Book Review: Caraval

By Stephanie Garber
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Caraval is a lavish performance. Caraval is an elaborate game. Caraval is a mystery and a fantasy where nothing is real. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t hurt you. Once a year, in a different locale, a man named Legend hosts Caraval, inviting a select few to participate in an utterly one-of-a-kind experience in which the players interact with each other and with actors to solve a mystery and win the grand prize–a granted wish.

Scarlet has dreamed of attending Caraval since she and her sister, Tella, were just girls. On her tiny island home, at the mercy of her cruel and manipulative father, Caraval seemed like a perfect escape. But an invitation never came.

Now that she is nearly grown anticipating an arranged marriage to a man she’s never met, Scarlet, Tella, and a roguish sailor are on their way to Caraval. But when Tella is kidnapped and placed at the center of the mysterious game, the dream becomes far too real and dangerous for Scarlet. She must solve the puzzle and find her sister before the nightmarish illusions of Caraval drive her mad.

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I loved the imagery, the magic and the adventure of Caraval. I can easily see why Scarlet would dream of this experience. The whole idea is exciting and a little frightening, as is the story. Parts of the tale are intricate and beautiful while others are creepy and compelling.

I heartily recommend Caraval to fans of fantasy, romance, adventure, mystery, and suspense.


Book Review: The Hate U Give

the hate u giveThe Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
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Starr Carter is torn between two worlds. Her home is in the projects where wearing the wrong color can get you shot, where police officers can be more dangerous than the gangbangers, where “snitches get stitches” and loyalty is everything. But she is equally at home in her elite, suburban prep school where the students’ biggest concerns are basketball games and dating drama.

When Starr witnesses her childhood friend, Khalil, being fatally shot by a cop, she’s the only person alive who knows what really happened. But sharing what she saw could destroy her place in both of her worlds.

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So many feels. This book is full of feels. I am so sad for Khalil’s family. I am enraged at the cop who shot an unarmed teenager and the society that created him. I feel sympathy for Starr and her family and the dilemmas they face. I fear for their safety. I am warmed by the obvious love they share.

Sometimes, when an author has an important topic to discuss within the pages of their book, they skimp on character development and plot. Not this author. Starr, Khalil, their families, and their friends are fully realized and realistic. Their troubles and reactions are all too real. They feel fear and anger but also love and humor and joy.

If The Hate U Give sounds good to you, you might also like:

American Street by Ibi Zoboi  (Place hold.)

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon  (Place hold.)

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds  (Place hold.)

X; A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz  (Place hold.)




By Adam Rapp
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Jamie, better known as Punkzilla to the tough street kids he lives with in Portland, is on a mission. He needs to get to his older brother, named P, before he dies. P has an extremely aggressive form of cancer and Jamie hasn’t seen him in a long time – not since Jamie was sent to military school and subsequently went AWOL – not since P came out as gay and moved to Tennessee to live with his partner and write plays.

And so, fourteen-year-old Jamie is on a quest to get from Portland, OR to Memphis, TN as quickly as possible with little money, no friends and even less luck. He starts off on a Greyhound bus but gets beat up in a public restroom during a layover and the bus leaves without him. He starts to hitchhike and meets the very best and worst of humanity along the way. He tries desperately to call his brother, but P’s phone is disconnected. Is he even still alive?

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In a series of letters – some sent and some never delivered – the reader learns about Jamie’s family, why he was sent away, what he experienced at boarding school, why he left, and how he lived on the streets of Portland. Along his journey, Jamie encounters physical violence, sexual abuse, mental illness, issues of sexuality and gender identity, deception, theft, drug use and homelessness. Punkzilla’s portrayal of these topics is sometimes disturbing and frequently profane but always open and candid. I loved the depth of each character in Punkzilla. Even if they were minor characters that disappeared after a few pages, they made sense and felt real. The letter-writing format allows the reader to really get into Jamie’s thoughts and emotions as he struggles to understand himself and the world. Because of the violence, sex, language, and heavily emotional themes, I would recommend Punkzilla for high school or older readers.

Book Recommendation – Tell Me Something Real

tell-me-something-realTell Me Something Real
by Calla Devlin
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“Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments.

Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal.” — Summary provided by