Finale (Caraval, #3) by Stephanie Garber – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

| Amazon

” A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end… “

Oh, buddy was this a ride! I loved it. It was pure magic, a unique tale, and just all around beautiful. Garber seriously uses all five of her senses when she imagines her world and she articulates it perfectly. At any given point I could almost close my eyes and feel like it was real. This book has some of my favorite descriptions ever. From the dresses made of magic butterflies to the color of different emotions. Magic. I will read and buy anything this woman writes.

Characters. I guess this would be spoiler-ish if you haven’t read any of the books. But I really liked Tella’s chapters a little bit better in terms of adventure. But in terms of a good message, I think Scarlett takes the cake. I’m a sucker for true love, love conquers all, love is magic, type of stories. I actually truly believe that even in our world. Julian, Legend, and yes, even Jacks were very swoon worthy to read about. For awhile at least. They all had their faults (Jacks especially, whoops). Julian loves without abandon. I’ve always liked him. Legend fights it. And Jacks… confuses love with lust and obsession.

World. The world builing… I don’t even know how to explain it. This is one of the few worlds where I want this to be real so, SO badly. This world is right up there for me with Narnia and Middle Earth. (Woah, Lauren, slow your roll, do you even know what you are saying?!) Yes, the world, my fine friend, not necessarily the book.

Final Thoughts. The ONLY thing I didn’t really like was that part of the ending felt rushed somehow. It’s hard to explain without spoilers!

I’m just so obsessed with this series!

I want more! And if you’ve read this you know Garber left a certain story line slightly open ended!

Going to be totally honest, I originally wrote out a very long review and realized that it was going to be a TLDR review. I just had a lot to say.

I want to know if you liked it! And if you didn’t, I want to know that too!

Notes: Playing cards are from Owlcrate, Book Sleeve from Love You More Studio Code: StoriedAdventures10 to save some money!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Lots of kissing, sexual talk, sexual situations, violence, death, killing, lying, stealing

OTHER CONTENT: Love is the most powerful force of all, forgiveness, friendship, healthy sibling relationship, sacrifice, healthy relationships, persevering.

Duel At Araluen (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #3) Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House!Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book three of The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: May 28, 2019 (US release)

Genre: YA, MG, Fantasy, Adventure

| Amazon

International bestselling author John Flanagan returns to world of Ranger’s Apprentice in this new installment of the Royal Ranger series starring Maddie, Will Treaty’s fearless young apprentice. 

King Duncan and Princess Cassandra are trapped in the south tower of Castle Araluen and under near-constant attack from the Red Fox Clan. Sir Horace and Ranger Commandant Gilan are holed up in an old hill fort, surrounded by the enemy. And Ranger’s apprentice Maddie is the only one who can save them all.

With the help of Hal, Thorn, and the rest of the Heron brotherband, Maddie will have to break her father and his men out of the hill fort, but will they reach Castle Araluen in time?

International bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series, John Flanagan returns in the captivating next installment of the Royal Ranger series: The Royal Ranger: Duel at Araluen. Perfect for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Jacques’s Redwall, and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones!”

This latest installment of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series is non-stop action! The reader’s anxiety is real in this one! There were battles galore to make any young adventurer drool! I think this was probably my favorite yet! I loved seeing Maddie back in action as she figures out a way to help her trapped mother escape the enemy. The battle tactics that are in this book are extremely interesting. Flanagan has a way of making them fascinating to read about. There were a lot of really clever ways that the characters dealt with the enemy. And the ingenious way Flanagan made the south tower of the castle. It really seemed like he thought of everything. He knows his stuff! It was awesome reading some from Cassandra’s POV. She has not lost her edge at all and is still very much a feared opponent! The way she thinks of new ways to thwart her enemy was amazing! All while still leading the kingdom! The Skandians were fearsome as well! They were so fun to read about, especially their interactions with Maddie. I also loved reading about Horace and Gilan! I kept wondering what they were going to do next when they were absolutely stuck! I did miss Will in this one but was quite happily engaged in the stories of the others!

Seriously, such a fun series! I can’t wait to read more!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.

The Red Fox Clan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #2) by John Flanagan Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House! Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book two of The Royal Ranger’s series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy

| Amazon

”   Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story arc featuring young apprentice, Maddie, and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen. 

