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Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes LackeyTitle: Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) by Mercedes Lackey
Publishing Info: October 7, 2004 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 13, 2017

Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

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This was my first Mercedes Lackey book and I had high expectations because of so many reviews! CLOSER TO HOME was actually nothing like I expected. It was lighter than I thought it would be and I actually was really surprised with the plot… And that there wasn’t one…?  I purchased this book in an Audible sale because I had heard so much about Mercedes Lackey and Nick Podehl narrates and he’s one of my favorites so this is how I ended up here!

I really didn’t know what the point of this book was, to be perfectly honest. It wasn’t until halfway through that the focus really started to shift to Brand and Violetta, but Mags and Amily are the main characters so it was confusing for a while what was really happening. I really did love Mags and Amily — Mags even more so — so it was kind of disappointing that they were more helpers of the plot and that the book wasn’t even really about them.

I have been told that this book starts a new series BUT it is also part of a kind of series of series about the world of Valdemar… But while a series of series is fine, it really did feel like it picked up in the middle of story instead starting its own series or a portion thereof. There was a mention of how Amily and Mags ended up coming back home but it was never elaborated on and so it felt really unfinished. There was so much more to discover as far as world-building, especially on the magical abilities, but I suppose that could be something I’m missing from a previous series of series.

I most just felt like I didn’t know what the plot of this book was. Even though things happened, it just didn’t seem like a large conflict and then at the end, all of a sudden it was this huge deal. It was a weirdly constructed book and I just didn’t quite connect with it, which was a shame because I really did like the characters and the world! As much as I’d like to spend more time with them, I don’t know what the rest of the series would be life and if it would be worth continuing.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mind speech. I enjoyed the concept of mind speech here and how it was a different ability and could be used differently too!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. This just didn’t have a clear direction and I was left wondering what the point of this book even was.

Addiction Rating
Start at the beginning

Mayyyyybe you shouldn’t start with this book like I did. In my defense, I didn’t realize what exactly this series was all about but if you want to start with these books, check out the first Valdemar book.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) – Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) – Rae CarsonTitle: The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson
Publishing Info: September 20, 2011 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 7, 2017
Related Posts: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

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Well hello again from the black sheep side of the world! Sadly, it has not been long since I’ve been over here.

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS has been on my TBR for so many years and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it… But this first book, man. I had a very hard time with it.

The beginning was not a struggle. I enjoyed that Elisa was not perfect, not slender, not the favorite. She does bear the Godstone which brings about her important marriage to a king in another land. I appreciated so many things about Elisa but her character felt very young compared to other YA characters that have been thrown into the same situations and her naiveté just really bothered me at times. I appreciated that the romance was not a main focus BUT I was annoyed that there were three different non-romances that Elisa was involved in and it was bothersome for her to have at least some form of feelings for so many different people. I also had a hard time with knowing that Hector becomes such a big character in future books (because of everyone’s flailing) so the romances (or lack thereof) with other guys was just frustrating because I wanted it all to be Hector.

Can we just pause here for a second, though? Why. Is the stone. In her belly button. I don’t know why but that bothered me so, so, SO much. It was weird and annoying and she was getting some… intense sensations from it. (Okay, it was nothing sexual but the descriptions were weird sometimes.) I just really hated it.

I didn’t really ever get into the story either. I enjoyed the first part of the book and I was interested to see it go somewhere… and then in my least favorite plot turn ever in any book, everything is upended and the characters get taken somewhere brand new and are around 100% different people, totally changing everything that you spent time getting to know in the first third of the book. I also didn’t like the people that Elisa ended up with in the next part of the book when everything changed so it was really just all downhill from there for me. I also really didn’t like the ending of the book and I was hoping for something in a different direction.

Things just fell apart after the first third of the book for me and it was annoying enough that I don’t know if I even want to continue the series. I’ve heard such good things about the series but if I didn’t enjoy the plot and tone and where this one went… I don’t know if it’s worth continuing for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique heroines. I really liked the fact that Elisa wasn’t an easy heroine. We watched her learn and grow and struggle through some common things instead of being a perfect little snowflake.
Left Me Wanting More: Consistency. The story felt like it flipped halfway through the book and it just felt like a totally different story. I wished it had been structured much differently.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

So many people love this series but it just wasn’t a hit with me. I’m not sure if I’ll continue so I’d recommend checking out other reviews and not just mine!

