Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

30689335The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Published by: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery/Contemporary

Pages: 276 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

Trigger Warning: suicide & sexual abuse

*HUGE thanks to Penguin Random House/Penguin’s First to Read & Amy Engel for the eGalley of The Roanoke Girls

 

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Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

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I picked up The Roanoke Girls not knowing a thing about the plot or premise other than it was making waves in the blogosphere & sometimes that makes for the best possible reading experience. I’m glad I had no clue what I was getting into, this book definitely was dark & twisted with a bit of shock factor working for it. Told in first person point of view, the main protagonist Lane is living her life in NYC when she gets a call from her grandad letting her know that her cousin has gone missing & that she needs to come home. Lane reluctantly heads back to Roanoke, the one place she swore to never return to. There are a ton of secrets, mystery, hurt, and cover-ups in Roanoke that Lane can’t seem to escape. I immediately started asking myself questions as to what could possibly make Lane stay away from her grandparents home. She opted to leave to NYC where life is not at as easy as it would be if she’d stayed at Roanoke with her wealthy family. As the plot unravels you realize how deep the secrets go & that Lane is just one from generations of Roanoke women that can’t seem to escape the manipulation and abuse in the Roanoke home. I was not expecting this book to go the direction that it did & yes I am purposely being vague because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone trying to read it. It is the darkest book I’ve read to date and seriously made me question the psyche of these characters from all angles. The air of mystery is held throughout the book until the very end since we are from the very start trying to figure out what happened to Allegra? did she run away? or is she dead in a ditch somewhere like everyone thought she was fated to end up? & while Lane attempts to solve this mystery, we are also being exposed to the family secrets one by one…

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I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a cast of characters this messed up smh. Our main protagonist Lane is carrying some serious baggage from childhood that stems back to her relationship with her mother. Lane’s mom fled Roanoke while pregnant with her but she never truly escaped her past & lived a life of sadness where she cried daily and couldn’t actually have a relationship with Lane. Her mom carried the Roanoke secrets buried deep within her & committed suicide when she was 15 which meant that Lane would be sent to live with her grandparents (next of kin) back at Roanoke. The book is told by a now adult Lane who has flashbacks to the summer she arrived at Roanoke after her mother committed suicide. We meet Allegra in the flashbacks & for those of you who have watched the show Pretty Little Liars, Allegra is the equivalent of Allison & that’s as close a comparison as I’ve ever seen one haha! She is energetic & oftentimes frenetic. Allegra is ecstatic to have Lane join them at Roanoke & we get to follow the girls that summer while they date & even fall in love. We also get to see how the extent of the abuse they’ve experienced affects their relationships with their boyfriends at the time. Lane considers herself unworthy and therefore sets out to destroy whatever good she comes across through toxic behavior. I am not kidding when I say EVERYONE in this book is messed up but the Roanoke girls have it the worse. Paraphrasing here but one of the characters actually mentioned that there are messed up families & then there’s reallllly messed up when he referred to Lane’s own family. They were all twisted enough to stay in my psyche for quite a bit, this book won’t be for everyone but I found these characters interesting & they kept me wondering at all hours of the night.

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The formatting of this book kept me completely captivated, alternating between the present & the summer Lane arrived in Roanoke was interesting enough. However, I also really enjoyed the excerpts written in third person POV for all of the Roanoke girls who suffered the same fate while living in the Roanoke household. I couldn’t put this book down for too long, I needed to find out the truth but also Lane felt like a loose cannon the majority of the time & I couldn’t keep my eyes from reading just to see what she would do next. A page turner that for sure will make you uncomfortable but I think this speaks to the authors skilled writing. This book won’t be for everyone however, I enjoyed it probably because I gravitate towards complex characters. Given, this is on a whole other level of complicated but still, it made me feel several emotions & that was enough for me to know that this was a solid read my bookish peeps 😉

Have any of you read The Roanoke Girls? If so, what are your thoughts? If you reviewed The Roanoke Girls, feel free to drop that link down below & i’ll swing by your corner of the inter-webs 😉

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

30375703The Valiant (The Valiant #1) By Lesley Livingston

Published by: Razorbill/Penguin Random House

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Pages: 384 pages

Format: Physical ARC 

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Gretchen from Chicnerdreads for her arc copy of The Valiant, Razorbill & Lesley Livingston

 

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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.

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.”

