Tea & Book Chat: Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Untitled #1)

Personal Thoughts: It’s been so long since I’ve written a book review since I’ve been giving all of my recaps on my BookTube channel at the end of the month but I really wanted to get back into them and it seemed perfect to do so with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  Caraval is without a doubt, a new favorite of mine.  I love it so much that I preordered an additional copy once I was less than five chapters in.  I’ve been talking about this book on my channel for quite some time- it was my most anticipated read from BEA but I somehow put it off until recently and I’m so happy that I did! While I would’ve loved to welcome this story in my heart earlier than I did, it was quite nice to read it with all of the lights, scents and general coziness that the magic of Christmastime provided as a backdrop.

Plot SummaryCaraval is the the story of Scarlet and her sister Tella who live on a conquered island with an abusive father.  Having heard tales of the magic of Caraval, a traveling immersive performance that occurs annually, from their Grandmother, the girls both write to Legend, the mastermind behind the game.  After years of unanswered letters, Scarlett finally receives a response along with three tickets to this year’s game- one for Scarlett, one for Tella and one for Scarlett’s fiance.  When Scarlett arrives on the island, she discovers that this year’s game hits very close to home as her sister Tella has been kidnapped and the object of the game is to find her before the other participants she’s competing with.  Participants are reminded two times before the games begin that everything occurring in Caraval is just a game and to not get swept away no matter how real things feel.  But really, is it?

CritiqueCaraval is one of the most sensory reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving into.  I’m basically obsessed with the descriptive language Stephanie Garber used and I’m still amazed that she was able to so perfectly capture and relay the experience of Caraval to the reader.  There was not a single drop of magic lost in translation.  Each of our three main characters (Scarlett, Julian and Tella) were so well developed that they felt like actual people.  The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective and the amount of character growth she underwent throughout the game is overwhelming.  I love reading about characters who live within a set of boundaries, often self inflicted, who then break out and challenge their norms and Scarlett fit this description to a T.  Despite Tella being kidnapped and therefore absent from the majority of the novel, I still had no trouble knowing her character.  She is just as developed as her sister who graces every page.  And then there’s Julian, to trust him or not to trust him?  Either side you fall on, you will inevitably fall victim to his charm.  As for side characters, everyone is important and I especially love the air of mystery surrounding Legend.  I became so intrigued with the story and so addicted to Scarlett solving the cryptic clues and finding her sister that I can honestly say I let Caraval sweep me away (I even had to text Alexa at the climax of the story since she had finished earlier for moral support because I was laying in bed screaming WHAT IS REAL LIFE?!?!).  Another incredible selling point of Caraval is that despite it being labeled as the first book in a series (THANK GOD BECAUSE I NEED MORE) the story wraps up very nicely.  There’s no cliffhanger ending that leaves you dying for answers BUT there is an intriguing piece of information that you’ll be eager to explore.

Do I Recommend?: A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

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Coming Soon: Revamped Book Reviews!

Okay, so, I’m just going to come out and say it… it’s been FOREVER since I’ve written a book review.  I’ve still been recapping all of my thoughts for BookTube and I did several video reviews for the first time since I started my channel but I’ve been feeling like something is missing.  I realized that I truly miss writing down all of my feelings about the books I read.  I love the process of reflecting upon the story and carefully choosing the correct words to convey those feelings I have to everyone who reads my blog.  I enjoy reading other book blogger’s reviews and I’m excited to get back into the game with a new revamped strategy for posting reviews.  Since this is MY blog (no offense, I love you but I do this for me ultimately!) I love adding a bit of personal commentary but I also struggle with doing so in a written review because a lot of the time, readers are looking for fact based opinion to help them determine if they want to read the book or not and I also want to provide that.  So, going forward I think I was able to find a good balance!

I’m going to be breaking down my reviews into sections for “Personal Thoughts:” – these will be a mish-mosh of thoughts, opinions, feelings and outside factors that influenced my choice in reading the book, any background info I feel like sharing about how I acquired it (don’t worry, it will always clearly state if I’ve received an ARC), whether there’s a specific cover that speaks to me more than others and just the general ambiance of my reading experience.  Next I’ll delve into a “Plot Summary” – while I did include the Goodreads plot summary in my previous reviews, I’m going to try my hand at summarizing on my own (unless I’m feeling super lazy for some reason or if I feel like Goodreads really does say it better than I can in my own words).  After I will provide my “Critique” – this will be the actual review portion where I’ll talk about all the elements I use to rate books which include plot, characters, pacing, enjoyment and writing style.  Then finally, I’ll end with “Do I Recommend?” which seems pretty self explanatory.  I hope you enjoy this new format!

