Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: June Jenson and the Shield of Quell



Media Type: Ebook
Title: June Jenson and the Shield of Quell
   *Series: June Jenson #1
Author: Emily Harper
Publisher: Writers to Authors
Pages: Paperback; 302
Release Date: April 16, 2015
Source: Author
-----------------------------------------------------
Genre: Adventure / Mystery

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy witty and strong female protagonists who get themselves into all kinds of adventures!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
June Jenson, an accomplished Oxford professor, has spent her life trying to get out from under the shadow of her infamous grandfather: a renowned archaeologist accused of stealing a relic during an excavation at Sutton-Hoo. When a secret alliance recruits June to guard priceless artifacts she realizes that this is her chance to contribute to the history she loves and rid herself of the cloud of suspicion that her family has lived under for so long. But, when the artifact June is commissioned to guard turns out to be the same relic her grandfather was accused of stealing− a relic he has consistently claimed never existed − her carefully laid plans of family redemption are a bit shot. 

Now, with the aid of her accused grandfather who suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s, and a chauffeur who’s looking for a scandal to make him famous, June must race to discover the truth of the shield and what really happened at Sutton-Hoo all those years ago.
Well now, this was a lot of fun! I already knew that June and I would get along famously. After all, she's an accomplished Oxford professor, loves her grumpy old grandfather, and simply wants to make a name for herself in the world of archaeology. What's not to love? My only hope was that her journey would be just as exciting as she was shaping up to be. Happily, that was exactly the case!

Massive love goes to Emily Harper for crafting such enjoyable characters. Although I already knew I'd love June, it was really her grandfather that stole my heart. His giggle worthy attempts at complimenting June, his deep dislike of trousers (I feel you on that, Professor), and his need to keep his accomplishments in the forefront of his mind, were all things that endeared him to me. Pairing him with June, who just didn't know how to handle him at all times, was perfection. I loved watching them interact, and thought he added a perfect spice to the mystery!

Now, the mystery itself, shall we? I thought Harper did a brilliant job at laying out all the breadcrumbs as June fell further down the rabbit hole. From the moment she was inducted into the secret "Alliance" guarding the shield, I knew that things were going to get interesting. What I didn't expect was how much fun this whole mystery would be. As June and her rather unusual entourage searched for answers, I breathlessly followed after them. There was the perfect amount of humor, mixed in with all the action. As I said, a ton of fun.

Am I ready for the next book? Absolutely, I am! Which, thankfully, I also have in my possession. Expect to see a review of that book as well, very soon. While you wait, pick up June Jenson and the Shield of Quell! It's well worth your time!



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: Hardcover; 407
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Source: NetGalley
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Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 2 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are willing to be swept away, but aren't sticklers for intense world or character building.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
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

Unfortunately, I was not as impressed with Caraval as I expected to be. Which, trust me, shocked me just as much as it might shock you. Books like this, with themes of magic and intrigue are usually my bread and butter. I wholly expected to be swept away by this story. If Caraval had spent more time with the world building and character building, instead of so much time with sweeping purple prose, I really think this would have been a winner for me. More on that below.

First off, Scarlett is a tough character to love. Although I adored her connection with her sister, and applauded her fierce protectiveness, there wasn't much else about Scarlett that endeared her to me. She was frustrating, to say the least. I absolutely don't mind a character who puts others above themselves, especially when it comes to family. However the lack of character development in this case drove me mad. Scarlett barely learned. She barely grew. She made the same mistakes over and over, while lamenting her situation instead of doing something about it. I was only just starting to see a spark of a woman who might have gained something from all of this, when the book ended.

My other big issue, as I mentioned above, was that no real love was given to the world that Scarlett and her sister inhabited. From the island that they felt imprisoned on, to the surrounding islands, all the way out to Caraval itself, all of it was just implied. Here is an island. It holds magic. This man who has a lot of power, due to a very quickly told backstory, holds a game here that you might win a wish out of. Done, and done. I was given only the briefest glimpse into anything, even when Scarlett was running all over the game itself. Again, frustrating. I'd have loved to see much less purple prose, and much more actual description. I wanted the world brought to life for me, and I truly believe it would have helped massively.

I believe I truly understand why a lot of people adore this book. The concept of a magical island, the idea of a game that pushes the very folds of reality, is a fascinating thing. If only it had been more fleshed out, and given much more attention, I would have fallen in love too. My Fantasy driven mind demands a foothold in any new book I read. A place that is described beautifully enough that I can find myself there in an eyeblink. Caraval lacked that for me, and so the story just felt flat.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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