taylor Swift album always takes a little getting into. Despite saying this, at the time of writing this blog it was solely based on first listen, now I’ve listened to the album a fair bit now and I’m very happy to report the more you listen the more you will love this album! What starts off with you think this song is ok rapidly turns into wow, I love this song!

Have you listened to Lover yet? If so, what tracks are you loving?

 

 

Legendary – Stephanie Garber

Legendary starts just where Caraval ends, except this time it’s told from Tella’s point of view. To be honest, it took me a few chapters to get into reading from her point of view as the entirety of book one, Caraval, was told from her sisters.

Caraval usually runs once a year but this year thanks to a birthday gift it is running twice. Meaning that although Scarlett and Tella should be celebrating the win of the last Caraval, especially as it meant they were finally safe from their father and Scarlett’s impending arranged marriage. However, it is soon discovered that Tella still isn’t free as she made a deal with a stranger who she has no idea about their identity and the only way she can survive is to find out Caraval’s mysterious master, Legend’s name – a task that no one has ever been able to do before.

I feel that book two in a series has a certain amount of pressure to live up to especially if the first book in the series was as good as Caraval was. Well I’m very happy to report that Legendary met my high expectations! The author is very clever in her thinking for Legandary, it’s so obviously still in the same world as Caraval and you are reading about the same characters but it feels like a completely fresh book especially as you’re now reading from Tella’s point of view.

I loved the storyline. At the time of reading Caraval I thought it was more real life than a game but when you read Legendary you can see more clearly how Caraval actually was a game. Legendary is real life disguised as a game and that storyline is completely a game changer for this book. If Tella doesn’t win, it is no longer just a case of losing a game and not getting the prize at the end it is now a life or death scenario.

As I’ve mentioned before this book is from Tella’s point of view rather than Scarlett’s which book one was written. I think this is very beneficial for the story as you need to know about the deal that Tella made and her thoughts and feelings about it. You just wouldn’t get this from Scarlett’s point of view. I am very excited that book three in this series will be from both of the sisters point of view as I feel that both have so many unanswered questions or things that I’d like to read more about.

In conclusion, I love this series of books and it is rapidly becoming one my favourite book series. The story drags you headfirst into the world and you feel every single twist and turn. Book two keeps all the things you love about book one, for example that the characters are acting and you never know who is acting and who isn’t. Plus the ending of this book definitely kept me sat in utter disbelief for a very long time which can only be the sign of a good book. If you love young adult fantasy novels you must make a start of this series of books but I would highly recommend starting at book one, Caraval and making your way chronologically throughout the series.

Synopsis –

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.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

A few weeks ago I went to YALC and bought Finale, book number three in this series of books. Except I didn’t know other books existed when I bought it and I was captured enough by the blurb of that book to instantly buy it. Naturally, I’ve come home and downloaded the first two books in the series to read, the first in the series being Caraval. I have absolutely zero regrets about buying all this book series because it is so insanely good!

Caraval tells the story of Scarlett Dragna. She lives on a tiny island with her sister Tella and a pure evil father who tortures both of the siblings for the smallest wrong doing that they make. Now Scarlett’s father has planned an arranged marriage for her, she has to accept that this will now be her life and her dreams of attending Caraval are long over. However, this year Scarlett gets a personal invitation from the creator to attend the show and with help from her sister and a sailor they both find themselves on their way to participate in Caraval. Once they arrive on the island, Tella is kidnapped by the organiser Legend and it turns out that this year the person who is first to find Tella is the winner.

Caraval is sort of a cross between the magic of The Night Circus and the game element of The Hunger Games. A bizarre combination I must admit but that’s how in my opinion is the best way that I can describe this book. The magic element works so well and I like a book that weaves magic into a story but in such a believable way that you as a reader just accept it happening. As I also described this book as sort of like The Hunger Games its worth noting that violence does happen relatively frequently in this book so even though its a young adult book it’s definitely more on the older end of the scale.

What I enjoyed the most about this book is that despite Caraval being presented as a game, its very much based on real life situations, it isn’t a Crystal Maze situation with people running around getting crystals! Actors in the game interact with the players, the players may not necessarily be who they lead you to believe and the world provides twists and turns left right and centre. It keeps you as the reader completely on your toes as you find yourself experiencing the game through Scarlett’s eyes. Sometimes I was literally holding my breath and turning pages quicker than I could read to find out what happens as it just got so intense.

To be honest its hard to describe the characters as the only person you really know about is Scarlett. You’re reading the story from her point of view so you’re getting her thoughts and feelings. The game presents everyone else in a strange way, you never know when they’re lying or telling the truth, how much is really them or how much they’re acting. You really experience Scarlett’s emotions as she battles through life, starting with her father to trying to find her sister in the game to somehow falling in love along the way. Yes, perhaps she’s a little dramatic at times but when you consider what’s going on in the game around her its no wonder she acts like she does.

Truthfully this is one of the best young adult fantasy novels since Red Queen, a book which I absolutely adored. Caraval kept my attention from start to finish and with the cliff hanger of an ending I can’t wait to get started on book two in the series! If you like young adult fantasy novels this book is absolutely for you. If you do chose to read this book, I wouldn’t read about the story too much before you start as not knowing anything about the book makes the twists in the story even better!

Synopsis – 

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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 ac mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as the 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory

Gemma is at college, she has plenty of close friends she can rely on and for a teenager she has a fairly good home life. She’s a fan of country music and hopes to one day be the next big thing. That is, until Aaron comes along. He says all the right things and sweeps her off her feet. However, soon the I love you’s become very intense and the feeling that he cares for her turns very controlling instead.

Before you continue reading, I can’t write this without spoiling certain elements of the book so this review is 100% full of spoilers. However, please know if you have ever been in a controlling relationship this book absolutely is not for you!

First of all I got this book as it was July’s Wildest Dreams book box book. The cover made me think it was going to be a cute romance novel where things turn a tiny bit sour but boy I couldn’t have been further from the reality!

Admittedly, I rated this book as only 3 stars on Goodreads and I feel that may have been a little harsh. Truthfully I only rated it so low was not because it wasn’t a good book but because I spent most of the second part of the book absolutely in pieces. The way Aaron treated Gemma made me feel physically sick at times. Ok, he didn’t do anything physically abusive until the end but he was obsessively controlling, a manipulator…need I go on? My stomach churned more as I turned each page as the emotional damage Aaron caused Gemma got worse at the novel progressed. This book is genuinely a fantastic novel in terms of what it achieved and truly believe that everyone should read this book once. I appreciate that all those reasons should’ve made it a 5 star but I personally rated it quite low due to the fact that mentally I couldn’t read this book again.

Gemma is a wonderful character. It was interesting to see her grow as a character, how she had a tight knit friendship group, she was passionate about performing, she was a good student at college…then Aaron comes along and she falls head over heals in love with him. He’s cool, he drives, he whispers all the romantic things that she wants to hear…then his true personality shows. The more Aaron wears her down, the more Gemma’s personality is snubbed out. He completely puts out her spark and she starts to live in complete and utter fear of her life choices and the things she does in case it triggers a reaction. I’ve always had an issue when reading a good book that I get so invested in it, I basically end up mentally living the life of the main character I’m reading about. This meant that the more I read, the more drained I became. Aaron was not only wearing Gemma down but me too. I can’t even imagine how someone who has been in such a controlling relationship would cope reading this book as even if you haven’t I can’t imagine you can read it without being affected a little.

This brings me nicely onto the story itself. The book is split into two halves. Part one is when you see Gemma pre Aaron, you watch her life with normality. Then her and Aaron meet and he comes across as Prince Charming. Buying her gifts, saying romantic things to her…basically doing everything he can to appear to be the perfect boyfriend. As a reader I completely bought into the relationship. Then part two comes along and that’s when the fun begins. Slowly Aaron’s controlling ways start edging in, it starts at paranoia of Gemma cheating with literally any male that talks to her irrelevant of his age, to making Gemma turn against her family and friends. He basically makes Gemma isolate herself so when he turns fully controlling she has no one to turn to or anywhere to go. She is stuck with Aaron and his ways fearing her every move in case it triggers Aaron.

I can’t begin to describe how well wrote this book is. The author made the story completely believable and I was truly sucked into the story that was being told. I thoroughly enjoyed how the story was told from 90% Gemma’s perspective and 10% Aaron’s. The 10% of Aaron’s chapters gave you just enough insight on him for you to understand how his mind was working. I also feel that the whole controlling relationship in a young adult novel is particular important to write about too. I think so many young people may not be aware of the signs, just like Gemma wasn’t, and would really benefit from reading this book.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this book. Yes, it was a fantastic book. It was thought provoking, made me feel ill and caused me to read the entire book in only a couple of hours, and really is that not the signs of a good book? However, for me personally I wouldn’t read it again. The topics discussed were quite difficult to read about for me. Despite this, the book truly is a good read and I think if you can cope with a heavily controlling relationship storyline then you will absolutely love this book. As I mentioned earlier though I do believe that everyone should read this book once the way it presents this relationship is so believable and everyone should be aware of this kind of relationship.

Synopsis –

The tense, tender must-read book of the summer perfect for fans of Louise O’Neill and Sara Barnard

‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’ 

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. 

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.