I’m still planning on infusing my channel with some more video reviews but I may just review certain books both ways which is what I’ve done in the past.  Oh and best of all (IMO), I’m going to start using images I’ve taken as opposed to a boring graphic of the cover.  I seem to take lots of photos of the books I’m currently reading (especially if I’m loving them) since they’re the most easily accessible and it’s almost like a book photo diary of sorts.  I’ll also still be using the rating system that Andrew created for me because it’s beautiful and I love it and how could I not?  I hope you like my new system!

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‘Tis the Season: Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

This past weekend Andrew and I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party at our friend’s Erika and Alex’s apartment and it was so much fun! I’ve always wanted to attend one of these for as long as I can remember and the fact that it took place on SantaCon weekend as an anti-SantaCon Christmas gathering made it even better! There were so many festive treats (Erika made the most amazing sangria I have ever tasted- it was literally Christmas in a cup), there were ugly Christmas sweater cookies that were bigger than my head, and a plethora of other Christmas cookies! We also had a contest and Andrew ended up winning for ugliest Christmas sweater! I voted for our friend Gil because I love Christmas sweaters and I thought her’s was the cutest!  We also took a bunch of group photos and it was just so nice to relax near a gorgeous Christmas tree with good company ^.^

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‘Tis the Season: We’re All Decorated for Christmas!

This Christmas is a really special one because it’s Andrew and I’s first married Christmas in our very own apartment with no roommates.  As you’re all probably aware, Christmas is a ~big deal~ to me so I’ve been extra looking forward to this one.  It was honestly even more exciting than I imagined it would be to decide upon on Christmas decor and pick out the decorations that spoke to my heart the most!  Since this is our first Christmas, we aren’t bogged down with sentimental ornaments from years past and while I expect that we will inevitably add some of those to our collection as the years pass, I’m so excited to have a fresh start and a tree that I completely love every ornament on.  I always enjoyed my parent’s decorations but I could definitely do without the sports, cars and Elvis ornaments.  I was adamant about putting our tree up as soon as possible because I want to enjoy the season to the fullest.  Before my mini vacation, I took to reading before work in our living room while sipping a cup of hot chai and now I’ll be able to do that beside a twinkling tree and it’s just delightful!  Plus, I’ve fallen in love with my apartment after using the KonMari method (post about that coming next week!).  Anyway, here’s our tree, our table and our stockings! Have you decorated for Christmas yet?

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December Disney Dare – #DisneyDare

Two blog posts in one week, crazy right?! My friend Chris (who happens to be the amazing designer behind my blog!) and I decided to team up to host a Disney movie challenge for December. We’re both avid Disney fans and we’ve both been to Disney World in the past couple of months and we wanted to make an effort to watch as many Disney films as possible in the next month.  Then we decided it would be fun to open up our challenge to anyone who wants to participate along with us!  I’m so excited to immerse myself in some of my favorite classics (particularly Beauty and the Beast’s Enchanted Christmas because December) in the upcoming weeks and I hope you’ll join us as well.  You can read all the rules below and see Chris’s magical graphic!

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The Dates: Runs from December 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016 (Movies watched prior to December 1st do not count for the challenge).  You’re able to join anytime throughout the month and the link-up will be open through December 31st.

The Dare: To watch as many Disney / Pixar animated films as possible!  Maybe you’ve missed out on a recent film or two? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to play some catch up!  Maybe you’ve always wanted to watch the films in chronological order? (if so, here’s a handy list of all of Disney’s animated theatrical films in order of release date)  Or perhaps you want to spend your holiday season reliving your favorite magical Disney moments?  If any (or all) of these challenges peak your interest, then we dare you!

The Details: This is a low-key challenge for all the Disney lovers out there so you can feel free to set your own goal or aim for one of our tiers:

1 – 4 films – Moana (Newbie Disney Fan)

5 – 8 films – Aurora (Rather be Sleeping Disney Fan)

9 – 12 films – Stitch (Crazy for Disney Fan)

13 – 16 – Ariel (Disney Film Hoarding Fan)

17 – 20 films – Rapunzel (Diligent Disney Fan)

21+ films – Snow White (Ultimate Disney Fan)

The Deal: Films that qualify for this challenge encompass all of the animated Disney and Pixar films.  Live action films and Marvel films do not count for this challenge.

