Caraval: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Caraval by Stephanie GarberScarlett and her younger sister Tella grew up hearing their grandmother reminisce about visiting Caraval as a young woman. Scarlett writes to Legend every year hoping against hope that he might bring Caraval back to the small island of Trisda in the Conquered Isles.

When tickets to Caraval finally arrive, Scarlett knows she won’t be able to go. Not when being prepared for her upcoming arranged marriage, which can free Tell and herself from their abusive father, is far more pressing. Except impetuous Tella has other plans and recruits a disreputable sailor to help bring Scarlett to the magical show.

Caraval is meant to be a game and a decadent diversion for both players and spectators. But Tella’s disappearance is very real and, Scarlett soon realizes, central to this year’s game.

As Scarlett tries desperately to follow the clues to her sister, the dangers of the supposed show become very real. If she fails to find Tella and win the game, Scarlett risks losing her sister forever in Caraval (2017) by Stephanie Garber.

Caraval is Garber’s debut novel and the first book in a series. The book is written in close third person following Scarlett’s perspective. Although the epilogue promises  twists and adventures in future installments, this novel functions for the most part as a standalone.

Garber’s vibrant descriptions bring the whimsical and dangerous elements of Caraval to life as Scarlett begins to discover the wonders to be found in a place where secrets can become currency and time can be bought and sold.

Scarlett is a cautious and timid heroine for much of Caraval. She has spent years trying to shelter her sister from their father’s calculated abuse and manipulations. Scarlett’s primary concerns are safety and distance from her father. Love, adventure, and all of the things Tella craves feel secondary if not entirely superfluous in comparison.

Caraval features a varied array of characters and some romance but this novel remains surprisingly introspective in its focus on Scarlett’s own journey toward autonomy and agency. A few predictable twists and some unexpected turns serve as a strong backdrop for Scarlett’s growth as she realizes she is the victim of her father’s abuse, not the cause. As Scarlett moves deeper into the machinations of Caraval she begins to correct her earlier mistakes both in the game and in her own life while learning to trust her instincts.

Caraval is a thrilling and evocative fantasy sure to appeal to readers who enjoy stories imbued with magic and adventure. Intricate world building and the circus-like atmosphere of Caraval lend this novel an extra bit of flair that even Legend would admire.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*

Blog Tour (& Giveaway): SPY ON HISTORY: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring

mary-bowser-blog-tour-bannerToday I’m joining Workman’s blog tour for the first book in their Spy on History series.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy RingSpy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring (2017) by Enigma Alberti, illustrated by Tony Cliff is an adventure based on the true story of Mary Bowser, a freed slave who became a spy for the Union and worked undercover as a maid for Jefferson Davis to gather Confederate secrets.

Mary pretended to be illiterate but in reality her photographic memory was as much of an asset to her spying as her ability to skillfully avoid discovery. In addition to detailing Mary’s life as a spy, the book is filled with lots of details about Mary’s spycraft techniques including ciphers, codes, and even the language of flowers. Hidden clues and secrets in the text of the book wait to be revealed by the reader and answer the question of where Mary hid her secret diary.

For the blog tour, I was asked to answer a simple question:

“If you could go back to any time or place in history, where would you put your spy skills to use?”

My answer for any time travel question is the same: I don’t want to travel anywhere else. While I love the idea of time and learning about the past–I prefer to engage with both from the comfort of my own home in the present. After all, you never know when a time machine might break down or a passage to the past might collapse. And then were are you? Likely trapped in an era without modern conveniences like medicine and antibiotics, running water, or electricity! I know my limitations and while I enjoy being an amateur spy in my own time, I also am well aware I would not be at my best in any period in the past.

Now that we’ve established where I would (not) time travel, I have a question for you and answering it will enter you in my giveaway:

Where would YOU visit in the past if time travel were possible?

 

***Tell me where you’d visit in the past in the comments to enter my giveaway.***

I’ll pick one winner from the comments to receive a Workman prize pack for a bundle of books including Spy on History, Who Wins?, and Boss Babes.

Giveaway is US only and ends February 12. Winner will be notified February 13. Be sure to comment to enter!

Week in Review: February 4 and Thinking about the little things

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

Still feeling sick and have decided that it really was a case of a (mild) flu and not a terrible cold. I feel like one day I will feel one hundred percent healthy but it feels far off right now.

No pictures yet but this week I put up my annual Blind Date with a Book Display at work and I really love how it turned out. We also had a small office party which was fun.

The day of the office party, I was talking to one of my coworkers from a different department. I don’t remember how it came up but she told me she was talking to a mutual colleague we had and they both started talking about how they don’t make librarians like me anymore and even called me a librarian’s librarian. I will leave people who know me professionally to evaluate those statements on their own. But it was nice to hear. It was a little thing that meant a lot and really put a smile on my face.

