Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Release Day Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber
Release: January 31, 2017
Goodreads  Amazon
Book Depository
Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a highly anticipated young adult release for 2017. In the past six months, I've seen this book floating around the internet nonstop and I've seen this pop up on countless "Most Anticipated" lists. Now that I've read it, I can say that Caraval does deserve all the anticipation. It's a fun and intriguing read that's firmly in the YA Fantasy genre while also being different enough to stand out. I really enjoyed it and now I'm highly anticipating the next book!

Below is my spoiler-free review of Caraval! Let us know if you're one of those who can't wait to get your hands on a copy!

Caravan by Stephanie Garber | Spoiler-Free Review

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  4.5 / 5 stars

Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic
(Shades of Magic #1)
V. E. Schwab
Release: February 24, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

I'm going to be upfront with the fact that I loved this strange little book so much! It's diverse, unique, and compelling! Magic, adventure, and danger are found on every page and I loved it so much! I was hooked from page one even though this time I was rereading it.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a story about blood magic and parallel Londons, smugglers and cross-dressing thieves, power struggles and unlikely friendships, forbidden tokens and a truly fabulous coat. And a promiscuous prince that would give Jack Harkness a run for his money. It's a story about Kell, who's gifted (and kind of cursed) with the magical ability to travel between worlds, and Lila, a genderfluid wannabe pirate who wants nothing more than to escape her city for an adventure. They meet in Grey London where Kell is on the run after he makes a big mistake. I'm not going to going into detail about the plot but be reassured that shenanigans and mishaps then ensue.

For me, the story was engrossing from the first but the pace builds up slowly over the first 150ish pages until you couldn't put this book down if you wanted to. The worldbuilding is amazingly complex and intriguing with its four parallel Londons that each have their own personalities and varying magic levels. I enjoyed every moment of losing myself in this world of dingy taverns and pretty palaces and the simple yet complex workings of the magic system. Schwab takes familiar fantasy tropes and turns them on their heads to create something that's not quite like anything I've read before.

The characters are what truly makes ADSOM such an amazing book. The main characters are polar opposites. Kell is reserved, responsible, and surprisingly layered but slightly careless as well. Lila is bold, clever, and seemingly fearless but she has a fragileness to her when you take a closer look. I love them both so much! They balance each other out and make an remarkable team. I loved watching them meet, butt heads, and grow to care for each other. Prince Rhy, Kell's brother, is flamboyant and fabulous and an overall cinnamon roll that I want to protect at all costs. I honestly don't know what to think about Holland, the brooding magical equivalent of Kell in White London. I am torn on whether I want to dislike him or to protect him. The villains of this story are, in my opinion, truly masterfully done and hella scary. They are the kind of evil that makes your blood run cold. I'd never want to run into them. Ever.

Schwab's writing is something else. I have loved everything of hers that I've read and I can say without a doubt that she continues to get better and better with each book she puts out into the world. She has a gradual way of sharing details about the world and character's backstories that keeps you hooked without being info dumpy. I love how she always writes the stories of the characters that are outsiders and don't quite fit into the boxes people would like to shove them in. That's my favorite thing about her stories actually.

ADSOM is everything I want in a fantasy novel: adventurous, magical, immersive, and exciting with a diverse set of characters and awesome worldbuilding. I had high expectations going into this book the first time I read it and I'm happy to say that it exceeded them. In fact, it's one of those books that holds up upon rereading more than once. It's a wonderful adventure that I think everyone should read.

Bravo, Ms. Schwab! Bravo!

  5 /5 Stars

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Tag: New Year's Reading Resolutions

Today, I'm going to be doing the New Years Reading Resolutions Book Tag. I originally saw this tag on Jesse the Reader and BooksandLala's channels. The tag itself was originally created by Charr Frears.

This tag is a fun way to share some of the books I want to read in 2017. I did put the additional restriction on myself that I had to use books from my TBR pile and no 2017 releases which is okay because I have a quite large pile of owned but unread books. So let's get on to the questions and I'll tell you about some of the books I want to get to this year.


