Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston: A Book Review

The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Pages: 381
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Princess. Captive. Gladiator. Always a Warrior. 

     Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary fighter Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed by 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 and sold 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.   

     A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, The Valiant recounts Fallon’s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.

      My Review: Fallon, a Celtic princess, is kidnapped from her home and taken to Rome. When she arrives, she is sold into slavery to a female gladiator training school. The owner of the school is Julius Caesar, who has destroyed her family. To win her freedom, Fallon must fight to be the best female gladiator. At the school, she learns the true nature of freedom and survival.

     Fallon is a fascinating and engaging character! I like how she can fight! Throughout the novel, we see Fallon’s struggle as she realises that to survive she must kill or be killed. Fallon has her faults. She can be judgemental, reckless, and bitter. but, her strength lies with her compassions for others, including her enemies. It is through her empathy that she eventually wins the hearts of those around her. Fallon also questions what her role is in the brutal world of Rome. When bad things happen to her, she doubts her faith in herself and in her goddess. but, her faith helps her to triumph. Thus, Fallon is a character will root for because she learns from her experiences.

     Overall, this book is about family, friendship, love, faith, and freedom. The message of this book is to believe in yourself. This book is full of action, mystery,  and romance. The story is quick-paced, and I read it in one sitting, as I was dying to find what would happen to Fallon. I would like to see more development of other characters. They can be lost in the background because much of the novel focuses on Fallon. However, I liked the setting of Ancient Rome, and I thought that the author had done her research. The Valiant has left me excited for the sequel, and I can’t wait to find out is next for Fallon! I recommend this novel for fans of Cleopatra’s Moon, Gladiator: Fight For Freedom, Getorix, and The Hunger Games.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: A Book Review

A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffith
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.


     Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.


     Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

 

     My Review: A Crown of Wishes is a companion novel to The Star-Touched Queen. Guari, an exiled princess, has been taken prisoner by her kingdom’s enemy, Ujijain. However, right before her execution, the prince of Ujijain rescues her and forces her to compete in the deadly tournament of wishes. In order to win a wish, the two must go through trials and make a sacrifice. To survive the tournament, the two enemies must learn to trust each other.

    I thought that Gauri was a fantastic protagonist. The reader was introduced to her in The Star-Touched Queen, and I was glad that this novel focuses on her. She can fend for herself, is very ambitious, and is a loyal friend. However, she has her flaws. She is impulsive, stubborn, vengeful, and has a tendency to treat her friends unkindly. However, what I like the best is how the author shows Gauri's emotional scars. Because of this, we can understand her actions. Throughout the novel, Guari grows into a strong, wise, and confident young woman.


    I also love Guari’s relationship with Vikram. They seem different in appearances because Vikram’s weapon is not his sword, but his mind. Emotionally, they are very similar. They each dream of being capable rulers in their own kingdoms and are also slow to trust., they learn to rely on and come to love each other. Thus, I like how their relationship evolved from enemies, to friendship, and, in time, lovers.


    Overall, this book is about friendship, trust, and love. The message of this story is that we must sacrifice our desires to find out what is really important in our lives. These characters have grown throughout the story, and I like how they changed. They become stronger and wiser. This novel is quick-paced and filled with adventure, danger, magic, and intrigue. The writing is very lyrical. The only problems I had with this story was that I didn’t like how the story switches from first person to third person. I thought there should be one point of view, either first or third, throughout the novel so it could maintain consistency. The last part of the novel seemed rushed and left me unsatisfied. Other than that, A Crown of Wishes surpasses The Star-Touched Queen, and I look forward to reading the next novel Roshani Chokshi has in store for us!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Friday, February 17, 2017

Dead White: A Della Arthur 1940s Murder Mystery by Gwen Parrott: A Book Review

Dead White: A Della Arthur 1940s Murder Mystery
Author: Gwen Parrott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Corazon Crime
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 214
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In a 1940s Welsh village a school teacher stumbles across two dead bodies, and the secrets and lies of a close-knit community.

     During the harsh winter of 1947, Della Arthur arrives at a remote Pembrokeshire village in the middle of a snowstorm to take up her new job as headteacher of the local primary school. Losing her way from the train station, she comes across a farmhouse and takes shelter there. After finding two dead bodies inside, Della struggles to discover the truth behind their deaths. She soon realises that in this close-knit community, secrets and lies lurk beneath the surface of respectability.

     Della must choose who to trust among the inhabitants of this remote village – should she reveal what she knows to the sardonic minister of the local chapel, Huw Richards, or the Italian prisoner of war, Enzo Mazzati? Della finds herself under siege on all sides, and encumbered by an unwelcome lodger, a missing colleague and a disturbed pupil. It is only when her own life is threatened that she realises how dangerous her discoveries in the farmhouse really were.

     My Review: Della Arthur has been recently hired to be a school teacher in a small Welsh village. Upon her arrival, there is a snow storm that forces her to lose her way. She finds a farmhouse and decides to take shelter there until the storm is over. After settling in, Della finds that there are two dead bodies in the house. However, the deaths are more than what they at first appear to be. What may look like a natural death ends up actually being a murder. Della decides to uncover the truth about their deaths, but she finds that there are obstacles standing in her way because some people in the community are willing to go to such lengths to hide the truth behind their deaths.

     I did not like the main protagonist. I found Della to be a very weak character. She makes many unwise decisions that put herself and others in harm’s way. I really did not like that she barged into someone’s home and made herself tea and fixed herself a meal, taking their items without permission. I thought that Della should have been punished for her actions, but she never was. She goes to many lengths to cover up her trespasses. It frustrated me that the people in the town don’t seem to care about her actions. Instead, they tell her to never mention it. Besides her appalling behavior, I found her to be very judgmental and selfish. She is also very dependent. She feels she needs a man who she can lean on and who can cover up her bad actions. As a mystery novel, Della doesn’t really do any investigating. She is very passive. The reason she investigates a little is because she wants to cover up her crimes. I found the ending to be very disappointing because she doesn’t solve the mystery, but rather the solution to the mystery was handed to her.

     Overall, I thought this to be a very poorly written mystery and a weak detective. There were a few plot holes. The supporting characters were not fully developed enough and were one-dimensional. There was also an abrupt ending to get readers interested in a sequel. While I like a good cliffhanger ending, this didn’t really appeal to me because it wasn’t written well enough to get me interested in a sequel. However, it was a short and very fast-paced read. I also thought the Welsh setting was very atmospheric for a murder mystery. I recommend this novel to those who like gothic and suspenseful stories. However, because of the unlikable characters and many flaws in this novel, it transformed into a less compelling mystery novel.


Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars