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The Valiant (The Valiant #1) – Lesley Livingston

The Valiant (The Valiant #1) – Lesley LivingstonTitle: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston
Publishing Info: February 14, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 18, 2016

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.

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Am I in a reading slump? Am I destined to be the black sheep for this year’s popular titles? Or do I just need to wait for similar opinions and reviews to surface?

Sigh.

This one didn’t do it for me. The pacing was a little too slow and there just wasn’t the amount of action that I expected. When a book advertises female gladiators, I’m expecting quite a bit of fighting or training or… something. Fallon was awesome in the beginning, being on Team Fallon and kind of pushing the boys aside but then I just lost interest in her character. She ended up annoying me, being more stubborn than logical, and then saying some really dumb stuff of the “oh, of course he doesn’t like me” realm. Meh. Stop it.

It was almost halfway or around halfway through the book for Fallon to even get to Rome and literally 75% of the way in for a single battle to happen. And then it was a party, a bargain, and the final battle of the book. What??? Where was like… everything? Again, I don’t NEED action to keep me hooked to a book but the rest of the plot and character development didn’t do it for me. Fallon started off awesome and then I didn’t feel like her character got anymore complex. There was a whole aspect of the book (which I can’t talk about because spoiler) that I thought could really have developed the characters some more and there could have been so much more done there but wasn’t. The romance in the book was also way underdeveloped. Barely into a boy as more than a friend in the very beginning and then pining over him the rest of the book (although I can give her some of that since they were childhood friends. I’ll take that as mourning someone close to you and not mourning the romance). Then a meh romance throughout the rest of the time in Rome when there could have been an awesome slow burn, a forbidden romance, any romantic tension at all. I wasn’t feeling it.

I’m mostly saddened that the plot didn’t really go anywhere here. The book can basically be summarized as: Fallon is stolen away to Rome. Plot twist happens that changes her view of things but if it wasn’t there, the rest of the book still could have happened. Kissy things at some point. An epic battle at the very end. End book. It just didn’t feel like there was a lot of meat to the story and I felt like there could have been a lot more plotting elements that could have developed the story so much more.

I also felt weird with the way the book ended. It was so much action all at once and then I’m assuming was set up for a sequel. I would have much preferred this to be a stand alone novel and had it wrapped up in one book. It felt like it was stretched out unnecessarily and forced to continue into a sequel.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. The gladiator concept and setting was a unique historical fiction (well unique to YA, I think) that I haven’t seen done often or at all! It was an interesting way to read historical fiction.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. There was one big twist and that seemed to be all of the plot. I just wished that more had been built up and developed. There was plenty that could have been but it seemed like it all just happened instead of experiencing it.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I didn’t think this was a bad book but it really didn’t do it for me. Tons of other people really loved it so I’d recommend checking out reviews!

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BOOKS LIKE THE VALIANT

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Burial Rites – Hannah KentTitle: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Publishing Info: September 10, 2013 by Little, Brown
Source: BEA 2013
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 11, 2014

    Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
    Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.
    Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

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Alyssa, Amy, and I chose BURIAL RITES as one of our selections for our group read with On the Same Page because of so many rave reviews and what an interesting story it appeared to be. Without a doubt, this was a powerful book but it was also a challenging book for me. BURIAL RITES is historical fiction, which is something I’m not well-versed in and am very picky about, but I trusted the reviews that I’d seen and all the high praise it’s received and really did want to read it in earnest.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, BURIAL RITES is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir and her time on a remote farm before she is to be executed for the murder of her former employer. I grabbed the ARC from BEA last year because it sounded incredibly interesting and my interest was piqued whether or not Agnes was really guilty of the murder and maybe that was what the story was about. What I didn’t realize until I was already reading it is that BURIAL RITES is historical fiction but it’s actually in large a true story. Agnes Magnusdottir was a real person and this is her real story. She was one of the last people to be sentenced to execution by beheading in Iceland and what Hannah Kent found out about her during her time in Iceland had her so interested that she ended up writing an entire book about Agnes and her last days before the date of her execution.

I think the book was very tricky for me because as much as I’m not a historical fiction person, I’m really not a non-fiction person. It’s not that I’m fundamentally against either one but that I haven’t found a book I’ve really connected to very much in either genre. Usually the historical fiction I read is a largely fictional story (fictional characters and fictional plot in a real, historical setting) and I’ve been very picky about exactly what time periods I’ve really connected with. It’s just such a delicate balance for me as a reader and my personal tastes that it’s rare for everything to really ALL click into place, and unfortunately I had a bit of a hard time with BURIAL RITES. It was a really interesting story, but things were just not clicking for me. I was interested in Agnes and her story, but hard a hard time feeling that emotional connection to her as well as the other characters. Hannah Kent does an amazing job of painting the scenery, but I was also so unfamiliar with it that it was hard to feel grounded in it.

Unfortunately I had a bit of a hard time with the pacing and overall feel as well. I knew going in that this would be a heavy book, but sometimes it’s hard to read such a weighty plot and I was never quite in the right mood to really absorb the book the way I wanted to. I had a bit of a hard time getting into it because I wasn’t in the right mindset and then when I was, I felt like I kept hitting lulls in the action. It took me a long time to really get to know these characters and I felt like I didn’t really get there until the VERY end of the book. Finally at the end, I felt the connection to Agnes and to Toti. I actually felt really emotional about the ending, I think in part because I know that this really was a true story and really did happen so I kept picturing it as something REAL and not just book characters. It really made me want to go back and re-read parts to feel that connection where I should have earlier in the book… But we all know that I won’t go back and re-read because everything happened just a bit too late.

