Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy; Magic; Romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Remember, it’s only a game… Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they 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. Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
Review: This book was recommended to me by a friend. We’d read The Night Circus together and she’d heard this was the next best thing. I LOVED Caraval. The magic and twists and suspense was out of this world. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here. My favorite part of this book was how Garber wrote her characters. As a reader, you can’t trust anything Scarlett thinks and feels and the writing style adds so much to that. Everything, even the ending (OMG!) is written with a dramatic flair. From character development to setting the scene, this book is a sheer delight.
Title: Of Triton [Book II/III]
Author: Anna Banks
Genre: Fantasy; Shapeshifting; Mermaid; Romance; Myth
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Emma has just learned that her mother is a long-lost Poseidon princess, and now struggles with an identity crisis: As a Half-Breed, she’s a freak in the human world and an abomination in the Syrena realm below. Syrena law states that all Half-Breeds should be put to death. As if that’s not bad enough, her mother’s reappearance among the Syrena turns the two kingdoms—Poseidon and Triton—against one another. Which leaves Emma with a decision to make: Should she comply with Galen’s request to keep herself safe and just hope for the best? Or should she risk it all and reveal herself—and her Gift—to save a people she’s never known?
Review: Part 2 of The Syrena Legacy, ‘Of Triton’ continues the story of Galen and Emma, entrenched in a family scandal that was before their time. Romeo & Juliet like love with a sense of duty and glory, this YA sequel is a fun and fast read with a dash of romance and coming of age adventure. The main characters and secondary characters take on a whole new set of problems, but the author’s writing invites you to continue on with them, despite the angst, fear, and mystery that surrounds them. Mermaid stories, like werewolf stories, always draw me in, and this continuation doesn’t disappoint!
Title: Cinder [Book I/IV]
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fantasy; Scifi; Retelling
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived. But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
Review: A new take on a classic fairytale. I loved this retelling of Cinderella. First, I loved that the main characters were POC. It’s rare to find Asian characters in retellings of classic fairytales, so I was very excited to get Cinder and Kai from New Beijing. This is a dystopian story, so there’s a lot of drama and a lot of upheaval. You’ll read this and hate the stepmother, love the sister, and love Cinder, just like in the original Cinderella, but you’ll keep reading because there’s so much more to it. Kai isn’t just a prince that stumbles into love at first sight, and Cinder isn’t a helpless princess-in-ruins. She’s powerful and smart and the best mechanic in New Beijing. She’s not the helpless maid of the original story, waiting for a fairy godmother to come save her, she’s an independent badass who is going to save the world.
Who run the world?
Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy; Magic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. Until one day, he does… As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
Review: I read this book before leaving for summer vacation last year and fell in love with the fantasy genre again. I hadn’t read much in this genre since Harry Potter and then realized how much I loved it (hence why I have a TON of fantasy books on this blog). Hazel is a fun character to follow. She acts like a typical teenage girl — and I think I’d know, since I’ve been one and work with them on the daily). You’ll be interested to know that this is more than just a story about a teenage girl. This is about a character who wants to save the world. It’s got magic and a bit of romance and a bit of drama and then more magic.
Hazel becomes the knight she once pretended to be in order to save everything she knows and the ones she loves. The faeries aren’t always the benevolent sprites that grant wishes and leave a trail of glitter in their wake – sometimes they want to cause harm, create mischief. Sometimes girls like Hazel need to remind them of the power of humanity.
: Three Dark Crowns [Book I/II]
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Fantasy; Magic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. This book switches POVs (points of view) to follow each queen for a chapter or two before moving on, which allows us to learn a little about the personalities of each of the queens before we pick a queen to root for at Beltane. Each one is different, but all of them are fun and engaging. Throughout the book, you meet a series of side characters that help each queen become who she is. I’m definitely on Team Arsinoe!
You have to read to the very last page…
Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Fantasy; Retelling
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
Review: I read this book on the train to New York City last winter. It was totally engaging and I loved the lead’s sidekick, Erg. A little bit of magic, a little bit of suspense, a little confusing, this story was beautifully written. Based on a Russian folktale, it’s got a lot of lore and wonderful plot points.
This is seriously on my list of favorite books of all time. Sarah Porter crafts a pretty fantastic story about an outcast that has to save the world. The story is just plain beautiful, and the mystery and power that’s wrapped around the tale had me going back to reread sections just to kind of marvel at it. Lame? Maybe, but I feel no shame.
Title: Prince of Wolves [Book I/V in the Grey Wolves Series]
Author: Quinn Loftis
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Jacque Pierce was just an ordinary 17-year-old girl getting ready to start her senior year in high school in Coldspring, Texas. When a mysterious foreign exchange student from Romania moves in across the street, Jacque and her two best friends, Sally and Jen, don’t realize the last two weeks of their summer are going to get a lot more interesting.
Review: This is a fast and easy read for those of you interested in finding something fun. If you liked Twilight, you’ll like this. If you didn’t like Twilight because you hated Bella, you’ll also like this. In fact, while I’m not SURE about it, I think this could be a fanfic based on Twilight. There is a main lead, (Jacque/Bella) with two girl friends (Jen/Rose; Sally/Alice), and three boys (Fane/Edward; Decebel/Emmett; Costin/Jasper). If that’s your jam, go for it. If it isn’t, don’t be turned away by this — this is a good shapeshifting novel series that are all free on iBooks / Android library!
I selected it for that very reason — a free iBook is not something I easily dismiss when I’m scrolling through at midnight looking for an easy read. The werewolf / shapeshifter trope is a particular favorite of mine, so I always click “Download.” Sometimes this works against me, but not with this series. While the characters aren’t given a ton of amazing character development, Jacque is a more developed lead than Bella ever was — given a strength and foundation that makes her feel real. The love story is cute and very high school -esque, but it’s a YA shapeshifter, so it’s exactly what I was expecting.
The dynamic between the friendships is strong and beautiful, there’s no betrayal or jealously between Jacque, Jen, and Sally, just an easy friendship that kind of ties the whole story together.