     After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by the monotony of castle life and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists all donning fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen and question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they succeed in unseating Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves? 

     Bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series, John Flanagan returns in the captivating follow-up to The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning. Perfect for fans of Tolkien, Redwall, and Game of Thrones! “

This was such a fun adventure! The action kept going from book one into book two. Maddie is a little bit older now and is falling into place quite nicely with the Rangers. She’s an extremely strong opponent. I love how the author supports strong women and gives them real abilities that you can actually learn. He also gives them strengths and weaknesses to balance them out. Any young girl would love to be Maddie! A princess AND a Ranger?! I choose that. She is smart, clever, and dangerous. But she also has a soft side to her that loves people (and horses). Her interactions with her mother in particular were so sweet and genuine. Her mom is not to be messed with either! And the secrets Maddie finds out are delicious!

I had a great time learning about tactics in small scale battle, when it was from Gilan’s POV. I kept tensing up whenever something would happen, afraid he might get hurt! It was awesome to see Horace in action too! I highly recommend for any girl who needs a boost of self confidence and is looking for adventure! This series makes me want to really take up archery!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.

Ranger’s Apprentice: A New Beginning by John Flanagan – Blogger Reread Campaign – Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House! Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book one of The Royal Ranger’s series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: November 5, 2013

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy

| Amazon


“Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend—the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected: Princess Madelyn, the daughter of Princess Cassandra. Will has to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion—a task that at times seems almost impossible.

John Flanagan returns to conclude the series that has conquered millions of readers worldwide with this pulse-pounding adventure that brings one era to a close,  ushers in the next, starting the series anew starring Maddie, the Royal Ranger.

For fans of Tolkien, Redwall, Game of Thrones, and T.H. White, Ranger’s Apprentice delivers fantasy-adventure thrills with real-world historical details

A New Beginning is a very fun middle grade read that I highly recommend for new fans or old! I would have absolutely loved to have read this when I was younger! My middle school heart would have soared to have this story. That being said, adult me had a great time too! The writing is quite good, you can easily follow along. The plot about the Rangers letting a girl join for the first time ever was really well done. It seemed like an easy transition. I had a good time reading about the training that goes into being a Ranger and the cool moves they have skills for! One of my favorite tropes is when a princess becomes a warrior. And Maddie does not disappoint. I love the fact that the author wrote about a regular moody teenager, and giving them something to fight for. To make them feel/ do something important. Maddie’s character development was spot on. As was Will’s, even though he is a seasoned Ranger. There are still things left to learn for him as well. Their easy going banter makes this readers heart happy. They have such a sweet Uncle/ Niece relationship!

I can’t wait to see what adventures and mischief Maddie gets up to next! This was a grand adventure!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Page Street Publishing Co.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, YA, Romance

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

| Amazon

” Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.”

As you can see, I rated it 5 stars, so I obviously loved it. I literally have nothing bad to say.

Writing. Absolutely beautiful. Meyer paints a richly colorful story that I very desperately want to be in. I never once got lost or confused, and let me tell you there were some things in this book you really had to imagine. She writes like how you dream. The rooms in the house were so fantastical that I loved how different it was from anything I’ve read! One of the rooms had glass bobbles that had different things in them, like lightening, but when you touched them they cut you like knives. Not to mention the wonderful library! Who wouldn’t want to hop inside of a book?!

Plot. I LOVED how she did a retelling of the original East of the Sun and West of the Moon. That’s the story that beauty and the beast was based off of so naturally it’s one of my favorites. Also, I saw a movie as a kid that was based off of this and I loved it! So this read was actually kind of nostalgic for me! (Side note: I need to find that movie. :P) I really enjoyed the super sweet romance. It was perhaps a bit slow burn? Or maybe somewhere in between slow burn and insta love. The message of the book was love, but with a strong dose of forgiveness. I love when authors write about forgiveness. Not a lot of people forgive these days. It made the characters relationship quite relatable actually.

Characters. Another element that was done really well. Echo was strong and brave, but also sweet and nice. She had a nice balance. She has severe scarring on her face and even though she fights low self-esteem because of it, she knows it’s not a measure of what she’s worth. The Wolf was so sweet as well! He always tried to protect her. Hal was very interesting. He was always so mysterious and his story is extremely compelling, and how it ties in with the other characters. Mokosh… sigh. I feel so bad for her! That’s all I will say!