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BOOKS LIKE THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE WRATH AND THE DAWN

Strange the Dreamer | A Dream Come True + Giveaway!

I partnered with Little, Brown today for a really fun post all about one of my new favorite books, STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor! I was asked to participate in this series of posts and when I heard about it, I immediately said yes. I want to continue spreading the love for Laini Taylor and her books and having just finished STRANGE THE DREAMER not too long ago, it’s a book that needs to be in everyone’s hands!

Before we jump into the giveaway (yes, there’s a giveaway), I have some fun DREAMER-related content as well as book info! I was asked if I wanted to share some fun optional content for my blog post today about a dream of mine that’s come true already or a dream that I would like to come true and the answer to this one was easy!

Strange the Dreamer | A Dream Come True + Giveaway!Title: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor
Publishing Info: March 28, 2017 by Source: Audible, Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 18, 2017
Related Posts: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1), Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2), Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5), Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3), Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1)

A new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around--and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries--including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.
Welcome to Weep.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laini Taylor is a New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

MY BOOKISH DREAM

I’m sure everyone knows by now but if not, I own and run the candle shop Novelly Yours Candles. When I started it, it was just a fun hobby that I wanted to share with friends by making candles available for purchase on Etsy so I could share them since I couldn’t afford to give candles away to everyone. Well, when I started it, it was really just for fun for myself and once I started sharing what I was doing, the interest really picked up. A year and a half later and I’m soooo close into turning this into my full-time job, and what a dream that would be!!! It’s hard and scary to be self-employed but doing this has been so amazing and I can only dream of what it would be like to work for myself while doing something that I love. Being able to spend time with my husband, doing a job that I really love and care about, seeing all of the joy that people share when receiving my product, and of course the perks of any vacation time I want and not having to get up at 5:30am every day! This would truly be a dream come true and one step close to really making this an even better business.

It’s scary going into business for yourself because I would become dependent on consistent sales which is never a guarantee and there are so many variables by making a living off of selling bookish candles, but it’s a big dream that just might work! It’s my current long-term goal and something my husband and I are currently working very hard towards! He’s been so helpful and encouraging throughout my candle endeavor and I couldn’t have set up my new work space without him!!

STRANGE THE DREAMER BONUS CONTENT

There is some awesome bonus content for this book as well, including videos and a quiz (which I am totally taking, by the way). Check out everything you need to complete your STRANGE THE DREAMER experience below!

Official Site + Social Media

 Bonus Content!

  • Which Godspawn are you? Take the quiz! (I got Feral!)
  • Download a variety of quote-art here.

Sneak Peek at the Book

Video Content

GIVEAWAY

The folks at Little, Brown are also providing a giveaway for today’s post! One lucky winner will win a hardcover copy of STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor and a $25 Visa gift card to use to pursue one of your dreams! Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Little, Brown & Co.

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Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!

Welcome to the blog tour for
The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

I’m so excited to share today’s blog post which is my blog tour stop for THE TRAITOR’S KISS by Erin Beaty! Thanks to the amazing team at Macmillan for having me be a part of the tour and share some of my favorite parts of any book… the scents! Being a candle-maker, I’m obsessed with the different scents described in books and there were a few lovely aromas in THE TRAITOR’S KISS that caught my eye. On today’s stop, I’m sharing some of those and have a special candle giveaway too!

Before we jump into the tour, let’s take a second to check out some details about the book:

Blog Tour: The Traitor’s Kiss | Book Scents + Giveaway!Title: The Traitor's Kiss (Traitor's Trilogy #1) by Erin Beaty
Publishing Info: May 9, 2017 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 18, 2017

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.
With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.
As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.


BOOK SCENTS: THE TRAITOR’S KISS

Ever since I started making candles, I’ve been so much more in tune with the sensory notes in the books that I read. I feel like aromas in a book are easily skipped over and forgotten once a reader has finished because noticing and committing a smell to memory is such a unique experience that it’s harder hang onto if you haven’t experienced it first hand. I know at least for me, when a book draws on a familiar smell, I’m instantly hit with memories and nostalgia that have the potential to tie me to a book more than any other scenic description so I feel like those smells that add to the atmosphere are not to be overlooked!

