Book Review

Book Review: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
Length: 372 pages
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. 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 and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

HERE FOR FEMALE GLADIATORS.

I read this based off of a recommendation an old friend gave me. She reads a lot of the books I recommend and I wanted to do the same for her (since we have very similar tastes). Y’all, this was a great book! I’m so happy I picked this up and definitely want to read the next one.

The setting was off the charts. I am fascinated by the Roman Empire and its history. I haven’t come across many (if all, because I can only thing of Blood and Sand right now), that use Rome has a historical fiction setting. LOVE IT LOVE IT. I found the interweaving of real life people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra to be thrilling. I personally didn’t know that there were even female gladiators to begin with! I enjoyed reading the little note at the end about some of the history Livingston found to add some background to these fierce ladies.

Romance was fine. That was probably the only downside to The Valiant. I thought it was starting off slow (which I’m totally cool with) because Cai wasn’t in the story that much. Then I realized…he’s really not in the story that much. Until the later second half of this book do we see him more consistently. Any interactions between Cai and Fallon are full speed ahead while I’m trying to catch up with if I even ship them or not. It left a bit to be desired, but I’m hopeful in the next book I’ll get a larger flourish of them together.

There was a twist or two I did see coming that didn’t ruin the plot for me. I actually liked where it went and how all of the information played into Fallon’s life. Fallon was an amazing heroine. Brave, a bit stubborn, loyal and real. I cheered for her in her battles and on and off the fields of battle.

I’m curious how everything will further unfold in the next book. Caesar and Cleopatra are definitely playing a part in it and I think that is so cool. I didn’t even know that they actually had a relationship until this book (and a bunch of Googling afterwards).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: gladiator battles, sword fighting, arrows; fairly bloody and gory
  • Trigger warnings: witnessing the loss of a loved one, slavery (Fallon is taken by a Roman slave trader and sold to a house for female gladiators)

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Book Review

Book Review: Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical fiction + Mystery
Length: 437 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Expected Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea.

It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

THOMAS CRESSWELL DESERVES BETTER.

BETTER BETTER BETTER. Oh my goodness. Usually I give a book higher marks for making me feel intense feelings for all the things. In this case, the intense feeling was rage, so instead I marked it lower.

HOW DARE AUDREY ROSE WADSWORTH. This was cheating and I will stand by that firmly. I’m tired of seeing this as a plot device and it makes me upset every time.

Something kind of funny though? If this was a different story without a boyfriend and the girl was having this kind of flirtations and kisses with a magician with a mask? Yes. I would have loved the banter and the set-up of that. BUT IT’S THOMAS FREAKING CRESSWELL. WHAT.

Wow, I can’t get over this. My review is running away from me. It was the entire plot which is why it’s very much on my mind. Other than that, the plot consisted of the same as the previous two books. People die, Thomas & Audrey Rose try to find the murderer. Nothing new. It’s a kin to watching CSI (or something similar) where the same show essentially happens every time but you can’t look away. This is how I felt.

I love my boy Thomas though. And I missed him this book! Since Audrey Rose and her shenanigans took up most of the page time, I felt he was barely on screen. There wasn’t much banter between them, mostly angst and angry words.

This was honestly a big letdown for the entire series. I am curious how Capturing the Devil will play out because I’ve seen very mixed reviews.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: physical, a lot of murder (by knives, hangings, animal attacks)
  • Trigger warnings: cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction +fantasy
Length: 352 pages
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push the earth and the otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve daily mysteries in New Fiddleham, New England—like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why the undead are appearing around town.

At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, Jenny Cavanaugh, begins to give way. But before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

The epic conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series features wry humor and a cast of unforgettable characters facing off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever.

READ EVERY LAST DANG PAGE OF THIS BOOK.

Or you might feel like throwing it across the room. Like me. Then I read it all. Then I got the ending I was demanding from my bookish soul.

This was a great finale! Definitely the best book of the series by far.