Later that day a girl was in the library with her father and brothers. She seemed excited to get new books and she was writing a piece for our interactive display. She also had a Pikachu backpack and it was amazing. This girl also had her hair dyed rainbow colors. I love the idea of crazy colored hair but I’m too much of a wimp to do it myself. As she was leaving, I told her “I love your hair.” Again, it was another small thing. But her face lit up with the compliment and she sounded so delighted when she thanked me. When I told my mom about it, she pointed out how easy it can be to make other people happy. All in all, it was a nice reminder of why I try to give compliments freely when I have them.

This week I finished Caraval and I read Wildlife by Fiona Wood–the last book I had to read by Wood (until she writes more). I also started re-reading Megan Whalen Turner’s books. I also have started reserving copies of DeathNote from the library. Now that I have read Library Wars and Sailor Moon in their entirety, DeathNote seemed like a good new manga project to read as a palate cleanser between other titles.

Here’s my latest from Instagram:

Two parts of my day here. I finally felt healthy enough to read on my commute and lunch hour at work so I'm diving back into Caraval. Now that I am no longer in the throes of my illness, it's picking up and I'm enjoying it. I like that Scarlett seems to have a form of synesthesia in the way her feelings equate with colors. And I I really like that the colors Garber mentions early on describing Scarlett's arrival in Caraval are referenced in the cover artwork. 🦄 This afternoon I also led a weekly makerspace program for teens. The teens made tangle free headphones while I started this piece of macrame which will either be a bracelet or bookmark depending on how it turns out. It was nice to have a program mellow enough that I had time to make something myself instead of just supervising! 🦄 Who's read Caraval as an ARC? Who's excited for the official publication in a few days? Who does macrame? Let's talk. 🦄 #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #goodreads #instabook #instareads #igreads #booknerd #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram #bookaddict

A post shared by Emma (@missprint_) on

If you you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my February Reading Tracker.

How was your week? What are you reading? Let’s talk in the comments.

Blood Red, Snow White: A Review

“There was never a story that was happy through and through, and this one is no different.”

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus SedgwickArthur Ransome left his family and his home in England to travel to Russia where he found work as a journalist. His love story with Russia started the moment he set foot on its snow-covered ground and continued as he compiled his first published book–a collection of Russian fairy tales.

Over the years Russia would continue to draw Ransome back to it through the first murmurings of unrest in Tsarist Russia, into the first bloody revolution, and beyond. Reporting on the turbulent political climate for an English newspaper draws Ransome unwittingly into the middle of the conflict between White and Red Russia as he is courted to be both a spy and a double agent.

All Arthur wants is to hide away and marry the Russian woman he loves. But that proves difficult with her position as Trotsky’s secretary and his own murky sympathies. With history being made and the world changing from moment to moment, Arthur will have to choose a side and make hard choices to survive in Blood Red, Snow White (2016) by Marcus Sedgwick.

Blood Red, Snow White was originally published in the UK in 2007 and made its first appearance in the US when it was reprinted in 2016. This book follows the sensational real story of novelist Arthur Ransome during his years in Russia as a suspected spy before he would write his Swallows and Amazons children adventure novels. Blood Red, Snow White was originally written shortly after Ransome’s MI6 file was made public–details Sedgwick relates in an author’s note which includes excerpts from those files.

This novel is broken into three parts. The beginning, written in third person, relates the beginning of Arthur’s life and journey to Russia as well as the early stages of the Russian Revolution as short fairy tales. The second part of the novel, in a closer third person point of view, follows Arthur over the course of one night in Moscow as he decides if he will agree to act as a British spy. In part three Arthur narrates his story in first person as he tries to make his way back into Russian and extricate himself and Evgenia from the political machinations around them.

This fast-paced, literary novel looks at a moment in history through an unexpected lens. Readers familiar with Ransome’s own books will, of course, find this novel fascinating. Although some of this novel is, necessarily, speculation it is well-researched and thorough with detailed information about Russia during Ransome’s time there as well as key details of Ransome’s life.

Blood Red, Snow White is an approachable and ambitious novel filled with atmospheric settings and a gripping story of love, adventure, spies, and Russia.

Possible Pairings: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson, Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Reader: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Sefia has been hiding and evading capture for most of her life. It started with the house  built on a hill filled with secret rooms and hidden passages meant to guard a dangerous secret. When her father is murdered, Sefia does what she has been trained to do. She hides. She grabs the thing that her parents spent their lives protecting. She goes to her aunt Nin and together they run away.

After Nin is kidnapped, Sefia vows to find her. Sefia turns to the strange rectangular object her father died to protect. As she examines the thing, Sefia slowly realizes it is a book.

The Book may hold secrets about Nin’s abduction and Sefia’s own parents if only she can master the symbols within and learn to read the words. In Sefia’s world, books are their own kind of magic–a dangerous power in the wrong hands. Sefia will need that power if she wants to rescue Nin and stop hiding in The Reader (2016) by Traci Chee.

The Reader is Chee’s first novel and the beginning of her Sea of Ink and Gold series. This book is a layered narrative filled with hidden messages and clues within the text (be sure to look at the page numbers for one of them). The depth and layers within The Reader are impressive and staggering to contemplate. However the hidden clues, messages, and intricate physical design of this novel are distracting at times. Readers willing to give this story time and a proper chance will enjoy the intricate layers and the unexpected ways Chee’s multiple narratives come together.

In the fantasy world Chee has created the written word doesn’t exist. While they have identifying symbols to label things like herbs and other items, this world relies more heavily on an oral tradition for their stories and history. Books and reading are magic in a very literal sense and so both things are closely guarded by mysterious powers and largely unknown to citizens like Sefia.

If you spend too much time scrutinizing the main conceit of this plot (reading doesn’t exist), it starts to crumble. How does electricity work in this otherwise non-industrial society? How do characters leave messages for each other without written words? Are glyphs used? Oral recordings? No one knows or at least no one shares.

Vocabulary that would be taken for granted in any other story also needs further clarification in a book like The Reader. How do characters know about pens or reading lamps? Why do they exist if, as the novel states, reading doesn’t exist? Furthermore, although Chee’s writing is rich and heady, there isn’t a particularly good way to show a character learning to read when that character doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe a book, letters, or words. It makes for plodding passages and very slow progress for the rest of the story.

Readers willing to ignore these niggling questions may find themselves drawn into Sefia’s story. The premise, the larger message about the written word, and particularly Sefia’s own growth is empowering. Chee’s descriptions are vivid and bring Sefia’s multi-faceted world to life.

The Reader is a slow-paced adventure story. Sefia embarks on a journey with unlikely allies and surprising foes. She discovers magic and her own inner strength. She also, strangely enough, learns to read. How you feel about that last one will largely influence how you feel about this story as a whole. Recommended for readers seeking an introspective fantasy with a slow payoff. (Go into this one willing to commit to the series as many of the big reveals come in final chapters.)

Possible Pairings: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

February 2017 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read in January.

Books Read:

  1. Wildlife by Fiona Wood
  2. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (re-read)
  3. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (re-read)
  4. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (re-read)
  5. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (re-read)
  6. Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner
  7. The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
  8. But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure
  9. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
  10. Frostblood by Elly Blake

Books On Deck:

  1. Frogkisser by Garth Nix (Feb. 28)
  2. Freya by Matthew Laurence (Mar. 14)
  3. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby (May 27)

Books Bought: 0!

ARCs Received:

  1. The White Russian by Vanora Bennett (not requested, St. Martins)
  2. Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis (not requested, Tor)
  3. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo (requested, Macmillan)
  4. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (requested, Macmillan)
  5. The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty (requested, Macmillan)
  6. Love is Both Wave and Particle by Paul Cody (requested, Macmillan)
  7. Journey to the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst (requested)

February 1: I did not get to Frostblood last month but do still have it in my “rotation” here. I also added some later book releases because I would like to get some read ahead of time to schedule reviews/interviews nearer to release date. That said, I am digging the way my tbr is shrinking so I am definitely going to keep integrating backlist titles into my reading rotation.

February 4: I thought I was going to start this month reading some backlist titles from my shelves and getting to some forthcoming  releases. But timing is such that I decided to start my re-read of the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner instead. I am almost halfway through The Thief which I’ll be reading for the third time at this point and it’s just wonderful. Still. After all these years.

February 6: Really enjoying my re-read of the MWT series. Also really glad that I decided to re-read because I didn’t realize that Kamet features in the series and will now have his own book.

February 7: Starting The King of Attolia on my way home from work tonight.

February 9: Finished The King of Attolia. I always thought that The Queen of Attolia was my favorite book in this series but it might actually be The King of Attolia. I started A Conspiracy of Kings on my snow day today. I love Sophos and his tone is so conversational and so different from Eugenides. It’s been great rereading this series. I remember a lot of the broad strokes from my previous reads and I have my favorite scenes but it’s nice “meeting” characters I had forgotten and seeing twists coming together. I’m pumped for Thick as Thieves. Also thinking again about curating my personal library and realizing if it’s a book I can’t imagine rereading I probably don’t need to keep it.

February 15: Oh. Em. Gee. Thick as Thieves was excellent. I followed that up with The Stone Heart and it was a fast, exciting read. So curious to know what happens next. After that I’m moving on to another highly anticipated book: But Then I Came Back.

This Month at Teen Services Underground: Chilling Reads: Books to Keep You Warm this Winter–Display Board and Booklist

I have some news! If you are a regular reader of Teen Services Underground (TSU), you might start noticing some posts from me because . . . *drumroll* . . . I’m a new Agent there!

I love checking out TSU for professional development resources and am thrilled to be part of the team. I am hoping to shift a lot of my “non-book” posts there where they might find a wider audience (like when I’m talking about library programming or displays).

My first post went up earlier in January:

Chilling Reads: Books to Keep You Warm this Winter–Display Board and Booklist

You can read my full post about making the above display (and related booklist) over at TSU: http://www.teenservicesunderground.com/chilling-reads-books-to-keep-you-warm-this-winter-display-board-and-booklist.