If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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Title:
The Names They Gave Us

Author: Emery Lord
Publication date: May 16, 2017
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: e-ARC from Netgalley; physical ARC blogger exchange

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of Emery Lord

When summer hits, my “READ ALL THE CONTEMPORARY BOOKS” alarm goes off. From there I’m in the world of swoons, tears, laughter, and sometimes heartache. And when I want to read the most realistic and heart-fulfilling contemporary book, I always turn to the QUEEN OF CONTEMPORARY WRITERS, Emery Lord. Emery Lord is one of my favorite contemporary authors, at least in my top three, so suck it (Pam Beasley quote there, sorry, I had to do it). And once again Emery’s words have made my eyes water, my heart ache, and my soul feel like it needs a giant hug. So friends and fellow book lovers, I’m going to tell you this now, Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us is going to put you on an emotional, reading roller coaster but luckily there is the comfort of campfires and s’mores to warm up the pages. 

One of my favorite parts about reading Emery’s books are how relatable her characters are. Once again she has created a main character, Lucy, who is realistically flawed and easy to connect with.  Throughout The Names They Gave Us, Lucy questions her motives and choices when it comes to awkward, stressful, and guarded social situations. As the daughter of a preacher, she questions God but at the same feels shameful with her intentions. Although it’s heartbreaking to a see Lucy struggle throughout the pages, it is also reassuring to see a character encounter and confront the unfair realities of life. 

I don’t want to give too much away from this book’s plot, because I honestly think, everyone will come into this book with differing world views and then leave this book with a different emotional contemplation. The Names They Gave Us is not a “cancer” book, but the novel does bring in the emotional charge that comes with cancer: a brutal black hole that inevitably swallows up happiness and light. The solidity of cancer tests the main character’s willpower, her faith, her family, her friends, and her future. In The Names They Gave Us, cancer is the driving force that sets the main character on a new path: a path that brings her to a summer camp which helps her meet a diverse group of people, adapt to new beginnings, and a new perspective on life.

At camp, Lucy is able to “people watch,” ponder and observe past lives and choices, and contemplate her own future. Overall, this novel is an emotional package about self-discovery, forming meaningful friendships, and finding ways to emotionally cope and face difficult situations. In The Names They Gave Us, Emery writes with such raw passion and puts so much courage and sincerity in her characters; in the end, she has created a story about honesty, compassion, forgiveness, and fully living. 

In The Names They Gave Us, there’s a part where the young camp counselors gather around a campfire and discuss their highs and lows of the week. So I thought I would break the rest of my review down into the high and lows of the book. The highs are my most beloved topics that the Emery Lord touches on and lows are self-explanatory.  

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Biracial relationships.
Teen pregnancy.
Lucy and Henry Morris Jones IV
Stories within stories.
“Posy and the Dreaming Tree”

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cancer sucks
Cancer Sucks!
CANCER SUCKS!
CANCER REALLY SUCKS!
CANCER REALLY, REALLY SUCKS!!!

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NOTE: Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury  for providing me an e-galley/e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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Title:
A Million Junes

Author: Emily Henry
Publication date: May 16, 2017
Publisher:  Razorbill
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy 
Format: e-ARC from Penguin’s First to Read site

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of A Million Junes

Last year, Emily Henry’s debut novel, The Love That Split the World, won me over. It was beautifully written, the story was intense and intriguing, and honestly that book still sits well in my heart. And you guys, Henry’s new novel, A Million Junes, is just as impeccable. The novel is a meshing of generational curses, smart and quick-witted dialogue, and eccentric magic.

In A Million Junes, Emily Henry’s words are lyrical. She writes at such an elegant and wistful pace that I often forgot I was reading a book. Not only do her words melodically carry you through a world that merges reality and fantasy, but her writing transcends you into alternate worlds where memories exist by the seed of a dandelion. Henry’s storytelling took me on a collision course of in-between worlds that carry the reminisced emotions of comfort, laughter, heartache, and sorrow. A Million Junes is mesmerizing and thought-provoking and truly a gem to read. 

