Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

51v7djdm4al-_sx323_bo1204203200_

Scarlett and Tella have grown up hearing stories of the magical Caraval, and its mysterious organiser Master legend. After years of wishing, they finally receive invitations to participate in this mysterious adventure. Escaping their abusive father they head off to discover what Caraval has to offer. Once they arrive Tella goes missing and Scarlett begins to realise that there is much more to Caraval than she could ever have imagined.

The beauty of this book is that it fully immerses you.  You are right there with them, living this fantastical, sometimes terrifying interactive performance. You will be second guessing yourself right up until the end (and probably once you’re done!). Stephanie brilliantly keeps the reader in the dark as much as the MC pulling us deeper into this rich, mysterious world. The descriptions in this book are beautifully sumptuous, but never out of place or over the top. They only serve to draw you deeper into this magical, dangerous world.

The Girls relationship with their father could be a trigger for some, he is not just controlling, he is physically abusive towards them. Although scenes portraying the violence do serve to develop the story, they still aren’t particularly pleasant to read.

The character of Tella annoyed me but I think that is partially because there is more to her part in this story. I think (hope) we will learn more about her motivations in the next book (which I need asap!). Saying that, I adored the strength of the sisters relationship. It never seemed forced, or over dramatic.

In Caraval there is always something to be discovered, raising more questions and new doubts. Once you think you’ve finally got things sussed, this book will throw another mystery your way. It never lets up, not even at the end. In fact it leaves us with nore mysteries to discover, but not so many that the overall story told was dissatisfying.

This is definitely a book I will read again, it is brilliant. The pacing is fantastic, the mystery is perfect, the descriptions are wonderful, and I think there are still little tidbits to be discovered. I can’t really say much more without ruining the story for you. This really is a book that you are better of going into knowing as little as possible, but be prepared to delve right into an amazing adventure that sparks your imagination and appeals to all your senses.

71lrlfv-aul

The Shock of the Fall

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

51VlrTwPFOL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This story follows Matthew Homes and his family following the sudden death of his brother. Its narrated by Matthew himself, and depicts his struggle with his mental health. This is a story about one families struggle with mental health and the different ways in which people deal with grief.

This book doesn’t over dramatize mental health, it shows that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mental health, or grief. It is written wonderfully.  Weaving the past with the present, as Matt tells us his story in his own fragmented way. Which, coupled with the changes in tone really gave you a genuine feel for Matts state of mind, which clearly fluctuated depending on where he was with his illness or whether he was on his medication or not.

Despite the fact that this subject matter might be considered a difficult read, this was actually an enjoyable read. Which might seem an odd thing to say, but the story doesn’t just focus on the darker aspects of Matts personality, you get hints of his humour, his creativity and his loving side. Following Matt from being a young child trying to understand how to navigate his family after the death of his brother Simon to being a teenager trying to navigate the world while slowly succumbing to his illness, made me feel attached to him in a way.

The supporting characters are surprisingly well written, considering you are viewing them through the eyes of someone who isn’t always completely in touch with reality. Matts descriptions of his family are vague, sporadic and repetitive but you still get a lovely feel for each of them. His Nanny Noo is my favourite, he talks about her so lovingly and I feel like she is his biggest support. Seeing his mums growth through this story was nice too, and how his family dynamic changed in dealing with the grief of Simon and then coping with Matts illness.

Towards the end the story is brought full circle which I enjoyed. I also appreciated that even though it ends on a happier it note, it ends with the reminder that Matts story isn’t over, but he has dealt with one chapter. He will fall again but he will also get back up.

For me this was a thoughtful story, with a hint of suspense. While everyone’s experiences with mental health are different, I felt this was a sensitively written, subtle portrayal of someone suffering with their mental health.