Blog Tour- Guest Post -The Valiant by Lesley Livingston + Giveaway

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I am so excited to be on The Valiant Blog Tour. Last year one of my bloggy dreams came true and I was asked to read the manuscript for this novel and provide a blurb. I still can’t believe my words made it on the advanced reading copies of this book. Since I read it so long ago I recently reread this book and loved it even more the second time around. I am honored to have the author, Lesley Livingston, here to talk about gladiatrix.

About the Book

thevaliantcoverThe Valiant
By: Lesley Livingston
Release Date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

 Guest Post

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history and it’s been in my mind to write a female gladiator story for quite awhile. Over the past few decades, the existence of gladiatrices in ancient Rome has been the subject of much debate among historians. While there is, of course, ample evidence of male gladiators, ancient texts and artifacts portraying female fighters in the arenas were sparse. Lost to history, the lives of these exceptional girls and women were shrouded in mystery. Were female gladiators a gimmick? A fad? Had they really even existed at all?

And then, in 2001, archaeologists unearthed an ancient Roman-era gravesite in Britain of a 1,900-year-old woman that proved, virtually beyond a doubt in the minds of many (myself included), that female gladiators were real. And they’d most likely led lives just as dangerous and dynamic as their male counterparts—and perhaps even more controversial.

The lavish contents of the burial hinted at the wealth of the occupant, but the grave itself was placed beyond the boundaries of the main cemetery, marking the woman as a likely outcast from society. Individual items left tantalizing clues: a lamp with a design depicting a fallen gladiator, and another depicting Anubis, the god of the dead traditionally associated with the profession. While it’s entirely plausible that the young woman in the grave was the wife or lover of a gladiator (a counter-theory which has been upheld by some scholars), why then the peculiar grave placement? The grave goods include stone pine incense—a fragrant offering long thought to be specifically associated with gladiators. Why would a gladiator’s paramour need incense used specifically to mask the stench of blood in the arenas?

There are other archaeological discoveries that point to the occurrence of female gladiators as more than just a rare novelty or gimmick as well. Like the relief sculpture found at Halicarnassus depicting two female fighters named “Achillea” and “Amazona” (a detail which I was delighted to spin to good use in The Valiant when it came to naming the academies where the girls train for the arena). But some of those artifacts, for the longest time, may have been misinterpreted.

I remember when I was much younger seeing a picture of a small bronze statue of a female clothed only in what looked like a breechclout, holding a curved blade high above her head. She was referred to for years as “the bather”. But even back when I first saw her, such an interpretation struck me (like the gladiator-lover grave theory) as rather sexist. I always wondered why a woman who was simply taking a bath would gesture triumphantly with a toiletry implement! To me, she looked like a warrior—and recent scholarly re-examination of the artifact all but confirms (again) that she was, in all likelihood, a gladiatrix.

Of course, once I started to write about what the lives of these girls and women might have been like, I had to do a lot of research into the lives of their male counterparts—weapons, daily routines, the environments in which they lived and trained—and adapt it for what might have been a Ludus for female fighters. Fortunately, there is an abundance of knowledge in that realm which can be adapted. I also delved into the lives of other female warrior societies, like the Celts and the Amazons, and extrapolated from there. Rituals, relationships, how society would have viewed such a person—for good or ill—and what she might have done had she ever actually won her freedom to reenter society, these were all questions I had to imagine the answers to. Tangible facts are thin on the ground where the gladiatrix is concerned, but there are enough tantalizing clues to weave a compelling tale of what might have been.

 

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Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 13, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 15, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Week One
2/13 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Gladiator Makeup
2/14 – Two Chicks on Books – Author Interview
2/15 – Alexa Loves Books – Weapon Spotlight: Bow & Arrow
2/16 – Novel Novice – Review
2/17 – Arctic Books – Review + Book Look
Week Two
2/20 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Author Guest Post
2/21 – What Sarah Read – Review + Mood Board
2/22 – Mundie Moms – Weapon Spotlight: Shield
2/23 – ButterMyBooks – Author Interview
2/24 – Fiction Fare – Weapon Spotlight: Dimachaerus
Week Three
2/27 – Oh the Book Feels – Author Interview
2/28 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Weapon Spotlight: Gladius
3/1 – No More Grumpy Bookseller – Review
3/2 – The YA Book Traveler – Weapon Spotlight: Trident & Net
3/3 – My Friends Are Fiction – Author Guest Post
Week Four
3/6 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Weapon Spotlight: Spear
3/7 – A Page with a View – Like/Try/Why
3/8 – The Young Folks – Author Guest Post
3/9 – Icey Books – Quote Candy + Review
3/10 – Book Addict’s Guide – Bookish Scents

Review of Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

flashfallFlashfall
By: Jenny Moyer
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

My Thoughts:
Gah this book! I picked it up one evening thinking I’d just start it to get a feel for it and I was sucked in and read 3/4ths of the book. It was addicting and so fast paced. I immediately connected with the main character, Orion. Her relationship with Dram was so well done and I was addicted to their chemistry.

This book was a mix of science fiction and dystopian. I thought I was tired of the dystopian genre in general but this book has reignited my love for it. It had a very distinct science fiction feel as well so I’m not entirely sure what classification it would fit under. Regardless, I want more and soon. I’ve seen comparisons to Red Rising and I can see them because of the class system and the caving for elements the higher class needs. This book had a very different feel and the pacing was much faster. I felt that it was a really unique young adult novel and I really loved the caves and how terrifying they were.

Orion was one strong main character. I adored her determination and survival instincts. Nothing was getting in her way. I loved that she cared for her Outpost. I was really impressed with how well the action scenes were done and I loved how though it was very much driven by this the characters did not suffer in the slightest. We still got growth and wonderful dialog. The secondary characters really set themselves apart and I was attached to them. Everything about this book hit me right.

I really liked that we weren’t always constricted to Outpost 5- we go with Orion to several different outposts and see more of the world and the destruction that has occurred to the human race. The world was very unique and the idea behind the Flashfall was really intriguing.

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Final Thoughts:
Anyone that enjoys science fiction or dystopian should read Flashfall. It was really unique, well done and captivating. This novel didn’t have a cliff hanger and could be potentially a stand alone but I really hope not. I felt that there was a lot more to explore about the world and the characters.

Review of The Graces by Laure Eve

TheGracesThe Graces
By: Laure Eve
Release Date: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.

Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

My Thoughts:
Wow, this is going to be a difficult review to write because I’m not totally certain of how I feel about this book. Upon first starting it I got a very strong Twilight vibe- girl in new school enthralled with a family of beautiful, mysterious siblings that everyone admires and fears. It all felt a bit familiar but it was pretty clear from the start that the main character was no Bella.

Our MC had malicious intent…or so I felt from the start. I never once trusted her narrative or felt any semblance of positive regard for her. For some reason her thoughts and motivations seemed so ick to me. She seemed only out to befriend the Graces to help further her own self interests along. I typically prefer to enjoy and connect to the main character. I understand that not every book has this and I don’t count (or try not to) it against the book or my reading experience. But, I’ll admit, it does make the getting into the book a tad harder.

A little ways in though I became captivated by watching this train wreck of a book. I could feel things building up and I couldn’t imagine the outcome would be pretty. There were moments of friendship and lighthearted movie nights but always underneath I felt trepidation as to what was around the next page.

The further I read the more and more certain I became that there wouldn’t be a happy ending. I had some suspicions and was pretty pleased with myself that I called it all fairly accurately. This book was very readable to me and I had no problems breezing through it in a day. Though it was a fast read there were some sluggish moments and overall it was not a feel good read. I felt the book cast a pall over me- my mood somewhat changed and a bit clouded over.

I’ll give it to the author- her writing was obviously strong to be able to have an emotional impact on my mood. As far as the story went-things were not overly predictable and I felt that it moved at a steady pace though the very ending was a tad disappointing. I can’t go deeper into it due to spoilers but one character didn’t really get what, I thought, they deserved…but I think we’ll get more in the sequel.

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Final Thoughts:
The Graces played on some typical young adult tropes but the author put her own original spin on things and I felt overall this was a unique read. I found it to be captivating though it wasn’t a feel good read and not one I’ll be rereading any time soon. The way things left off there will be a sequel and I will be curious as to how the story will continue.

Thank you Jon at Bookish Antics for the lovely conversation we had after I finished reading this one. That is one of my favorite aspects of reading a book- discussing it after with a friend.

Review of Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

winkpoppymidnightWink Poppy Midnight
By: April Genevieve Tucholke
Release Date: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

My Thoughts:
I am always excited to read anything by April Genevieve Tucholke because her writing is always so emotional and atmospheric. I adore her descriptions and the creepy, gothic feel each of her novels has. Wink Poppy Midnight was no different. Overall, this book was a quick read that had me deeply immersed. I did, however, find the ending to be a bit of a letdown and came out of my reading experience feeling like I must have missed something.

This book tells the stories of three characters, Wink, Poppy and Midnight. We see the story unfold through each of their eyes and I loved how they were all very flawed characters. Each narrative was unique and very much distinguishable from the other characters (always so impressed when an author can pull that off). They all play an important role in each other’s lives and honestly- they mistreat each other pretty badly. I was most drawn to Poppy’s character due to how okay she was with all her nasty personality traits. To me, she felt like the most complex of the characters and though I couldn’t fathom liking her I loved reading her story.

As always, with this author’s work, the setting played a large part in the story. The reader is transported and you really feel what it would be like to live in these character’s lives. I adore how well I could visualize each of the locations- the barn, forest, and the old, haunted house.

I couldn’t help but try to guess where the story was headed as I read. I had all sorts of theories and none of them were correct! I though I saw all sorts of clues lying around but I was for the most part wrong. When the big reveal was shown I felt a tad let down. I wanted more! I wanted the story to go so much deeper and so much darker than it did. This makes me feel like I must have missed something. The entire last portion of the book felt sort of meh to me.

Final Thoughts:
April Genevieve Tucholke’s writing is like a dream or fairy tale. I never had a real grasp on what was happening or where the story was going (though I tried guessing). I loved the atmosphere of the story but I still feel like I didn’t ‘get it’ fully. Even considering that I still felt like it was well worth the read.

Review of The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

SteepandThornyWayThe Steep and Thorny Way
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

My Thoughts:
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I adore Cat Winters’ writing style and each of her books really resonates and impacts me emotionally. This one was no different.

I wasn’t all that sure what to expect about this book going in because I honestly didn’t read the summary prior to requesting it. All I needed to know was that Winters wrote it. I was surprised and impressed with the social issues that were looked into and the way that, though immense emotion was present, the novel didn’t feel like it was telling me how to believe. It was an honest character study in a period of time rife with prejudice and judgment.

My heart ached for the struggles these characters had to deal with and the amount of hate directed at them. Though the setting was historical I think we can draw comparisons to our current day. The way Winters approached her characters was so refreshing and lent itself to honest understanding and empathy from the reader.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how strong Hanalee was. And, though I really don’t have an exhaustive knowledge of the time period or what Hanalee was going through, I was able to relate on a deep level.

Winters always impresses me with her ability to delve into a setting, time period and her characters. You can always tell that there has been a lot of research and study going into these books. I felt that Winters portrayed these characters beautifully and really gave them a voice.

Beyond the amazing characters, most of which were truly well rounded, the elements that mirrored Hamlet were very well done. I had to brush up on Hamlet since it had been ages since I’d read it but once I sparked  my memories I was easily able to see how TSaTW took some of these elements and twisted them into the book. Such as, a lonely ghost seeking to explain his death, mixed up identities and motives, and the journey of a child trying to understand her father’s demise.

As with all of Winters’ books the writing was impeccable though I found the pacing in this one to be a tad slower than her other novels. The paranormal elements were also less pronounce but still very present and integral to the storyline.

Final Thoughts:
Once again Cat Winters has written a book that had me thinking about its message long after finishing the novel. The writing, characters and research of the time period and people was impeccable-as always.

Extras:

  • Review of The Uninvited by Cat Winters
  • Review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
  • Interview with Cat Winters author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds
  • Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters