Review: Into the Mists – Book One of the Into the Mists Trilogy by Serene Conneeley

Enter the swirling mists of an enchanted land, and open your heart to the mystery…

Carlie has the perfect life. A wonderful family and a best friend she adores. A house by the beach so she can go surfing after school. A clever, rational mind and big dreams of becoming a lawyer. A future she’s excited about and can’t wait to begin.

But in a split second her perfect life shatters, and she is sent to the other side of the world to live with a stranger. In this mystical, mist-drenched new land, she is faced with a mystery that will make her question everything she’s ever known about her parents, her life and her very self. A dark secret that made her mother run away from home as a teenager. An old family friend who is not what he seems. A woman in blue who she’s not convinced is real. A shadowy black cat that she’d swear is reading her mind. A deserted old cottage she can’t always find. And a circle of wild-haired witches who want her to join their ranks.

Will she have the courage to journey into the mists, and into her own heart, to discover the truth? And can she somehow weave together a life that she’ll want to live – or will she give up and allow despair to sweep her away from the world forever?

A Melodic tale of loss and a magical journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

This beautiful story follows Carlie as she tries to come to grips with the loss of her parents and the sudden upheaval of her life. Serene has written the tale to include quite detailed descriptions of casts and rituals Carlie and her mother perform. You could easily complete such rituals yourself following the descriptions in the story. The story inspires the reader to look at their own life as the main character Carlie does hers.

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Gabrielle Baker narrates the audio book. Her beautifully calming voice tells the story in a tranquil tone, switching between a few voices slightly with each characters dialogue. She does well with the mix of Australian and English accents, only once or twice did I giggle at her pronunciation of an Aussie word. I listened to the story at 1.3x speed. As a faster reader myself, I felt the original a little slow for me, but the story allows for the increase without feeling rushed.

I loved the backwards and forwards timeline that Serene used to intertwine Carlie and Violet (her mother) stories. Flashbacks, diary entries and dreams are each employed in telling this magical captivating tale.

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When Carlie began to read from the book her mother had owned as a teen, I did not at first realize it was Carlie reading. When reading a physical book you would see the change in script or a detail to show that the character is reading a letter or diary entry of sorts, but when listening to an audio book, the transition wasn’t as easy to keep on top of. This of course did not take away from the story or my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

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I look forward to reading more of the Into the Mists Trilogy, and if you have not tried an audio book before, click HERE and you can get your first book free. Why not give Into the Mists a chance to captivate you the way it has me.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.

Author Interview: Beck Nicholas

This month we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews so Aussie Owned and Read readers can get to know us, both old and new, better. Today we have YA author Beck Nicholas providing answers to some burning questions. Welcome Beck! Make yourself comfortable and we’ll get started.

  1. You’re the author of four YA novels, two sci-fi and two contemporary, and have a fifth due for release at the end of this year titled LAST DAYS OF US. What is this story about and what sparked you to write it?

Last Days is the story of grieving Zoey who drove her life off the rails when her big brother was killed. She’s determined to pull herself back together and sets out on a road trip to see Gray, the singer/songwriter whose music got her through the worst times. On the trip are her ex, her best friend and her ex’s cousins. It’s the road trip of a lifetime!

2. What’s a song or piece of music that in some way relates to LAST DAYS OF US?

Last Days revolves heavily around music and music is very important to Zoey, my main character. The most important song (apart from some Little Mermaid references – Ariel is Zoey’s fave princess by far) is Forever Young by Youth Group but if I tell you too much about why it will spoil the story *evil grin*.

3. Out of all the characters you’ve written, which would you most like to have over for dinner? Why?

Ooh, great question. I have such strong feelings for all of my characters (some of those being complicated) but for a dinner invite it’s probably Jolie. She’s the little cousin of her ex on the road trip with Zoey and was the most fun to write ever with such a sparkly way of looking at the world.

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you or both? How? Why?

Probably both. Being in the world of a story gives me drive and purpose but if I have a great day I do feel drained at the end of it. Like my brain has turned to mush and stringing a sentence together becomes difficult.

