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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: Caraval - Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 31st January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.




Review:
‘Caraval’ is a book that I wanted to read as soon as I first heard about it. It sounded exactly like my kind of story. I’m pleased to say that I loved it as much as I was expecting to and couldn’t put it down. It was a glorious read that quite literally swept me away.  

The story centres around Scarlett and her sister Tella, who are desperate to escape their home on the Isle of Trisda. Scarlett is the main narrator and paints a bleak picture of life with their controlling father. They are punished if they step out of line and they are not allowed to do anything or go anywhere without their father’s approval. Escape is the only thing on their minds, although they each have different plans for their method of escape.  

Julian is the sailor who comes into their lives and presents them with a way off the island. Caraval is the once a year, week long performance that they are invited to take part in and which gives them an opportunity to win something priceless which might change their lives forever. 

I thought that Scarlett was a fantastic main character and someone that I enjoyed reading about immensely. I identified with the protective nature of her relationship with her sister and her feelings of responsibility towards her. The two siblings are very different in nature but Scarlett knows that she would do anything for her sister. I also really loved the love-hate relationship between Scarlett and Julian and seeing how the link between them changes and grows as the story progresses. 

All of kinds of unusual things happen as part of Caraval and the trick for the reader is to figure out what they should believe and who they should trust. Magical, mysterious and enchanting are words that instantly spring to mind about this story. I really never wanted this book to end. ‘Caraval’ was a glorious technicolour adventure with surprises around every corner. I never had any idea what was going to happen next which was such a treat to experience. I’m a reader that nearly always guesses the plot twists!

The ending left me in no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of Caraval and I for one can’t wait to continue the adventure. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review: Show Stopper - Hayley Barker

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker, published by Scholastic on 1st June 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land must watch their children be taken by a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.



Review:
‘Show Stopper’ by Hayley Barker was a really unique and original read. I whizzed through it pretty quickly because it was gripping and fast-flowing and hard to put down. 

There were two things that I particularly enjoyed about the book. The first was that the author has chosen to base the concept for the story on the divide which is apparent in today’s society between natural born citizens and immigrants. The twist on this, is that she has depicted a near-future society where immigrants have become so reviled that they are called ‘dregs’. Their lives are not valued, they have been ostracised and pushed aside and in some cases, their children have been taken from them. In comparison, the ‘pures’ consider themselves to be the best of society and as the ruling class, they treat the ‘dregs’ as nothing more than servants or a tool for their own entertainment. I thought this was such a brilliant story idea as it’s so topical and explored at its most extreme.

The second thing that I loved about ‘Show Stopper’ is the fact that most of the action is set in the circus. There just aren’t enough stories which use the big tent as a back-drop and yet it’s something that always really attracts me towards a book. Barker’s circus is a place where dreg children are taken and made to perform for the entertainment of the pures. They are given little food, kept in squalid conditions and seen as expendable commodities. If their deaths provide an evening’s entertainment then so be it.

The way that the story wove between the two perspectives of Ben, a pure and Hoshiko, a tight-rope walker was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Hoshiko who is at the mercy of the circus ring-leader and although physically beaten down, never lets her will to live and her desire for freedom, die. Ben is fascinated by Hoshiko and through her, his ideas about right and wrong, freedom and liberation, begin to change. It’s Hoshiko’s relationship with some of the other circus performers though that I especially enjoyed reading about. They have become a family in response to being taken away from their own flesh and blood.

If the thought of a YA novel set in the circus isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then I can tell you that this is also an imaginative and unique read which is wonderfully written and a treat to dive into. Get your hands on this book as soon as you can!
         
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