1. An Author You'd Like To Read (That You've Never Read Before).
I'm kind of ashamed that I've never read anything by Alexandra Bracken before now especially since I've bought her books on kindle over the years as they've gone on sale. I even have her YA Star Wars book. But I'm going to remedy that this year by marathoning her Passenger duology. I've heard so many great things about these books that I'm excited to read them. Plus, they're time travel books!

2. A Book You'd Like To Read.
There's so many books I could use for this prompt. Truthwitch. A Gathering of Shadows. The Scorpio Races. Updraft. These Vicious Masks. I could keep on listing books but the one I'm going to use for this one is The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. My best friend got it for me for Christmas and he sold it to me as a "Regency Buffy who hunts demons". I'm totally sold on that premise!

3. A Classic You'd Like To Read.
One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was The Last Unicorn. I adored it and wore out my family's VHS copy. I've never read the book it's based on. I've read the graphic novel with it's lovely illustrations but never the book. And I've owned it for YEARS. I'm hoping to finally get to this one in 2017.

4. A Book You'd Like To Re-read.
I started Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series right after the fourth book came out in 2010. I loved everything about it and I've been waiting for book five ever since. And it's finally coming out! I'm planning on rereading the whole series before Thick As Thieves releases in May. I'm so excited to read these again! Eugenides, I have missed you!

5. A Book You've Had For Ages And Want to Read.
I have owned a copy of The Night Circus since it came out in paperback back in like 2012. I'm not sure why I haven't picked this up yet because I'm still excited for it years later. Hopefully, 2017 will be the year I get to mark this book as read on Goodreads. I recently picked up the audiobook on the recommendation of a friend who says it's fantastic. I can't wait to see what I think of it.

6. A Big Book You'd Like To Read.
Yeah... I still haven't read Winter. I know! I know! I've heard nothing but great things about it. I'm just not ready for the series to be over. I love it so much! That and it's been so long since Cress came out that I need to reread the first three books so I can remember everything. I tried to start this book last year and I was a bit lost because I had forgotten so much. This year I'm going to finally finish this series.

7. An Author You've Previously Read And Want To Read More Of.
I read my first Brian Selznick book last year and I adored it! If you haven't read The Marvels yet, you need to change that! I was so taken with that book that I immediately went and bought his other two books. I never got around to reading either of them but I'm planning on reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret for book club in April. I'm intrigued to see how his other books compare to The Marvels.

8. A Book You Got For Christmas And Would Like To Read.
I've heard nothing but excellent things about Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda so when I got in my #TBTBSanta exchange package for Christmas I was ecstatic! I can't wait to see why everyone loves this one! I hear it's adorable and it is a LGBTQ+ book. Yay! For diverse books! 


9. A Series You Want To Read (Start and Finish in 2017).
 One of my favorite movies in high school was Miyazaki's delightful and beautiful portrayal of Howl's Moving Castle. I adore it still. It was recently brought to my attention that the movie was based on a trilogy by Diana Wynne Jones. I got them for Christmas and I'm so excited to read them! I hope the book is as magical as the movie!

10. A Series You Want To Finish (That You've Already Started).
 I know I said I wasn't going to count 2017 releases in this tag but I'm going to make an exception for this tag. I read A Darker Shade of Magic when it came out in 2015 but haven't read A Gathering of Shadows. I've been waiting for the last book to come out before doing so thanks to some advice from some friends. I'm SO excited to finish this series this year! I want to know what happens!

11. Do You Set Reading Goals? If So, How Many Books Do You Want To Read In 2017?
 Officially, my Goodreads goal is set at 52 books which is a book a week but I'm hoping to read at least 150 books this year. Wish me luck!