5. What are you working on now? Would you share a couple of lines?

Right now I’m working on a story about a girl with hearing loss who makes a big mistake in an attempt to fit in, called ‘Smart Girls Don’t’.

This is the opening:

‘Smart girls don’t let a picture of their breasts end up all over the internet.’

One hundred and sixty kilometres, give or take, into her journey to exile and Paige Miller-Jones’ ears still rang with her dad’s statement. In fact, the words filled every available space in the packed car, leaving room for nothing else to be said.

When she was seven and first fitted with hearing aids, she would have turned them off before he’d finished the sentence. But ten years and an improvement in her ‘good’ ear had both matured her and diluted her ability to block out what she didn’t want to hear.

6. You’re published in both Australia and the US. Do you feel Oz authors have to work harder to carve a name for themselves in the book world than US based authors?

I think the US is a huge place and discoverability can be a problem. However thanks to the internet it’s more open than ever before. It does make me super appreciative of our Aussie publishers and market though where Aussie voices can perhaps be heard more easily.

Now for some Fast 5:

  • Plotter or pantser? A poor amalgamation of the two
  • Daytime or nighttime writing? Better in the day time – first thing but that rarely works out
  • Short story or full length fiction? Short is HARD (much credit to you on your recent success), I’ll stick with longer
  • Pen or keyboard? Both!
  • One project at a time or multi tasking? One at a time in stretches but timelines mean I have to be flexible

You can read more about Beck on her website or connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

 

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Kat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. She also sings (occasionally) and speaks German (almost fluently). Her hope is to one day read one of her novels in Deutsch.

 

Get to know Heather

In celebration of our two new bloggers we’re using March to reintroduce you to the AO&R team. I had the pleasure of chatting with our fabulous reviewer / contributor Heather. Here’s what she had to say.

Thanks for joining us today, Heather. We see your fabulous reviews on the blog, but our readers would like to know a little more about you. Fill us in!

I live in Newcastle, Australia which is such a pretty, underrated city. I’m seriously outnumbered by my three boys, so I make sure to fill our house with Disney movies and musical soundtracks to balance them out. I write ferociously, read addictively, and spend far too much time dancing to the Wiggles. Sarcasm and dry wit are basically what I live for.

Ha! Maybe your boys will grow up loving Disney. How do you balance work, writing, and a young family?

Badly. Haha is that an answer? I’m on maternity leave right now, which means I get two or three hours during nap time where I frantically pump out words that generally turn out to be no good, but at least its something. When I’m at work, I have to get up an hour and a half before everyone else so I have time to make a coffee and have a quick sprint. There are a lot of to-do lists in the mix also, because I always manage to over commit myself with beta reads, writing goals, and Life.

So, what type of stories do you write?

Speculative YA with flawed MCs and dark themes. Though I am currently plotting a contemporary which is meant to be happy (it won’t be).

Sounds fun! Your most recent big writing news is that you’re repped by Carrie Howland. How did you land an agent?

It took a looooong time. I finished Illusion of a Majesty back in either 2010 or 2011. It was seriously no good. There were rough little gems throughout but that first draft has been 99% reworked and rewritten. It has gone through so many versions I have notebooks FILLED with info to try and keep track of it all. I entered some of the later versions into writing comps on twitter and they generally did okay but nothing came of it. I did a huge edit and decided to try my luck one more time before shelving (traditional querying wasn’t fun for me). Thankfully this comp was the one. Kate Angelella (editor magician) chose IoaM to work on out of over 2000 entries. We spent two months getting it perfect and in the agent round Carrie Howland asked to see the full. The day I got her email offering to work with me didn’t feel real. I expected the usual ‘this is great but not quite for me’ response, so when I actually read it, I couldn’t take it in. I made my husband read it to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I still go back to it sometimes to remind myself I’m not alone in having hope for my stories.

Naw, that’s beautiful. But I’ve read that story and can vouch for it’s awesomeness. Speaking of other rad authors, who’s your all time favourite?

My standard response used to be Richelle Mead (I love her!), until I read The Lunar Chronicles. I am such a Marissa Meyer fangirl it’s embarrassing. I will read anything she releases. When it comes to women’s fiction, I can’t go past Paige Toon.

Oh my gosh. I just finished reading The Lunar Chronicles and I adore all four of those books. Back to you now though, what’s one thing you can’t live without when you are writing?

My bestie (AKA Rebecca Bosevski). Poor thing has to suffer through my snapchats, my word count goals, and my constant whining that the story is no good and I need to delete everything. The amount of times she’s picked me up from an overemotional puddle on the floor is ridiculous and I wouldn’t have finished a story without her.

And one more question, who/what inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always remembered writing. When I was in primary school I would have a different notebook for each story and create my own overs to go with them. They weren’t great, and even now I wouldn’t be able to make a cover worth a damn. I cowrote stories with friends in high school that never made it past a few chapters, and then a few years went by where I didn’t write anything. Funnily enough a character came to me sometime in my twenties who I couldn’t get out of my head. From there, my first book eventuated.

Fast Five!

Morning person or Night Owl – Morning. Though probably not by choice.
Tea or Coffee – Both. But I can’t function without coffee in the morning.
Harry Potter or Percy Jackson – Harry Potter for sure. Haven’t read PJ.
Writing or reading – Both equally. They compliment each other.
First person or third person (POV) – First.

Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olsen

Heather lives in a little city in Australia with far too many voices in her head. She’s an escapist reader and writer and loves any story with ‘real’ characters who drive the plot. At the moment Heather is author assistant to the wonderful Sharon M. Johnston. Heather has teamed up with her awesome agent Carrie Howland and is currently shopping her most recent WIP (a YA fantasy), working full time, and eating far too much chocolate (haha, like that’s even a thing).

You can find her on Twitter or at Story Queens of Aus.

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This interview was conducted by Stacey Nash, who happens to think Heather is fabulous! Maybe it’s our joint love of YA. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

 

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Author Interview: Cassandra Page

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews, and today I have the pleasure of interviewing the oh-so-talented, Cassandra Page.

 

  1. Let’s start off simple. Can you tell us a random, little-known fact about you?

Cassandra PageI’m left-handed. It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s not something I mention much on social media either. The way my mother tells it, I was showing signs of being ambidextrous until I broke my right arm when I was in kindergarten. I can’t write with my right hand, but I do a lot of other things with it, such as using a mouse and brushing my teeth. I can put mascara on with either hand.

Handy! :p

  1. You always seem to be working on something. What can you tell us about your newest project?

LD_CoverEbook_Fina_smllCurrently I’m editing False Awakening, the sequel to my adult urban fantasy, Lucid Dreaming. The goal is to have it ready for publication in the middle of the year. I’m also shopping a fantasy manuscript I describe as “Beauty and the Beast meets Ancient Greece”, and am about to start work on a stand-alone steampunk novel. Probably. There’s also a YA sci-fi kicking around in my noodle and I am notoriously fickle until the point where I start writing … so anything is possible.

  1. As a single working mum, who published FOUR books in six months, can you tell us mere mortals: how do you do it?!

The four books thing sounds much more impressive than it is — I didn’t actually write all four books in that time! I had signed my trilogy with a small press but, not long after the third one came out, the press closed. The rights were returned to me straight away, thankfully, and I decided to self-publish the trilogy as soon as possible rather than trying to find another publisher. Of course, I had already booked in the Lucid Dreaming release date for just a month later…

I was fortunate that my cover and interior designer, the lovely Kim Last, was able to fit me into her schedule. I couldn’t have managed that kind of turn-around without her help. Still, it was very stressful and I hope to never have to do it again!

More generally, my writing style can best be described as “slow and steady wins the race”. It took me about a year to complete a first draft of False Awakening. Then comes the inevitable revision. I am usually too mentally fatigued to write on a weeknight, so I’ve been cramming in several hours over the course of the weekend; I am for 2000 words a week. It does mean my son gets more screen time in that period than is recommended, but I tell myself it’s good for him to see his mum pursue her own dreams.

Plus he wants to be a writer when he grows up, too, so I call that a win!