In reference to the main character, Jack “June” O’Donnell IV often wears her heart on her sleeve. Her sarcasm and wit have no filter, which carries well-needed humor in a story that is filled with grief and haunting despair. June’s attitude and opinions change as the story progresses, and I like that her growth is driven by both emotion and reason. And when this sassy, passionate teenager meets Saul, an enemy to her family, I love that June’s world is set into a whirlwind of challenges and transformation. 

The friendship that develops between June and Saul is beautifully weaved through white lies, snarky jokes, and good rapport. Their chemistry and fast-paced repartee are both heartwarming and hilarious. After their first encounter with one another, I wanted every page dedicated to their conversations. EVERY! SINGLE! PAGE! 

After reading A Million Junes, I hugged the book to my heart. I am 100% sure that this book will be one of those novels that I reread, because I will forever want that enchanting feeling back in my soul. I truly think A Million Junes will be my cure for future reading slumps. I love that this book exists and I love what it stands for. A Million Junes carefully situates two characters in a familial feud that darkens the pages with curses and haunting memories, but, in the end, it manifests that sorrow into experiences of forgiveness and moving forward.

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NOTE: Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read program for providing me an e-galley/e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted 
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publication date: March 14, 2017
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Format: Physical ARC

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of hunted

Hunted is the fairy tale that I want to read to my future children. It is the retelling that I want every girl to read, and realize, “when the world pushes me down, I can lift myself up.” The author, Meagan Spooner, has molded a beloved classic story, “Beauty and the Beast,” and has shaped it into a book where Beauty (Yeva), a beloved sister and a devoted daughter, sets out into a wilderness where only beasts are guaranteed to survive. And as the heroine of the tale, Beauty is a fighter: a fierce, fearless, and determined woman with a good heart and a quick reflex to persevere. 

One of my favorite aspects of Hunted is the pacing. The story does not move too quickly, with one action domino-ing into a quick reaction. But the story also does not linger with the slow steady steps to a happily ever after ending. Instead, Spooner’s “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, purposely chimes like a steady hand playing Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune.” Spooner’s words hit all the high and low notes at the precise duration and location. The book reads like a sheet of music with a steady and heart-lifting tone. 

I also enjoyed how Hunted bridges the reader between reality and the enchanted unknown. As snow hides and blankets the pawed-footprints of a predator, the wind whispers the sad melodies of cursed beasts and creatures who yearn to be saved even if the risk of death lingers in between the whirlwind of snowflakes. Spooner creates a fantastical world that is both pleasing and awe-inspiring to the senses. The world of Hunted smells of musky fur, tastes of crisp air, and crunches with the sound of dried pine needles, all while the sharp bitter frost aches your bones. And although the Beast’s forest is wild and his castle is crumbling, I loved that it is Beauty’s presence that tames his surroundings into a eyeopening world of loyalty, understanding, and compassion.  

This novel will make you believe that magic and fairy stories are real. Hunted is assorted with a dynamic cast of characters; characters who are vulnerable, feral, bewitched, haunted, or even tricksters. The world-building is lush and the characters are so sharp and primitive. I loved every aspect of Hunted, and I cannot wait for readers and dreamers to experience it. 

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NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I received this physical ARC copy through a blogger exchange. I reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

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Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication date: March 7, 2017
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Format: e-ARC/Netgalley

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


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This is a story about a girl named Tea.
No, not like the drink, but “Tey-uh,” instead.
She loved her brother, Fox, so much, that she raised him from the dead.

Now necromancy is not a praised trick.
Instead of being in awe of her magic,
Her village called her a bone witch.

Though her witchcraft could help heal sickness and hearts,
A bone witch was feared most of all,
Because no one understands their darkness and their art.

Tea is forced to leave her village, family, and friends.
She is taken under the wing of another bone witch,
Where she starts a new life with a darkening power to spin.

Summoning the dead can be seductive and dark.
Tea is told by strangers that she is soulless from the start.
But our heroine is fierce and remains protective over her heart.   

With the rare gift of death magic, Tea can control others’ minds.
She has the ability to conquer monsters, dragons, the Faceless, and spies. 
But her gift comes with limitations, and love and trust is not easy to find. 