12. Any Other Reading Goals?
I have two specific goals in mind. By the end of 2017, I want to have read every physical book I pre-ordered this year. I only have 16 so far and I've read two already so it shouldn't be too hard to do. My other goal is to reduce my physical TBR pile. As of this post, I have 233 unread books on my bookshelves. I'm hoping to get that number down to somewhere between 175 and 200. I'm participating in the #RockMyTBR reading challenge to help motivate myself to meet this goal.

What books do you want to read this year?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Theme Thursdays: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo


This year we're going to try something new that we hope will help us tackle our TBR piles and keep us motivated to complete our #RockMyTBR challenges. We're starting a new feature called Theme Thursdays! Each month, we'll review books from our respective TBRs that fit a theme we choose at the beginning of the month. January's theme is MAGIC

Crooked Kingdom
(Six of Crows #2)
Leigh Bardugo
Release: September 27, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

I know the Dregs say "No Mourners. No Funerals." but I'm kind of mourning the fact that I have to say goodbye to this series and these characters. I'm not sure my heart could take any more books in this series but I want there to be more. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that Leigh Bardugo will visit this world and these characters again at some point.

For Kaz Brekker and his crew, there's no rest for the wicked. After pulling off a heist that should have been impossible, they don't get the anticipated rest and retirement they were banking on. They have to fight and scheme some more after being cheated and deceived by Jan Van Eck, the merchant who initially hired them. First order of business, get Inej back from Van Eck while dodging others who are after their Shu scientist captive since parem’s existence has reached other lands. Ketterdam has found itself overrun with those who want control of the drug and they're all looking for Kaz and company. Just another day in the Barrel, am I right?

I loved that Crooked Kingdom started off running directly after the events of Six of Crows. And like the first book, there are twists and turns as Kaz and his ragtag gang of thieves try to get their revenge on Van Eck, free Inej, and keep jurda parem from becoming a more prevalent thing. Not all their plans run smoothly and that's the beauty of this book. When one roadblock would go up, I would anxiously wait to see if the gang would overcome or if it would finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say there were so many revelations that I didn’t really see coming. And even though I tried, I couldn't even begin to guess in what direction Kaz's scheming would go or what it would bring forth. I was constantly surprised. I'm pretty sure I almost had a heart attack reading most of this book.

The storyline was amazing but what really shined in this book were the characters. Leigh Bardugo continued to flesh out each of the main six and managed to add so much depth and more layers to each of them that I was amazed. Six of Crows introduced us to Kaz, Jesper, Wylan, Inej, Matthias, and Nina and their respective backgrounds but Crooked Kingdom is where they each had to confront and acknowledge certain things about themselves or their pasts. I loved seeing them figure out what they needed to overcome individually in order to move forward. And let me just say the Bardugo did not pull any punches. My heart still hurts.

Crooked Kingdom was an amazing conclusion to this duology. And while the direction it went in surprised me, I can't think of a better way for it to end. I seriously hope we’ll get to revisit these characters again in the future.

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Underrated Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate. 

This week's topic is our Favorite Underrated Books.

5. The Midnight Breed Series by Lara Adrian
You know those series you see in the Amazon recs of your favorite series that you think look interesting but you haven't heard much about? That's how the Midnight Breed books were for me. I'd seen them in my Amazon recs for years before I finally binge read the series in 2016. I loved it! It's a little slow starting but it puts a completely different spin on the vampire mythos. Two words completely changed everything up: Vampiric Aliens. Seriously, the vampires are from space and it is amazing!

4. The Blud Series by Delilah S. Dawson
I don't know why more people haven't read these. They're so good! They're the strange vampire steampunk portal fantasy books I never knew I needed until I picked them up. Also, everyone needs to meet Criminy Stain for themselves.

You can check out our RTFB post on the series here.

3. The Black Blade Trilogy by Jennifer Estep
You all know that we love Jennifer Estep here on the Goldilox blog. We're always hearing tons of great things about her Elemental Assassin books. Don't get me wrong. I think that series is great but, at the same time, I think that her YA series is seriously underrated. It's about magical mob families and monsters and has a thief as the main character. How is it as underrated as it is? The story is great and the characters are even better! More people need to read these books.

