Review of Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

DuelandDeceptionDuels and Deception
By: Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: Print arc
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

My Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was exactly what I expected and wanted! It was a fast, fun read that had that Jane Austen feel and such a cute story. Have you read any of Tessa Dare’s historical romance novels? This book had that feel but for a YA audience.

The pacing was quick and this was one of those books that’s perfect for vacation reading, waiting for an appointment- really- the kind of book you stick in your purse and read whenever you get a few minutes. The driving force in this novel was by far the characters and the chemistry they have with one another. I immediately liked the main character Miss Lydia Whitfield. She’s pragmatic and knows exactly what she wants out of life. She’s got everything planned (if only others would play by her rules a little easier).

The law clerk, Mr. Rober Newton, was so cute. I shipped these two quickly and looked forward to their interactions. I loved their misadventures and how they brought out the best in one another.

This book wasn’t overly mysterious- I thought it was obvious what the outcome would be but that didn’t diminish the fun of reading for me at all. It was, as they say, the journey that mattered and not the destination. Reading about these two characters was so much fun. I loved the historical setting and felt that the author did a great job of taking the reader there.

Final Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was an adorable read with quirky characters you love and a fun story line. It’s a standalone and perfect for a vacation read or something quick to pick you out of a reading slump.

Review of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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.

My Thoughts:

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston is a fiercely addictive tale pulling from the vastly untold history of female gladiators in Ancient Rome. The pacing is fast and I was immediately drawn into the writing, story and characters. There’s no time wasted before we have action and even some kissing.

We, as the reader, follow Fallon as she falls from Celtic princess to slave to a gladiatorial- fighting for her life in the colosseum. Livingston makes tangible the horror of losing the right to guide your own future by detailing what it might have been like to have been taken from your home and sold to the highest bidder. I feel that following Fallon on this journey enabled me to really feel a connection to her.

The historical details and vividly described world made it is easy to visualize what it might have been like in the time period and to feel the grit, sweat and blood of the coliseum. I loved how well the fighting was depicted and honestly I was able to play it all out like a movie while I read.

The secondary cast was well developed and I loved that historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were included in the story line. I loved the portrayal of Cleopatra especially. As Fallon drew closer to her sister gladiators so did I. I became entrenched in the drama between the girls. There were so many different types of characters in this story- from the powerful to the weak I loved seeing how Livingston gave them all a backstory and motivations. One of my favorites was Caius Varro. He was such a great character and I loved seeing Fallon’s feelings for him change.

Final Thoughts:
With themes of family, loyalty and betrayal interwoven with a whirl wind of intense battle scenes and a touch of romance you will be clamoring for more.

Blog Tour- The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale Review

THeBeastisanAnimaljpgThe Beast is an Animal
By: Peternelle van Arsdale
Release Date: February 28th 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:
A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

My Thoughts:
I really didn’t know what to expect with this book- I was drawn in by the title and cover. I was immediately impressed with the story telling and writing and wanted to know more. The prologue was incredibly engaging and I loved that we got a little back story on the Soul Eaters.

This was a slower paced read- it almost felt like a very in depth middle grade book written at an adult pacing. The world was very interesting but I did feel a bit of disconnect from the characters. It was sort of like when you heard Little Red Riding Hood as a child- you are swept into the story but I’m not sure I connected with Little Red Riding Hood on a deep level.

Arsdale has a vivid, lush writing style which worked wonderfully for her world descriptions. It was easy to visualize the towns, the Soul Eaters and the Beast. I loved that there was a creepy aspect that was really beautifully illustrated in the beginning of the novel. The idea of a village that in one night all the adults are killed in their sleep and only the children remain in an artificial slumber- super creepy. Alys is different than the others and reading you never know exactly why.

The secondary cast was actually well developed and each had very unique characteristics and brought a lot to the storyline. There is a very minor romance but this book does not center around that aspect at all. It’s really a coming of age story in essence with a creepy backdrop. I love that this is a stand alone too.

THeBeastisAnAnimal

Final Thoughts:
Go into The Beast is An Animal expecting a creepy atmosphere, great story telling and a slower pace. I really loved the creepy Soul Eaters storyline and felt this book had some really original and unique story ideas.

Review of Windwitch by Susan Dennard

WindwitchWindwitch (Witchlands #2)
By: Susan Dennard
Release Date: January 10th 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

My Thoughts:
First, that cover. Wow, that is glorious and incredible. I was so excited to receive this book for review. I enjoyed Truthwitch but I felt that this sequel was even better. I loved all the tension this book had and didn’t feel that it suffered from middle book syndrome at all. It was action  packed, full of character growth and I loved the character’s relationships with each other. I loved how Dennard threw unlikely companions together.

Even in Truthwitch Aeduan, the Bloodwitch, caught my interest. He was easily the character I was most intrigued by. I needed to know more about his story and this book gave me glimpses. I loved reading from his point of view and also learning a bit about his past. Also, how can anyone not love him and Iseult together? These two have chemistry and I love what aspects they draw out of one another.

I’ll admit that in the first book I was a total black sheep and didn’t love Safi.  I don’t know why but she just didn’t resonate all that much with me but in this book she did! I loved seeing her thrown in an unexpected circumstance. She was bold, brave and badass. I loved how she interacted with others and I was just really swept away in her story.

I loved that though the content of the book was action packed and tense there were moments I laughed out loud. And Dennard did the action scenes so well! I could vividly imagine all the details and it felt like watching a movie as I read. The setting was well described which helped make this book that much more tangible. Of course the magical system continued to be impressive and really, this book has been one of my favorite fantasy novels I’ve read in a while. I’m so happy I chose to pick it up and read.

WindwitchIG

Final Thoughts:
If you read Truthwitch you must read this sequel- and if you are new to the series I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see where Bloodwitch, the third novel, will go.

Review of Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caravalCaraval
By: Stephanie Garber
Release Date: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Flatiron
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval—Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My Thoughts:
This book was so beautifully written and the story- gah I loved every word. Caraval has easily became one of my favorite books ever. I can’t wait for everyone to read it and love it too. I loved the magical atmosphere Garber infused into this book. It truly felt mysterious and the world was so beautifully described. Scarlett sort of sees emotions in bursts of colors and this gave the book something unique and magical. All of the descriptions were so vivid and lush. Tell me this doesn’t make you want to cozy up with this drink…

Browned suger and melted butter with hints of cream and toasted cinnamon. It tasted like the best parts of the Cold Season, mixed with just a hint of heat. ARC page 188

The story was told from Scarlett’s point of view. She was the older sister and felt a responsibility to take care of her younger sister- Tella. Tella feels she needs to get the most out of her life and struggles with how responsible Scarlett is. Their father was cruel and a really intimidating villain to me. He smells of overripe plums and so when the color purple, or plums are mentioned I actually felt anxiety. I feared what he’d do to the girls which amped up the tension. When one sister stepped out of line he’d punish the other sister since he knew their love for one another would hurt more than personal physical punishment. He was manipulative and vindictive.

Early on, Scarlett gets thrown in with the character of Julian. He’s instantly likeable to me even though he seems untrustworthy. But, I couldn’t help but fall for his charm. These two are unlikely companions throughout the novel. Julian had insider knowledge of the game and so he helps Scarlett along her path to find her sister. You never exactly know if Julian was telling the truth and we are left as in the dark as Scarlett on whether to trust him or not.

I loved that Caraval was as foreign to me as it was to Scarlett. I journeyed with her through all the twist and turns. I never knew exactly what was real and what wasn’t. I would think I had something figured out then that would get thrown out. As Scarlett encounters characters I never knew if they were good/bad/ neutral. I didn’t know who to trust.

The character of Legend was incredibly mysterious. I don’t even know what to make of him- what exactly are his motivations? Is he purely evil? I just don’t know! I can’t wait to learn more in the next book. The open ended questions are intriguing rather than frustrating. I was riveted completely and I feel that this world could be explored so deeply and there are so many characters that could have their own stories written about.

I loved every detail Garber included, each character (even tiny side characters) and it all flowed so perfectly and created such an immersive reading experience. It all felt very initial and it was evident the author knows her world and has many other twists up her sleeves.

caravalpic

Final Thoughts:
I am in love with the game of Caraval, the world, the characters and the writing style. Give me all of Stephanie Garber’s words please.