Although this story is very slow in pace,
It is the love interests that might keep you vested and make your heart race.
Or maybe you will fall for the boy who loves to dance and dress in lace.   

Tea’s story is filled with twists and turns; a bewitching tale so deep.
She’s infatuated with a Prince, so prepare yourself for a romance that slowly reaps. 

And I promise you this, when you begin The Bone Witch, you will find no time to sleep. 

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NOTE: Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire  for providing me an e-galley/e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.

ARC Review: Cashmere by Temple West

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Title: CASHMERE
Author: Temple West
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: In Medias Res Publications
Pages: 460
Genres:  Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Synopsis:

This high-stakes sequel to Velvet proves that when you’re the only human caught in a paranormal war, high school can get a little tricky. With Adrian’s brother trapped in hell, the Praetorian Guard has made Stony Creek their base-of-operations, but Caitlin has a bad feeling they’re more interested in her than in finding Lucian. Caught in a sea of conspiracies and lies, Caitlin and Adrian perform a risky magical procedure in an attempt to protect Caitlin from compulsion.

Relieved that her nightmares have ended, Caitlin is disturbed to find that something even stranger has taken their place.

Determined to get on with her life, even amid a crazy paranormal manhunt, she applies for a competitive summer fashion internship in New York. Searching desperately for answers about what Caitlin might be, how Adrian’s father is involved, and where Lucian has been kidnapped to, Caitlin and Adrian must rely on each other to survive. But when the truth finally comes to light, the consequences are unimaginable.

And the question still haunts them both: even if they survive, how will they deal with the fact that Adrian is immortal and Caitlin is not?

Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Rants and Raves of Cashmere

You know how some people think that vampire books are overrated, especially young adult vampire books? Well, those people are wrong. When I go into fantasy or paranormal books, I’m always looking for three things: 1. Well-developed characters; 2. Great world-building; and 3. Originality–and the possibility of a new spin on old ideas. Temple West’s Velvet series has all of these qualities, and Cashmere, the second book to Caitlin and Adrian’s love story, does not disappoint.

As an avid follower of Temple West’s social media accounts, I could definitely tell West puts a lot of herself in her writing. She’s creative, a designer, a storyteller, and someone that wants to give the world a badass heroine worth rooting for. Yes, the main character, Caitlin, has her flaws, but what teenager doesn’t. Caitlin’s character shines more brightly when she is stubborn, ranting, and articulating her next move. Even if that next move is mending a friendship, designing her prom dress, or understanding the role she plays in the paranormal world she is currently accepting as reality. Caitlin is a “think-before-I-act” type of person, which makes me love her even more.

I like West’s writing, because she writes with a rhythm that allows you to get lost in her words and world-building. In Cashmere, she puts you in the characters’ heads, and you get the grit, the raw emotions, and even the messed up dreams that might characterize your subconscious as a Star Trek character (HAHAHA). I do not know how West does it, but she can take the most scary and uncomfortable scenes and add a dash of silliness that equates into the most powerful and memorable chapter.

In Cashmere, West brings back a lot of familiar characters from Velvet, but she also introduces some new characters. Kalare is definitely my new favorite character. Kalare adds so much sass and smarts to each scene she is in. This girl can rock a leather jacket, a designer dress, and some hilarious sarcasm.

The main rant I have about the book is that I thought some of the chapters could have been condensed. Some scenes, close to the end of the book, run too long for my comfort. I love when action, even if it is the characters plotting their next move, carries the flow of the story. However, sometimes I found the story stuck and I wanted to skip to the next chapter (I might just be a little impatient, hahaha). Overall, I really enjoyed Cashmere and the unique vampire twist West has given her series. Now I need book three! 

NOTE: Thank you to Temple West for providing me an e-ARC of Cashmere. I was not asked to write or promote a review of the book. To see my original post as a host for the Cashmere blog tour, in which I shared an excerpt and my favorite quotes, go HERE. All statements and opinions stated in this post are my own.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: ARC Review of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publication date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Format: e-ARC from Netgalley

About the book:

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


Rants and Raves of Wintersong

Once again, another 2017 debut novel has bewitched me, and this time I have been enchanted by Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. Set up as a retelling of Labyrinth, I interpreted Wintersong more as a mashup of Christina Rossetti’s cautious poem “Goblin Market,” the fierceness of “Beauty and the Beast,” with sparks of Jane Eyre‘s “plain-Jane-with-an-independent-will” shadowing the burning flames of Liesl and the Goblin King’s story. I don’t say this lightly, but after reading this novel, I just wanted to shout, “F!!!!CK, this book is so good!” 

First, I loved the storyline and pacing of Wintersong. After devouring 150 pages in one sitting, and noticing that the book was 448 pages long, I slowed my reading speed in order to savor the story a little longer. S. Jae-Jones writing is so beautiful and engaging. I really enjoyed how her writing illuminated such strong passion and raw affection on the page. I personally found her storytelling and characters leaving more than a story buzzing in my ear. In my case, Liesl and the Goblin King haunted my dreams, whispered in my thoughts, and begged that I finish their story whenever I put the book down.

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Liesl and the Goblin King’s relationship is not set up as any typical young adult trope. Instead of instant-love, these two characters carried a flame for each other since their youth, where they laughed, danced, and played music in the Goblin Grove. And as they grow older, their infatuation for one another remained an ember slowly bursting into flames of desire. Their relationship is filled with anger, misunderstandings, tenderness, excitement, and such intense devotion. The chemistry between these two characters is breathtaking–it cracks, it sizzles, and it purrs. They are two independent beings, eager to please themselves and each other. 

In the end, I found Wintersong to be a vibrant story about caution, close family bonds, sacrifice, fiery passion, trust, and love. Although the ending is left open-ended, I would love to read a sequel. I’m being selfish here, because I want more Liesl and the Goblin King! (Sorry not sorry.) I cannot recommend this novel enough. If you enjoy the intense and complicated relationships portrayed in Victorian novels, a dash of German language, crossing the blurred lines between fantasy and reality, and the slow burn of two characters connecting in a novel, Wintersong is the perfect book before you. 

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

NOTE: Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas Dunne for providing me an e-galley/e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: ARC Review of Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Format: ARC, gifted from friend

About the book:

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

A mesmerising, magical and stunningly imaginative debut novel for anyone who loved The Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


Rants and Raves of Caraval

Hello, my name is Cassie, and I am a Caraval addict…I mean fanatic. I have read Caraval by Stephanie Garber twice, and I’m utterly, unbelievably in love with the characters, the story, and the world–anything and everything Caraval. I honestly feel like I was bewitched by this book; Garber uniquely captivates her reader with gritty emotions, enchanting sentences, and the most vivid images of luster and love.

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Caraval is a book that will charm you from the first page. Along with a collection of letters to and from a game-master named Legend, Scarlett and Tella’s story starts off as weary and cautious, but blooms into a world where darkness hides mischief, and magic awaits every corner. Throughout my reading experience, my mind was whirled with thoughts of endless enchantment and ominous whispers. There were so many unexpected twists and turns that I honestly did not see coming. If you are a fan of surprises and mystery, you will love this book.

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From the well-paced storyline to the dynamic characters to the setting that I’m dying to visit, Caraval is a strange, bewitching, and fantastical read. Caraval is about magic, but more importantly, this book emanates and breathes magic while you’re reading it. Garber’s storytelling transfixed me in a carnival game filled with wishes and desires, and I personally dream to be a player in Legend’s carnival game depicted in this thrilling, haunting, and overall mesmerizing world.

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I loved Caraval most of all because it’s a story with limitless possibilities. It is a story about sisters. A tale of escapism. A nose-dive adventure into forming new friendships, finding trust, and understanding love. And, it is a story about conquering dares, taking chances, and fully living. Overall, I cannot rave enough about how much I enjoyed Caraval. This book may end up being one of my favorite reads of 2017, and I very much look forward to revisiting this world in the sequel. 

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NOTE:  I received this ARC from a friend. I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review; I reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.