Final Thoughts. Um, read this. Everyone. Well, if you like fairytales and retellings. It’s such a beautiful book!

*Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, violence, the characters share a bed but it’s more for safety reasons.

OTHER CONTENT: Learning how to be in a relationship, making friendships, forgiveness, love is the most powerful thing in the world.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Genre: Contemporary, YA, Romance

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

| Amazon

” To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.”

I don’t normally read contemporaries, but I’m glad I picked this up! I had just read a heavier book and was in a bit of a funk over it, so this was the perfect fun, fast, cute read! It was sort of a pallet cleanser for me. And even though I had a couple of issues with it, I am still interested in reading the other books in the series!

The thing I did really like was the plot! I’m a sucker for a fake dating plot! I think they are so funny and cute and how could it not create a little va-va-voom between the characters?!

Okay the issues I have are a little sporadic. I liked all of the characters but they all had some major flaws. Maybe it’s my age (27), so I couldn’t relate anymore, I don’t know. Also, let me say, that I have had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Lara Jean when I was in high school.

Lara Jean. She was so cute and naive. But I hated that she had a crush on her sister’s ex, Josh. Not that she did in the first place, but that she did after they broke up. Now, I don’t have sisters, only brothers, so maybe I don’t understand how she could do that. It just seemed kind of icky.

Josh. I know a lot of people liked him, but he was my least favorite character. He was kind of a schmuck, but acted like the nicest guy. Maybe he was both?

Peter. He was kind of the opposite of Josh. He was a sarcastic meanie some of the times, but he was actually really nice.

Also, I’ve got to say Margot was kind of annoying. She dumps her boyfriend so she can have fun in college. Wow. So mature…

Do y’all read contemporaries? What do you like?

*Disclaimer for CONTENT WARNING. This is so parents can make a decision. It does not necessarily reflect my personal views.

CONTENT WARNING: They are in high school so lots of sex talk and some bullying. Kissing scenes. Minor swearing.

OTHER CONTENT: Strong friendships, family bonds, forgiveness, how to navigate bullying.

*Gorgeous sign by Bookish Signs! I have a code too! Lauren20 to save on two or more items!*

Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Genre: YA, Mystery, Magical Realism

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

| Amazon

” Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth. “

This was a weird book. But in a good way. I don’t normally like Magical Realism. But I actually enjoyed this one! It was a tad bit more on the magical side than real, which helped. I found the mystery extremely compelling and interesting.

I loved how the relationships in this book played out. Even though it was only over a week, they went through really traumatic experiences individually and together. I think going through something with someone no matter how long you’ve known them, creates a connection.

Character growth was done really well too. Especially for a 300 page book. Everyone confessed something and grew from it.

I really enjoyed the writing style! It was very beautiful but also straightforward. If that makes sense. She did a really good job of having the main character likable despite her awful secret. It’s a hard thing to do! I liked that it was from two different points of view! There is Ruby, and then there is this mystery character. Very well done.

The only thing a slightly disliked was that it took awhile to get into. The first half was really slow. But the last half I couldn’t put it down. I had to know the secret of the treasure and Island.

And the ending broke my heart and I wasn’t expecting that. I actually like when books do that though, because it’s surprising.

So, if you think a weird, magical realism, mystery about treasure and an Island sounds good to you, then you should read this. I really don’t have anything to compare it to. It was very different.

*I have read a lot of reviews that compare this to The Raven Boys. I am not sure why. I have read that book and didn’t think it was that similar. Her writing style DOES remind me of Maggie Stiefvater’s though!

Do you like Magical Realism?

*Usual disclaimer about the content warning, I just put these here for YA books for parents who want to make the decision to let their kids read or not to read a book. This does not necessarily reflect my own person opinions.

CONTENT WARNING: Swearing, mention of rape but not following through with it, sexual talk, kissing, murder, death, depression, lying, trauma, assisted suicide, bullying

OTHER CONTENT: How to handle a traumatic event, healing, friendship, healthy relationships, telling the truth, dealing with bullies