You can join in the challenge by entering the link-up below!  If you don’t have a blog, you can also declare your intent to participate on Twitter and enter the link up that way.

And don’t forget to use the hashtag #DisneyDare when tweeting about your progress or while reviewing any films to connect with other Disney fans!

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December Small Goals

I’ve seen a bunch of people post small monthly goals and I really like the idea of re-centering and re-evaluating everything more frequently.  It’s awesome to make yearly goals but it’s also easy to lose focus or forget about them entirely over the 365 day period we’re aiming to accomplish them in.  Having small monthly goals to help get to those bigger picture yearly ones is something I’m eager to try out!

November Check-In

1) Keep up with November Bookstagram challenges – Check! I pulled the info for a total of 5 challenges and while I didn’t post a photo for each challenge every single day (that honestly would’ve been way to overwhelming for everyone) I did manage to consistently post photos at least 5-6 times per week so I am pleased!

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – FAIL! But I feel confident that I’ll be back on track in December because nothing motivates me like Christmas.

3) Try to reduce stress – Check! I had a 9 day long vacation so I’m sure that also factored into my calmness but I’ve been pretty even keeled this past month and I’m hoping I’ll maintain this feeling through the holiday season (despite anticipating fighting through tourists daily on my walk to work).

P.S. this is my favorite sweater ever

December Goals

1) Clean our kitchen & hall closets – I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before my aforementioned vacation and let me tell you, it was life-changing.  I spent almost all of my days off cleaning out my closet, my drawers, my comic book collection, collectibles and other random things that I’m not even sure how I acquired.  I set up a filing system for our important paperwork (#adulting) and I’ve felt so much better ever since.  More on this process to come!

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – While I wish I would’ve had the time to fall back into my blogging routine in November, I realize that with the amount of commitments I had, it was unreasonable to believe I could make time for writing (this is why I’ve also failed NaNoWriMo 2x – November is just not a good month for me).  Now that my room is completely clean and organized, I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of clarity and that I’m in the right mental state to sit down and be creative instead of stepping over piles of books, feeling guilty about blogging instead of tidying and then giving up and binge-watching YouTube videos instead. Plus Christmas so I’m SUPER excited.

3) Re-read a favorite book – I’ve often talked about how I grapple with re-reading things because there are so many things I haven’t read (a bunch of them are currently mocking me from my shelves) but December is such a comfort month that I want to make the conscious choice to re-read.  I know I’ll enjoy it, I just have to do it.  I’m thinking of picking up Fangirl or The Raven Boys since I’ve re-read Harry Potter so many times I can’t count anymore and I feel like some of my other favorites deserve some love<3

TL;DR – Two out of three ain’t bad.

What are your goals?

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‘Tis the Season: Christmas Aesthetic

As you probably remember, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I basically spend every day after my birthday counting down for Halloween to be over because once November 1st hits, people start accepting my Christmas spirit (except for a couple of Thanksgiving enthusiasts who I will fight *I’m looking at you Kelly*).  This year is extra special because it’s Andrew and I’s first Christmas together in our own apartment so we get to start building our very own decor.  We’re planning on going to Target next weekend, picking up our choices and D E C O R A T I N G !  Obviously this meant that I spent about 4 hours looking at ever single Christmas item in every single Christmas category on the Target website.  Since I wanted so much (shocking, I know), I created a Christmas registry so I could easily reference it while we’re in the store and I was able to narrow down the things I think we need a bit.  I put together a Polyvore set of some of my favorite items because nothing makes me happier than publishing Christmas themed blog posts or YouTube videos.  Last year I did 25 days of Christmas blogging which I don’t *think* I’ll be able to manage this year but I am sure as heck going to try.  Enjoy and be merry!