I loved watching all of the story lines come together. Seeing all of the characters align. It all was beautifully woven and closed the ending as it should be. I wasn’t left with questions or concerns. I closed the book at peace. That’s a good ending. There was even a double crossing betrayer that I had no idea was coming. It was a twist that added an edge.

ABIGAIL AND CHARLIE ARE SO DANG CUTE. Absolutely precious. This was the first time I wish they had some more screen time. I was smitten with Charlie and their interactions. They were a great, simple, no drama relationship that added the touch of romance to round out this series.

Jackaby and Abigail are once again a dynamic duo. Jenny became team member number three and I loved having her around more! The banter and dynamics between everyone always make me smile and really appreciate their friendships. I was so happy that Jackaby got the ending he deserved. It made a lot of sense and I figured it would have to move in that direction to bring closure.

This is one of those books that handles the addition of literally every magical creature from fairytales and folklore well. They’re SO MANY CREATURES. I love learning more about them and the way they each added their own touch.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction/fantasy/paranormal mystery
  • Language: one word (witch)
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, magic, swords, murder, animal attacks, vampire attacks, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: The Last Magician (The Last Magician #1) by Lisa Maxwell

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult fantasy 
Length: 512 pages
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: July 18th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

WHOA TO THAT LAST 100 PAGES THOUGH.

I listened to this as an audio book and thought it was really well done. At first it was a little confusing with the changing time periods each chapter, but once they stayed in the same place (a few chapters in), it was easy to follow and enjoy.

This book was trippy. I picked it up on a whim and ended up buddy-reading it with a friend and we were both wholly impressed with how much we liked it by the end. Enough to seek out the second book soon.

Esta and Harte had all the angst and I am STILL WAITING. Their slow-burn enemies to lovers is a small fire currently and I am soooo wanting more for them. I love watching them interact and each time they ran into each other it was awesome banter and had me snickering. These two stole my heart. But mostly, Harte Darrigan. He’s the heart of this story (I’m not even mad about this pun).

The mystery kept me on my toes. I honestly didn’t realize who the bad guy actually was until late in the book, practically when it was announced. I MEAN WHOA. That was amazing. I love when books keep me guessing. There was an even bigger twist that I had NO IDEA about. I don’t know how much it’ll play into the next book, but it was still crazy. Those are the best kind of reveals.

I love all of the secret societies and magic gangs that were running around New York in the 1920’s. It was an interesting world and added even more danger as they went on increasingly risky heists.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: guns, knives, physical, ritual murder

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction
Length: 512 pages
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

QUEEN OF HISTORICAL FICTION.

I had a friend gracious enough to let me borrow this book and Y’ALL. It was amazing and I loved it.

I absolutely love the way that Sepetys puts together her stories. I own all of her books, but have only read two and clearly I need to up the rest on my TBR. The chapters are written in a fast, short, rotating POV way that keeps you flipping faster and faster. It’s so easy to read this book and keep you interested at the same time.

THE ROMANCE WAS PRECIOUS. Incredibly cute. It was slow and sweet and was exactly what this book needed. I loved watching Daniel and Ana interact and grow to be each other’s confidante. I think they both helped one another see the world from another perspective. I literally SHOUTED at my book when we had a date change in the book because I needed a happy ending for Ana. NEEDED IT. (And Daniel, but really, Ana).

I didn’t love Rafa and Puri’s point of views as much as the others. That is why I took off half a star. By the end, their contributions really made sense though and I do appreciate that. It absolutely broke my heart reading about the deception of the nuns and doctors in Spain during the 1950s-80s. I can’t put into words how that must have felt to be a mother in that time.

The work that went into this novel is clearly seen and I loved having all of the tidbits from speeches and publications that were layered throughout the book. It really brought the history to life and reminded me that things like this really did happen.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, a not detailed love scene where you do know they spent the night together
  • Violence: guns, torture, imprisonment, murder, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of miscarriage, kidnapping of babies and children

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