The writing was just beautiful as far as descriptions and narration went but I think I just wasn’t meant to click with this book. I’m not sure if it was timing or content or subject, but BURIAL RITES wasn’t as good for me as I had hoped it would be. I did still enjoy quite a bit of it but my lack of connection and motivation really just brought down my reading experience when I had a higher anticipation and expectation of what I might find in this book.

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Agnes // Character Obsessions: Death, working, companionship, degrees of innocence.
I really wish I had been able to connect with Agnes earlier on in the book. I finally connected with her towards the end and at that point I really wanted to spend more time with her character but it was too late and the book was over. I think maybe it’s just the impossibility of imagining and awaiting your own death that sort of makes everything seem distant, and that may be what I was picking up from Agnes. There’s a sort of hopelessness there and she does what she can, but how are you supposed to spend the rest of your life when you know it’s only a few short weeks until it’s over?

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Kept Me Hooked On: Aspects of non-fiction. I haven’t read much non-fiction at all… so when it really hit me that this was the REAL story of Agnes Magnusdottir… I think it all became much more real and personal. I knew it was based on a real story but I didn’t realize exactly how much of it was true. Honestly, Hannah Kent mostly just created dialogue and came up with some original pot points but she really did her research to make this as historically accurate as possible and tell a true story but with dabs of fiction. It was really interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Personal connection. I just wasn’t able to get into it like I wanted to, both on the character side and the plot side. I think it was a lot heavier than I expected and was expecting a bit more of a fictional mystery story. It was really interesting but hard for me to get into at the same time.

Addiction Rating
Try it

This one didn’t ENTIRELY work for me but the story was really interesting and Hannah Kent is a wonderful writer. If you’re hesitant about nonfiction and enjoy historical fiction, this is probably a great place to start!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE BURIAL RITES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     man in the dark    code name verity

 

Summerset Abbey (Summerset Abbey #1) – T.J. Brown

Summerset Abbey (Summerset Abbey #1) – T.J. BrownTitle: Summerset Abbey (Summerset Abbey #1) by T.J. Brown
Publishing Info: January 5, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 15, 2012

    1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war. . . .
Rowena Buxton

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.
    Victoria Buxton
Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever. . . .
    Prudence Tate
Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.

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I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but the premise of SUMMERSET ABBEY really intrigued me.  I had started the novel and was a bit confused at first with all of the different point of views we get all at once. It doesn’t jump around too much, but we get a third person narration that switches from Rowena to Prudence to Victoria, and a dash of a couple minor characters (actually, I think only Lady Summerset from time to time). The switching around wasn’t really a big deal once I realized how the book was written but with three different female point of views in the beginning, I was having a difficult time figuring out which was which.

I really liked the character development and how different each of the three girls were. I felt like I got a very specific feel from each one and that they had very distinct personalities so I was really glad that I didn’t feel lost there! I think out of all of them, I connected with Prudence the most except towards the end when I felt like her character changed just a little bit and some of her reactions didn’t feel genuine.

I loved the feel of the abbey and the historical setting so that was something I wasn’t expecting. I’m not a Downton Abbey person (or at least not yet, my friends tell me) so I had no pre-conceived notions of how it should have felt.

The plot was definitely interesting, weaving in little twists and mysteries that I could guess at parts but anxiously awaited answers towards the end. I guess the thing I was a little disappointed in was the ending itself. We finally get some answers and then POOF! The book is over!! Wait, the book is over? The ending just happened so quickly and even though I know it’s left open for a sequel, there still could have been a cliffhanger without cutting it off so quickly. I also was not a fan of Prudence’s choices at the end and didn’t even see that coming.

It was a very interesting read, great history behind it, and really nice character development. Will I read the second book? I’m not quite sure.

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Prudence Tate: Even though Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence all share the narration pretty evenly, I think Prudence comes out at the main character I associated with. I think that’s mostly because she had the biggest struggle and issue to overcome, so naturally I was rooting for a character that needed the help! I really felt for her and liked her story. I actually think the book may have been a bit more focused if we just had Prudence’s POV. I feel like that would have allowed more searching, more discovery, more emotional connections.
Victoria Buxton: Victoria was definitely my second favorite. I loved her spunk despite her illness and I think she was a character that really stood up off the page. I was hoping for just a bit more story from her and that we made it about 75% of the way there. Still missing a little piece of that connection for her part in the story to feel full.
Rowena Buxton: Rowena’s character is not what I thought it was going to be, but I really thought it was so nicely done. She really has a hard time with her father’s death and even though she’s the oldest sister and trying to do her best, she’s overwhelmed and upset by the task. She’s kind of lost throughout the book and doesn’t really know where to go or how to act. I was really hoping for much more development between her and Jon the pilot. I think she needed a little more time with him to turn into a fuller character as well. With her being upset most of the time, I felt like I just got lost in her depression and was still hoping to see her pull through!

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Library read

It was an interesting book but I wasn’t totally sold on it. I recommend if you’re a Downton Abbey fan — maybe grab it from the library to feel it out.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SUMMERSET ABBEY