  1. What is your favourite thing about writing?

I’m a plotter, though I don’t go crazy about it: I have a rough sketch of the plot but don’t go down to the chapter or scene breakdown level. Still, there are always particular scenes that I have in my head from very early on. Quite often, I conceptualise those scenes (often the finale) in great detail and work backwards from there to create the rest of the story.

So, to answer your question, I love writing those scenes. I refuse to write my books out of order, because those scenes are the carrot on a stick that keeps me going when the writing gets tough. They always flow easily from my fingertips because I’ve spent so much time thinking about them that I know them inside out. That effortless writing is rare and I treasure it when it happens.

Quick Qs:

Favourite holiday (Christmas, etc):

Because I’m a single mother, I only have my son every other Christmas. So even though I love it one year out of two (despite being agnostic), the other year is pretty hard! Instead I’ll say “summer holidays at the coast with my boy”. I cherish my childhood memories of time away, and I want my son to have similar memories of jumping waves and exploring rocks.

Favourite beverage:

Coffee. Coffeecoffeecoffee.

Favourite animal:

Dragons. They do too count as an animal!

Favourite thing to do in your down-time (other than write):

Read. I also like taking photos of books (I have a bookstagram account on Instagram) and playing Minecraft. I’m a proper grown up, me!

Favourite book or author:

I can barely even choose my favourite genre — though I can narrow it down to speculative fiction (and possibly to urban fantasy). That being said, one of my favourite reads from 2016 was YA contemporary: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil. It’s the kind of geeky fiction I wish I’d had as a teenager.

 

BIO

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads | Instagram

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary, and eats more chocolate than one person reasonably should.

Aussie Owneder Interview: Rebecca Bosevski

As you know, we’ve been doing interviews for you all to get to know our team a little better, especially since there have been a fair few changes since we started several years ago. So today, I have the honor of interviewing our reviewer Rebecca!

Tell us a little about you.

I am a mother of three, two boys and a girl. I have been with my husband since I was 14, so 19years. Wow, now I do feel kinda old. I love being creative, I  love to bake, and had my own cake decorating business for a while, but writing is my passion, so when I decided to take the plunge and self publish, I also had to take a step back from baking.

What’s your writing journey?

Like most of us my writing journey began at a young age. I won a short story competition in primary school that fuelled my desire to create stories with fantastical worlds and characters. As a teen I found myself writing more poetry than anything else, teen angst and all that. I stepped back from writing after starting my family, but a few years later, when I met Heather, her common passion for reading and writing reignited my desire and inspired me to follow an almost forgotten dream.

Where do you hope to be with your writing in ten years from now?

I hope to have published a minimum of ten books over the next ten years. I hope to continue to inspire, entertain and engage with readers.

What are your inspirations for writing?

My friends and family inspire me. Heather continues to push me and encourage my desire to write. It is the support from her and from my writers groups that keep me going. Self doubt is the biggest inspiration killer, having those strong people around you that can lift you up when you are down is essential to keeping the flame of inspiration burning bright.

Being an Aussie, what about our culture/country do you bring to your writing? 

I am Australian, and my writing is Australian. The people I write and the places I set my stories are inspired by the places I have been and the People I have met. We are a ‘can-do’ country, and this applies to how I tackle my writing career. If I can do it, I will do it. I create my own covers, because I can. I self publish because I can, and I will continue to write stories and share them with whoever is inclined to read them because I can.

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?

I feel like my creativity is my biggest strength, I am told I have the ability to show my readers what my characters are going through, in a way that makes them feel like they are standing beside them, I would say that is a pretty big strength. Weaknesses are opportunities for improvement, and one place I definitely need improvement is with punctuation. I tend to write frantically, pressing keys without real attention and so when it comes to punctuation, I pretty much suck.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Italy. Not for the Tower, the art or the language. I would go for the food.

Fast five:
Pantser or plotter?

Pantser

Music or silence?

Movies – I love the TV on in the background.

Contemporary or historical?

Both – I have no preference.

Novella or full length?

It depends on the story, if you can do it justice with less words then go for it, if the story needs more then that is great too.

Series or standalone?

I love stand alone, but Heather frowns on me when I suggest killing everyone off to prevent a series.

Author Interview: Kaz Delaney

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews, and today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of our newbies, Kaz Delaney. Kaz is the award-winning author of YA novels, Dead, Actually, Almost Dead and The Reluctant Jillaroo. So to kick things off I’ll ask the obvious question writers get;

  1. What made you want to be a writer?

I truly believe I didn’t have a choice with this authorly gig. My earliest memories are of stories playing out in my head – and yes that sounds creepy and probably is/was. It’s never gone away and I can’t stop. There’s no ‘off’ button. And while that’s a blessing and I’m enjoying a lovely career that’s spanned a couple of decades, I gotta say it can also be a curse. Like sometimes – okay, not often – but sometimes I’d just like to hang out a ‘no vacancies’ sign. You know? Sometimes it’s very tiring carrying around so many people and situations in your head. #needabiggerhead. Ha!

  1. Which authors do you most admire, and why?

OO! Holding up crossed fingers. Like I’m scaring off a werewolf or something. This is pretty much a taboo question for me. It’s a brain exploding question. I truly couldn’t begin to list them. Basically I’m a genre gal and I love trying new authors in those genres.

  1. How do you maintain your motivation during the rough times?

There are different kinds of rough times. For those times when for physical reasons I can’t get to a computer or scratch out time to write, I simply try to keep the goal in sight. Maybe keeping my motivation alive is a better way of looking at it. It’s a beast and it’s gotta be fed. So, I think about stories, play them out in my head. Jot down notes when I can. Play ‘what if’.

For times when I can’t write due to extreme emotional or health reasons and my muse puts out the Do Not Disturb sign? I read. Reading is another way of feeding the beast.

The thing I’ve learned is not to panic if I’m feeling ‘empty’. I’ve learned my creativity will be there waiting for when I’m ready. And it’s usually got a few nice surprises for me. And an idea is the best motivation to get going again. Right?

  1. Did you have to give up anything to make this all happen, and do you regret any of it?

OMG – are you talking about sleep?? Says she typing this at 4am! No, seriously, any form of success or self actualisation is likely to require sacrifice of some kind. That’s life. Mine is probably family time, though I try to balance and be fair. They understand that I have commitments and deadlines. It’s clever to be aware, though, if your sacrifice is something like this – that it’s a two way street. If you’re sacrificing family time then the family is as well. Make them proud but don’t make them pay. Find the balance.

  1. Are you a plotter or a pantser, and is you current system working for you?

Plantser all the way! Ha! Obviously I’m neither. I used to think I was a plotter because I can’t begin a story until I have all my ducks in a row. That is – know my characters, the conflict, their motivations, setting and the general story line.  But I realised one day that I’m not really a plotter; that I simply need this information to start writing.

Sure, I need a jump off point, but after that? Basically I know the beginning of the story and who populates it. I know how I think it will end and I ‘might’ know the black point. But how I fill the space between the beginning and the end? That’s an organic process and the characters dictate that journey. Rarely do they lead me astray. But that’s probably because I’m a huge GMC fan. Goal Motivation Conflict.  I always need to know that before I start.

  1. What feeling do you want readers to get from what you write?

Satisfaction, I guess. A sense that these people/characters they’ve devoted their time to are worth it; that they care what happens next. I always judge a great book by how long it stays with me after I’m finished reading. That’s what I want: the reader to be thinking about my characters and their story the next day at school or driving to work. Or as they drift off to sleep.

  1. What are the biggest struggles you face in this journey, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Hard question. A bit like stones being tossed up by a passing truck, things are often going to be thrown at your career. Like the truck thing, they’re random. You might not expect them and you’ll never know when they’re coming.

Over the years I’ve had agent issues, publishers closing or closing the line you write for as well as personal issues determined to derail.

I thought back to the last of these soul searing events and here’s how I coped. I gathered my people. My author friends. Those who’ve been on this journey with me for a long time. We ate, we drank, we talked and we planned.