Our Reviews of this Series:
Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep
Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep
Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

2. The Edge Series by Ilona Andrews
The Ilona Andrews writing duo is best known for their Kate Daniels series and while I love those books, I don't think their Edge series gets enough hype. They're more romance heavy than the Kate books and actually follow more of a paranormal romance format with each book focusing on a different couple than most urban fantasy books. The magic system is awesome but it's just a small part of a truly amazing and expansive world. I adored these books and think more people should read them.

Our RTFB post on this series can be found here.

1. The Heartstrikers Series by Rachel Aaron
I'm not going to lie. I'm going to use buzzwords to get across why you should read this series. Post-Apocalyptic Magical Detroit. Dragons. Commercialized magic. Soul-sucking ghost cats. Shenanigans. What more could you want in a series?

Our RTFB post on the first book can be found here.

What books do you think are underrated?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Release Day Review: The Last True Hero by Bec McMaster

The Last True Hero

(Burned Lands #2)
Bec McMaster
Release: January 24, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the author
Sometimes the monsters aren't so easy to see...

In the drought-stricken Wastelands that arose out of an apocalypse, Adam McClain never thought himself the hero. Kicked out of the town he created, and shunned by his friends and former allies when they discovered what he was, he's managed to find work as a bounty hunter. After all, who better to hunt the wargs and reivers that haunt the Badlands, than one of the monsters themselves?

She's the woman he can't have...

Mia Gray learned the hard way that men can't be trusted, and when McClain strides into her bar she knows that trouble just walked in. The rugged bounty hunter is her greatest weakness–but he's hiding something, and the last time a man kept secrets from her, she got her fingers burned. Tempting as he is, Mia's staying far away.

But when a horde of reivers strikes her town and captures her sister, the only one Mia can turn to is McClain. Together they might just be able to rescue her sister, but what will happen when Mia learns of the secret McClain is hiding? Can she ever trust him again? And when the man who broke Mia's heart in the first place discovers the same secret, will McClain survive?

When I read Nobody's Hero, the first book in the series, last year I was impressed with the post-apocalyptic world, but I felt like there were times when the story dragged. That's not unusual for a first book in a series - they just have too many things to set up. I think book two is much tighter and I really liked the additions McMaster made to the world building.

We get to see much more of the continent, and actually figure out which continent it is - I wasn't sure before, when McClain and Mia lead a group through the ruins of  Las Vegas to rescue the townsfolk. It reminded me of those moments watching The 100 when you know more about the location than the characters do. I also thought of the show when they mentioned mole people living in underground bunkers.

Unlike that show, the book also has a western feel at times. The things we learn about the eastern states, called The Confederacy, made me think of the early 19th century era of Manifest Destiny, though they also have futuristic technology. I would love to see one of the books in the series explore that part of the continent.

But enough about the world and its influences, even though I have yet to mention the Mad Max moments with the reivers, because this is a romance series. And it's one obsessed with the heroes' redemption. We met Adam McClain in the previous book where he was not exactly a villain, but definitely a rival. He was turned into a warg (werewolf) by the same man who turned Lucas, the hero of book one. That led to Adam and Lucas, one time partners and best friends, having a falling out. Though they reconcile, nearly everyone else in Adam's life turned against him when they discovered what he was. It was easier than I expected to see him as a hero though. And Mia, despite being competent from the beginning, really discovers her badass side.

McMaster also sets up the main character for book three, who's even more in need of redemption than McClain. I'm hoping to get to explore even more of this fascinating world, maybe see some of the places, like the bunkers, that were mentioned in this book.

McMaster recaps the events of Nobody's Hero pretty thoroughly so you wouldn't need to read book one in order to follow the story. However, you might want to read it first to avoid spoilers.

Recommended for fans of: The 100, Defiance


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