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.

Review of Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

EvertheHuntedcoverEver the Hunted
By: Erin Summerill
Release Date: December 27th 2016
Publisher: Harcourt Childrens 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:
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

My Thoughts:
I was immediately immersed in Ever the Hunted because of the writing style and my ability to connect to the main character, Britta. Overall, I felt this debut was a successful YA fantasy with enjoyable characters, fast pacing and beautiful writing.

You can see by the summary that this book followed some pretty standard YA themes: strong female lead, mystery surrounding father’s death, unrequited love interest, and the heroine being more than she believed. Regardless of hitting these typical notes the writing made this novel feel fresh and I was able to really feel the emotions Britta felt and be intrigued to learn more about her specific story.

On the romance front- this novel was pretty heavy on the lovey moments. Britta was often drawn to the physical attributes of her best and only friend, Cohen. I felt that there was a bit too much of her swooning over his back muscles but I was still able to feel some chemistry between the two. I’d classify this book as romantic fantasy so if you like a heavy helping of romance with your fantasy world this will be right up your alley.

The side characters were well done for the most part and I think it would be impossible not to have a soft spot for Enat- an old lady that lives in an enchanted forest. She’s bristly but loving and I was delighted with her character. As easy as it was to like many of the characters Summerill was adept at creating characters I loathed. I had trouble finding the good in a couple of them which made them rather one dimensional but it worked for the storyline.

The setting was vividly described which really helped me visualize the story. I liked that I could see the story play out in my mind’s eye and imagine the characters, forest and buildings. The world was richly developed and though questions were left undeveloped I knew enough to understand the struggle the characters faced and I’m certain we’ll learn more of the land’s history as the series continues.

The main mystery of the plot- what happened to Britta’s father- was not overly obvious but I honestly never really cared to try to solve the who done it though I was able to feel the love Britta had for her father. I think a few of the story elements were rather easy to figure out but I was still interested in reading the book to its conclusion.

An aspect I have to mention was that there was a strong family kinship/love element in this novel. Each of the main characters, Cohen and Britta, are driven by the love they feel for their family. I enjoyed their desire to push themselves for their loved ones and especially Cohen’s unwavering desire to protect his brother. I do hope that in the next book was actually get to meet Finn.

Now, for what left me a bit grrr- the ending of this book left open a door that I’m not sure I want open! I wasn’t thrilled with where that ending left us and the wait to find out what will happen will be far too long.

Final Thoughts:
Ever the Hunted was a beautifully written romantic fantasy that played heavily on family loyalty and the feelings the main characters felt for one another (friendship and romantic). I felt that the world was an interesting one and I hope we delve deeper into it as well as learning more about some of the side characters. I fear for where the ending left the story.