Drawing upon my newly heightened awareness, I’ve started keeping tracking of specific scents described in book and how they really paint an even more vivid picture for a reader! Today on Book Scents, I’m sharing some of my favorite aromas from THE TRAITOR’S KISS! They immediately had me thinking back on what fragrances I would use to mimic each experience and I’ve included each one below. (Now how do we make these posts scratch and sniff?)

It still smelled like him. Like the pine pitch and tallow salve Father made for cuts and scrapes.

Inspiration: Sage’s father’s salve
Fragrances: Pine, outdoors, oakmoss

There were honey-colored freckles he’d noticed last night scattered across her nose and cheeks. This close, he could also smell the lavender and sage scents in her dress, which he much preferred to the floral perfumes the other women were drenched in.

Inspiration: The scents of Sage
Fragrances: Lavender, sage, honey

He smelled indefinitely better — like soap with essence of evergreen… clean linen… leather… and something indefinable that left her only wanting to breathe more deeply. 


The scent of his leather jacket mingled with the evergreen shaving lather he used.


This close, she couldn’t help breathing in the scents of leather, evergreen soap, and linen — a mix that was distinctly his.

Inspiration: The scents of Ash
Fragrances: Clean soap, pine, clean cotton, leather, musk

The scent of spearmint with a hint of orange drew Sage to her side.

Inspiration: Sage’s roommate Clare and her tea
Fragrances: spearmint, orange, earl grey tea

The Great Hall was decorated with garlands of spring flowers imported from somewhere much warmer than Tegann, and rushes on the floor released sweet scents as they were trod upon by the multitude of guests.

Inspiration: The Great Hall
Fragrances: Tulips, jasmine, tropical flowers

So what do you think?! Which scents do you think are the strongest sensory inspirations? Which are your favorites?


SECRET MESSAGE & BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

“Well-schooled, high and mighty about it”

Each blog on the blog tour also has a SECRET MESSAGE! Check out each stop on the blog tour to collect all of the messages for one final passage!!

BLOGGER BLOG DATE CONTENT
Brittany Smith http://www.bookaddictsguide.com 20-Apr Scented Candle
Flo Kizza http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/ 22-Apr List of Favorite Literary Female Spies
Becky Vosburg http://www.storiesandsweeties.com/ 23-Apr Guest Post: Intro to main characters with pics
Katie Bartow http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/ 24-Apr Guest Post: Top 10 Things All Spies Need
Crystal Leach http://bookiemoji.com/ 25-Apr Top 5 Reasons to read The Traitor’s Kiss
Rachel Clarke http://www.fiktshun.com/fiktshun/ 26-Apr Guest Post: Favorite & Most Challenging Scene to Write (and Why)
Mandy Curtis http://foreveryoungadult.com/ 27-Apr Guest Post: YA “matchmaker”
Beth Edwards http://www.yabookscentral.com/ 28-Apr Guest Post: What gave you the inspiration for this book?
Michelle Adams bookbriefs.net 29-Apr Guest Post: Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know about Sage & Quinn
Amy Thau http://www.trippingoverbooks.com/ 30-Apr Mood Board
Michelle Bucud http://darkfaerietales.com/ 1-May Guest Post: What’s the most daring thing you would do for a mission?
Sarah https://whatsarahread.com/ 2-May Mood Board
Jennie Cresswell https://booklovingnut.com/ 3-May Playlist
Liza Rodriguez http://quitethenovelidea.com/ 5-May Alternate Cover
Kelly Gunderman http://www.herestohappyendings.com/ 6-May Q&A
Brooke Goldetsky http://brooke-reports.blogspot.com/ 7-May Sage Character Interview
Michelle Santiago http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/ 9-May Fancast

GIVEAWAY

Because of the scent inspiration of today’s post, I’ve actually taken one of these concepts and turned it into a candle! The candle giveaway is for one 8oz tin called “Forest of Ash”, inspired by male lead in THE TRAITOR’S KISS with a play on the evergreen scents that are constant throughout his scent. This candle smells like clean pine, cotton, and leather with hints of masculine musk. Open to US entries only. Must be 13 years of age or older to win. Candle giveaway open from 4/20/17 – 4/27/17. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

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Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) – Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) – Alwyn HamiltonTitle: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) by Alwyn Hamilton
Publishing Info: March 7, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 17, 2017
Related Posts: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.
Gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

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TRAITOR TO THE THRONE was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2017. I absolutely loved REBEL OF THE SANDS when I read it last year and it wasn’t just an enjoyable book for me — it was one of my favorites from the entire year. I was so incredibly excited to read and ended up being quite intimidated by its size. Before I get into the actual review, let’s talk about some THINGS. The book is over 500 pages long and REBEL was only about 300 (320? Something like that) so 200 extra pages right off the bat was a LOT. Don’t get me wrong — I love long books. They’re amazing when you get lost in them and there’s so much an author can do with so many pages… but I didn’t think TRAITOR needed that many pages. There was a lot of pressure to read this for many reasons (anticipated read, long book, reading for a blog tour, reading on a time crunch, not having finished a lot of books recently and then starting a long book) and that did affect my read a little bit BUT I know that if I’m really enjoying a book, I’ll save something that is lengthy and not dread how much more I have to finish.

TRAITOR ended up being more intimidating than enjoyable and I reached a point where I didn’t feel like things were moving forward. The book is over 500 pages and it spent a lot of time in the same places with not a whole lot of plot moving forward. Some of it I really felt like could have been handled in a few chapters and then we could move forward with really anything. As I’ve said in many reviews before, I don’t “need” action to enjoy a book but this felt like the plot was stagnant. I didn’t feel like the story was moving forward and I really think it could have progressed in far fewer pages. I enjoyed REBEL in part because it was concise and didn’t add extra pages for the sake of drawing out a fantasy novel. Sadly, TRAITOR fell victim to the extra pages and I wonder if that’s because of the success of REBEL. If it was moving, I don’t doubt that I’d want to read all 500+ of those pages but it just didn’t seem to go anywhere.

This is where it will get minorly spoilery. Still just plot points, nothing like reveals or deaths or anything, but WARNING WARNING if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, skip to the next paragraph! 
Soooo I did not like where this book went. At all. Amani ends up being captured and taken prisoner in a harem which felt like such an easy direction to take this book and something I’ve already read so many times. I’m tired of girls being trapped by men, especially when sexually persecuted (although not particularly Amani, but that’s the general idea of being trapped in a harem) and just no, no, no. Amani was FIERCE. She was one of the guys! She was strong! She was independent! She was getting stuff done and JUST discovering her abilities in the first book! All of that got taken away for at least 50% of TRAITOR and I was just so disappointed. Why build up a power to have it taken away in the next book? Why create an awesome, strong female to have her become helpless and trapped? Literally, could not help herself. I guess in the end, she makes some stuff work, but that took for-ev-er to happen. The harem was literally half of the book so I definitely struggled for a long time.

Really when it comes down to it, I just didn’t feel like this was the same tone as the first book at all. The squad is all over the place so there’s a serious lack of squad goals. The author chose to do that book two thing where the couple is split up for half the book, even though the swoons and banter were such a big reason why I loved the first book. There are so many characters on top of the ones that were in the last book so I started to get lost with everyone. As with any series, I kind of got lost with some of the secondary characters since it had been a year since I read the first book and the addition of even more characters started to really lose me. The book also started six months after REBEL so those six months were just kind of summed up and I didn’t get to experience them. Things happened and I had to hear it secondhand… and a lot of stuff had happened. I can deal with time after the first book but it really felt like it was picking up in a whole different place and didn’t quite continue the first adventure.

I’m not sure if I’ll read the third book in this series which is such a shame. Once I hit this point, it’s kind of hard to go back to the point where I had loved this experience. So much of the middle could have been cut out or condensed and TRAITOR could have stayed as action-packed as the first, minimized time apart from Jin, and kept me way more interested. I just don’t even know what to feel about this series now so I guess I’ll wait until the third book comes around and reassess then. As of right now, I just don’t see it happening though.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Not much. You know, it’s sad when I don’t even know what the highlights of this book were for me. I just keep remembering my disappointment and struggle.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. This just need to be far fewer pages and keep the characters more together.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I can’t tell if I’m the black sheep on this one or it really did suffer from second in a series syndrome.

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BOOKS LIKE TRAITOR TO THE THRONE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE WRATH AND THE DAWN

A Good Idea – Cristina Moracho

A Good Idea – Cristina MorachoTitle: A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho
Publishing Info: February 28, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: February 14, 2017
Related Posts: Althea and Oliver

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?
Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.
Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.
But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

bookreview1

A GOOD IDEA was interesting from start to finish but my passion for it sort of went in waves. The beginning was interesting but I wasn’t sure where it was going yet. The middle was thrilling and I tore through the book (well, I would have it I wasn’t listening to an audiobook and was forced to read at a level pace). The ending culminated well but got a little out there in regards to how things tied up. I liked the way that the book ended and yet the circumstances as to how the characters resolved the “case” was a little bizarre.

I was excited to pick up A GOOD IDEA because I had loved Cristina Moracho’s debut, ALTHEA & OLIVER. This book was quite different — a mystery/thriller versus realistic fiction — but I do love that both books took place in the 90s. It wasn’t really a “period piece” but I’m guessing that was Moracho’s time as a teen since it’s been revisited twice and I do like that “write what you know” concept in this case. I also enjoy things NOT set in present day because the slight throwback allows for less technology to get in the way. The concept of no cell phones (or at least no smart phones) really breaks that form of constant communication and allows plot to wander instead of technology making things unrealistic. Everyone is not a quick phone call or text away and people don’t have cameras attached to their hips. I appreciate the break from technology and allowing the book to run away with an idea!

This is another book that may aim towards a more mature young adult audience with consistent drug usage, language, and sexual activity. I read a few reviews that felt like these things were overboard but for small town Maine (or small town anywhere) and a lack of technology (not like I know what the 90s were like as a teen), I didn’t think anything was really out of bounds. It wasn’t my personal experience as a teenager but that doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic.

It was interesting to see Finley dig into the past by stirring up questions about her best friend Betty’s murder. Betty “disappeared” and everyone knew she had probably died but without actual evidence, no one really wanted to actually admit it. With a confession in the air (not a spoiler — we know this from the beginning) that didn’t stick, Finley needs to prove that the confessor is actually guilty and that they’re punished for taking her best friend’s life but loyalty gets in the way and made things even more dangerous for Finley. It was really interesting to have an answer from the start and have the characters race through a series of theories and scenarios. Was this confession really what happened? How much more is there to the story? Is it a lie? Is it a cover up for something else? Is Betty even really dead? These are all questions that the characters ask themselves and as the reader, I really started to question everything as well. The obvious answer is presented to the reader at the very beginning, but is it the CORRECT answer?

The ending got a little strange and maybe a bit too dramatic for my tastes. The beginning was pretty realistic, focusing more on the internal struggles of each character that added to the drama and confusion of the overall mystery. The ending got a little too villain-y for me (also not a spoiler because that’s not even in relation to the final answer of the mystery) and it just really sadly turned me off for just a bit. BUT I did like how the very, very end wrapped up and the solid conclusion left me satisfied with the book overall.

Oh, and we also really did find a bathtub in the woods on a hike.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Books set in the 90s. This book wasn’t really about the 90s but I love the concept of being slightly removed from present day. I wouldn’t call the 1990s historical fiction but I enjoy that there’s a little bit of nostalgia and lack of technology. I’d love to see more books set in the 80s and 90s!
Left Me Wanting More: Realistic endings. Things were so gritty and real and then then ending got a little bizarre for me. I mean, it’s a book so I’m not saying it never could have happened but it just didn’t seem like it would happen.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This was a really interesting book and I really enjoyed the way it was put together! I liked that it was a mystery and yet the answers were there the whole time, and I thought the character development was really great too.

book_recommendations1

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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 // Goodreads
Date 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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