Christmas Decor

 

Christmas Decor by superspacechick

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Waiting on Wednesday: Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham.  The Gilmore Girls excitement is real in my household.  I recently joined the Gilmore Girls fandom after my husband insisted that I would love it.  We binged watched the series (a re-watch for him) and I could not get enough.  One of my favorite aspects of Gilmore Girls is the atmosphere and the way the seasons are portrayed so I couldn’t be more excited that the upcoming Netflix episodes cover a year in Stars Hollow.  But anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about books here so when I heard that Lauren Graham, who plays Lorelai Gilmore, is coming out with a non-fiction book of essays that has Gilmore Girls in the title not once, but twice, I insta-preordered it.  I can’t wait for this and the new episodes and the Funkos and just all the Gilmore Girls things.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between

In her first work of nonfiction, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood recounts her experiences on Gilmore Girls—the first and second time—and shares stories about life, love, and working in Hollywood. This collection of essays is written in the intimate, hilarious, and down-to earth voice that made her novel, Someday Someday Maybe, a New York Times bestseller.

“This book contains some stories from my life: the awkward growing up years, the confusing dating years, the fulfilling working years, and what it was like to be asked to play one of my favorite characters again. You probably think I’m talking about my incredible achievement as Dolly in Hello, Dolly! as a Langley High School junior, a performance my dad called “you’re so much taller than the other kids.” But no! I’m talking about Lorelai Gilmore, who, back in 2008, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again. Also included: tales of living on a houseboat, meeting guys at awards shows, and that time I was asked to be a butt model. A hint: all three made me seasick.”—Lauren Graham (via Goodreads)

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November Small Goals

I’ve seen a bunch of people post small monthly goals and I really like the idea of re-centering and re-evaluating everything more frequently.  It’s awesome to make yearly goals but it’s also easy to lose focus or forget about them entirely over the 365 day period we’re aiming to accomplish them in.  Having small monthly goals to help get to those bigger picture yearly ones is something I’m eager to try out!

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1) Keep up with November Bookstagram challenges – I recently got some new lighting equipment and I am just over the moon excited about all things photography lately.  There are currently about five challenges that I feel committed to keeping up with (fortunately some of them have crossover otherwise I would be overloading you poor people with posts) and I’ve been prepping for them for the past two weeks.  They started yesterday and I’m thinking of rounding up my posts here at the end of each week in case you’re not an instagrammer.

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – It’s no secret that I’ve been neglecting my poor blog for the past couple of months but I sincerely want to change that.  In addition to life stuff (which I wrote about here), I’ve been struggling with what to post because 9 times out of 10, I want to talk about books I’m reading or loving, but then I inevitably feel like I should be making a YouTube video about the book content I want to create instead and that’s what I end up doing. *shrug*

3) Try to reduce stress – Andrew is so great at not letting things stress him out when they’re uncontrollable.  I am not.  Toward the end of October and the first day of November I’ve been trying to remind myself to take deep breaths and think about whether a minor thing will really leave a lasting impact on my day.  The answer has always been ‘probably not’ so far and it’s allowed me to feel a bit more relaxed.  (One video that helped a lot is Simply Kenna’s How to Stay Positive – she’s one of my favorite YouTubers!)  I’ve talked a little bit about how I have major anxiety on here in the past but luckily I’ve felt like I’m in a good place mentally lately.  I think it started with New York Comic Con when I promised myself that since we were staying in the city for the duration of the event, I would do whatever came our way and not let stress or fear or the worry of tomorrow get in the way of enjoying myself. I’ve also been savoring any time we have at home.  Even if I’m just sipping a cup of hot chai tea in a cozy sweater and catching up on BookTube, I always take a minute to think about how enjoyable whatever I’m doing is and remind myself that no matter how stressed I feel, I have these kinds of things to look forward to at night and on weekends that I truly enjoy.

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Waiting on Wednesday: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing This is Our Story by Ashley Elston.  In addition to the hauntingly beautiful cover (seriously, the shadows of the 5 boys, the deceased one having a hunted deer head and the typography of This is Our Story also saying His Story, it’s just brilliant), the synopsis of this book gives me Raven Boys vibes (only because there are four boy best friends, not because the story seems at all similar).  There was a fifth but he mysteriously died when the five of them went into the woods one day.  None of the surviving boys are talking although any of them could be the killer.  It ends up falling to Kate Marino to solve the case of the River Point Boys and get justice for Grant.  I love a good mystery and I have such high hopes for this one! I’m planning on reading it as soon as its delivered!

This is Our Story

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the District Attorney’s Office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she and Stone investigate—the ageing prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot—she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own. (via Goodreads)

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