Yes, I’m very, very lucky to have them. They’re my backup. They’re brutally honest and yet fiercely loyal. They won’t blow hot air up my skirt. But out of the train crash inside my head, they help me to find the pieces and put them back together again. I came away with a plan and direction. It was all there in my head, they just saw through the smog.

If you don’t have such a group, find one. If you can’t find a physical group to join, online groups abound for whatever you write. You’ll find your soulmates.

  1. Will or have you entered any writing contests and if so how did you fair.

I’ve always been incredibly lucky in contests – I’ve always finalled and I’ve been fortunate to have been honoured with industry awards. But while I think the contests are great, I’m not sure they helped me personally with my career because I entered contests after I was already published.

That said, I recommend them. What they will do is give you a sense of where you stand in the scale of things. Contest feedback can be invaluable – whether you agree with the comments or not. Most have multiple judges though and if they’re all saying the same thing, or giving you the same-ish score – then you’d be a bit silly not to take heed.

  1. What are you working on at the minute?

Right at this minute the work is a bit of a departure, actually. My agent and I have been tossing around an adult suspense idea for a couple of years and now is the time to try it out. It’s huge fun. Like ditching school for the day – but with the added bonus of having permission! The next YA is back in the rural arena. More girls and horses! And very cute heroes!

  1. How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My website is being rebuilt! But soon you’ll find it at http://www.kazdelaney.com.au

Most of the news and action is on my blog: The Ditzy Diva – Kaz Delaney WordPress. I’d love you to drop by! https://wordpress.com/post/kazdelaney

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kaz-Delaney-author-180831465352841/

Twitter: @readKazdelaney
I hope you all enjoyed finding out a little more about Kaz. If there is something you would like to know that I didn’t cover, you can drop her a question in the comments.

I am looking forward to reading more from Kaz, and again I want to welcome her to Aussie Owned and Read.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.

Review: Caravel by Stephanie Garber

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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.

 

Welcome to Caraval, a book of mystery, wonder, and a whole host of questions.

Scarlett Dragna is the MC and she has been obsessed with the idea of Caraval since her grandma told the story to her and her sister. The book opens with letters Scarlett has written to Legend, the enigmatic and magical leader of the game, and his reply, along with three invitations to play in that year’s game.

The lead-up to Caraval was exciting. There was so much left open about what kind of story and game the characters were about to get themselves into, I flew through those first chapters(and, well, kind of the entire book).

Scarlett was a great MC to take the journey with. She starts off hopelessly naïve, stuck with an abusive father, and her only way out is to marry some count she’s never met. Enter Caraval, Master Legend, and the smokin’ hot Julian, to push Scarlett from being a scared little flower, into a fierce MC who will stop at nothing to find her sister. The character development was fantastic, and I love that the changes in Scarlett were so subtle you didn’t notice them as they happened. Scarlett also had a great little identifier that I haven’t seen in any MC before. She sees her emotions as colours, which added great depth to scenes that may otherwise have been nondescript.

There are a fantastic host of secondary characters, too. Tella (Scarlett’s sister) seemingly flighty and airheaded, comes into her own by the end. Julian was fantastic as a LI, Aiko was curious—I would have liked to see more of her—and each of the ‘performers’ had their own little quirks and personalities.

There were a few parts in the book that felt a little off. The clues didn’t seem very structured, and I would have liked to see more of a ‘game’ aspect. There were definitely unusual aspects to Caraval, but I also would have liked to see them pushed more. Some of the conflict between Scarlett and Julian seemed to end too quickly, and all the bits and pieces he revealed to her felt off. His big reveal just left me scratching my head over the other elaborate and confusing lies he’d told.

Then, the ending. Like, I loved it for the most part. It was intense and great to read, but there are aspects (you’ll know what I mean if you read it) that were way too easy.

After the big reveal from Tella, I’m still kind of confused what the whole point of her getting them to Caraval was.

All that aside, I seriously dig this book. It was an amazing story overall, held back from being a perfect five stars by a few nuisances.

I would definitely recommend this book if you love a whimsical story set in a fantasy world, that sweeps you off on an adventure.

AOaR_4star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary