Caraval: 2.8

Author: Stephanie Garber
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Rating: 2.8/5

“Hope is a powerful thing.  Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether.  Elusive, difficult to hold on to.  But not much is needed.”

– Stephanie Garber, Caraval

The premise of a magical carnival where dreams come true, of a dangerous world of enchantment and mystery, seemed almost too good to be true.  Sisters Scarlett and Tella have never left the island they call home, but they have dreamed of attending Caraval for years.  Caraval is an annual audience participation show of the highest order.  The winner receives a wish, and nothing is what it seems.

When a friend told me about the premise for this book, I was all in.  I couldn’t even wait to drive to the bookstore.  I quite literally purchased the audiobook and started listening to it on the way home.  At first, I thought maybe it was slow to pick up, but I stopped listening once I got home and decided to pick it back up in the morning.  So, Day One, I listened to about the first thirty minutes of the audiobook.  For the record, Rebecca Soler did an amazing job with the narration, emotion, pacing, and is one of the main reasons I was able to trudge through this book.

I just… I don’t understand how something with so much action and promise could fall so flat.  Quite literally.  The characters were static, the action was mediocre, and the world building was subpar at best.  I loved the idea more than the actual product.  Maybe it’s because I had such high expectations from the start, but I was sadly disappointed by this story.  Even the romance was sweet, but so unrealistic that I felt I couldn’t get lost in the story.  To be clear, the writing was beautiful.  It was the depth of the story itself that fell so far from expectations.

I sincerely apologize for the short and vague review.  I try to avoid spoilers, and the disappointment is still too fresh.  Even writing this makes me sad.

Do you agree? Want to change my mind? Comment below! Maybe there’s something I missed the first time around.

Rebel Belle: 3.8

Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Rating: 3.8

“If Dr. Dupont hadn’t been a total drama queen and raised the sword with both hands, he might have actually killed me.  He certainly wouldn’t have ended up giving me the opening he did.
Because while his arms were high over his head, about to bring the sword down, I pushed myself off the floor and into a spin, the high heel clutched in hands, sharp point out.”

– Rachel Hawkins, Rebel Belle

Y’all, as a proud southern belle, I was more excited for this book than a perfect pitcher of sweet tea. Too much? Okay, maybe. I did grow up in a big city, and honestly, I hate sweet tea. Please don’t take my belle card away.  Here, have some lemonade.

Seriously, though, Harper is the protagonist I needed growing up. She manages to be a lady in the streets and the ultimate ninja in a fight. This is a book for all of the girls whose mothers made them attend cotillion instead of knife throwing classes. You CAN have it all. (That’s right Maman, I’m calling you out.)

Essentially, Harper Price is the quintessential homecoming queen who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes endowed with pseudo-super powers.  Then she finds out that she’s honor and magically bound to protect the guy that she’s hated since she was in diapers.  What’s not to love about this storyline? You’ve got the teenage angst, the ultimate independent female protagonist, and the promise of some great action scenes.

I wish I could have ordered my copy with the angst on the side.  The fact that I was so excited for this book made all of the exaggerated stereotypes so much more disappointing.  I loved the idea of Harper Price, but in reality she was a little annoying. Her relationships with everyone in her life are so superficial that I couldn’t let it go throughout the entire book. And the sequel. Look, I’m a book junkie, sometimes I just HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

Even her relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan, at the beginning of the book made me want to cringe.  And vomit.  And pray that I was never like that in high school.  I mean, seriously, who dates someone because they check off a box?  I understand that Rachel Hawkins fit in this relationship as part of Harper’s character arc, to show how she grows as a person.  Harper was originally all about the perception and being perfect, and blah, blah, blah.  How much more heartless and cliché can you get?

It’s a great beach read, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something to pass the time, but it’s nothing special.  I had no problem putting it down when I had other matters to attend, which probably says all that you need to know.

Do you agree? Want to change my mind? Comment below! Maybe there’s something I missed the first time around.

The Cruel Prince: 4.3

The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Rating: 4.3/5

“Maybe Oriana isn’t entirely wrong to worry that we might one day get caught up in it, be carried away by it, and forget to take care.  I can see why humans succumb to the beautiful nightmare of the Court, why they willingly drown in it.”

Holly Black, The Cruel Prince

Allow me to begin by explaining that I am a newer fan of Holly Black’s work. I never had the pleasure of reading The Spiderwick Chronicles growing up, and BOY does the rich world building of The Cruel Prince make me regret that. Black’s vivid descriptions bring the fae to life in a way that makes the reader both yearn and fear their world.

Perfectly imperfect, Jude’s character is a breath of fresh air. Her naïveté is realistic, and I found myself agreeing with her decisions. Jude is a kick-butt independent young lady who is rational and works well with others. She’s passionate, strong, intelligent, loyal, and one of my new favorite protagonists.

Jude and her twin sister Taryn are humans who were raised in a fae world.  There’s this whole thing about their human mother being a runaway fae bride, and then being murdered by her fae husband. Because men.  Well, she also faked her death and ran away with his human blacksmith, successfully cuckolding him, but she didn’t deserve to die.  Aside from being, well, a murderer, Madoc is actually really honorable, and takes Jude and Taryn to live with him.  After he kills their parents.  He also takes their half-sister Vivi, who is actually his child.

I loved Jude’s character.  She could be a bit rough at times, but Ms. Black made it very clear that it was a necessary trait in the dangerous world she inhabits.  She was wonderfully refreshing as an independent protagonist, especially when so many protagonists portray a false sense of independence.  Jude was very much her own person, and I enjoyed seeing her go toe to toe with the fae.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other prominent female characters. Oriana plays a damsel in distress, Vivi a rebellious teenager, and Taryn… well Jude’s twin is certainly the yin to her yang. Despite the intricate novelty of the world that Ms. Black has crafted, the stereotypes of these remaining female characters are tired.

I would argue that the only real character growth we see in this book is Cardan, the cruel prince himself, and even that is debatable. Ms. Black considerably shifts the key roles of the character’s around, but for better of worse, their personalities remain static.

Stylistically, everything from the world building to the story arc was brilliant. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Wicked King when it comes out in 2019. It was the lack of growth in characters and boring stereotypes that left the story wanting. Is it worth reading?

Absolutely. Should you clear your schedule? Not so much.

Do you agree? Want to change my mind? Comment below! Maybe there’s something I missed the first time around.