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This is one of those books where Goodreads has pretty much spelled out the plot for you in their blurb so i’ll just add to it here & there. Perhaps the best part of The Valiant were the many plot twists along the way that kept me flipping pages til the very end. You quickly figure out that nothing is as it appears & the second half of the book has a different tone/pace than the first. We are first introduced to Fallon on the night of her 17th birthday, she is getting ready for her father’s festivities where she believes he will officially make her a part of his war band. The celebration itself ends up being the night that sets her on her true course after things take a very wrong turn. Faced with heart break, betrayal and murder, Fallon must pave her own path to freedom…

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Our main protagonist Fallon quickly earned my respect from the very start when she opted to put her wants/career before a possible relationship. Fallon is ambitious, brave, and has known which path she wants to take ever since she was a little girl watching her older sister fight for her father. She’s had her sister as a role model & wishes to follow in her footsteps. Every day she practices riding her chariot and honing her skills in fighting. Her sister’s words always playing in the back of her head…

“Are you a weapon or a target? Choose!” 
― Lesley LivingstonThe Valiant

Fallon has chosen to mold herself into a weapon and is ready for any curveball that is thrown her way. I enjoyed Fallon’s character development along the way & seeing her take control of her life. In the second half of the book we get to see Fallon’s relationship with another girl who was also sold to be a Gladiatrix. Elka & Fallon’s friendship was actually my favorite part of this book. It’s rare when we come across positive female friendships on the pages we read & therefore I tend to appreciate that a whole lot more than say a love interest (jussayin lol). The exchanges & witty banter between these two also proved to be entertaining. Fallon does have a love interest towards the second half however their story isn’t too fleshed out. I got the impression that this being book 1 in a series (or trilogy, not sure) that their relationship will unfold in the 2nd installment. I was ok with this because it meant that their budding romance didn’t take center stage to Fallon’s journey/experience as a Gladiatrix. There are some other characters who I enjoyed however for fear of spoilers I won’t mention. I will say though, that I hope to get a bit more depth to some of the supporting characters that are pivotal to the story.

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The Valiant is honestly a solid start to what has the potential to be a very entertaining new series featuring strong female leads. I immediately got Spartacus vibes when I started reading, and being a lover of that series I just knew I was going to devour this book. The first half of this book was a bit slow for me however, once I reached THAT point…you know the part in the story that sinks its teeth into you? yea THAT point lol, I couldn’t put the book down. I seriously took this book with me into the shower (not a drawn bath with candles that you see on tv) & read it through to the very end. The concept of female gladiators in a bloody Rome intrigues the hell outta me & the fact that this is a Historical Young Adult book made for some interesting familiar faces. We not only get to meet Julius Caesar himself but we also get Cleopatra & some actual facts were thrown in there to give it that authentic Roman history feel. I appreciated the fact that the author did not try to paint a pretty picture of life as a Gladiatrix & was actually very detailed in the brutalities experienced while training and while in the arena fighting for their freedom. I actually read the author’s note & I’m glad I did because in it I learned that Gladiatrices did actually exist. Through excavation, the remains of what appear to be female gladiators have been found. I’m a big history fanatic & these types of facts will always reel me in, knowing that they actually existed has increased my interest exponentially. I look forward to continuing with this series & seeing what Fallon has been up to since last I saw her in the Ludus.

New York Comic Con/Bookcon 2016 Haul

Last weekend I attended my very first Comic Con which also happened to be hosting Bookcon for their very first time. The experience is one that i’ll never forget because of how much fun I had as well as the tips & tricks I picked up along the way. As a book blogger, Bookcon was definitely a motivator in buying my tickets since let’s face it, getting physical ARCS is no easy feat for small time bloggers like myself LOL. My hubby & I purchased the 3 day passes with hopes that all would fall into place as far as sitting for our 2 tiny humans and it did *Whoop Whoop* well on day 3 we didn’t have sitting but hubby gracefully bowed out while I attended with Gretchen @Chicnerdreads who was already set to go for the day.

Day 1 was a bit on the overwhelming side since we didn’t really know what to expect tbh. It was a huge crowd & I’ve never seen so many people come together for one event but i’m glad that it was this one. Everyone for the most part was friendly which is also rare cuz hellO! it’s New York jeje! as expected we spotted tons of Jokers & Harleys, seemed to be the popular costume choice of the year. Most of the entertainment panels I was interested in, took place in the evening which meant that I missed them. I arrived at opening and left each day between 2-4pm therefore I made the showroom floor my main focus with some occasional wanderings into artist alley. Bookcon itself was held in the building across the street from the Javits Center but it mostly was for the author panels. At the end of each panel, each author would be giving away an ARC of their new book. Most ARC giveaways were held in the Javits center on the showroom floor.

Days 2 & 3 were much more successful & is when we scored most of our ARCS. Day 3 (Sunday) being the MOST EPIC because all of the publishing houses were having crazy sales & giveaways since it was the last day of Comic Con. Below is my very 1st Bookcon Haul…

Books I purchased at reduced price:

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Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

  • Release Date: 10/25/2016
  • Urban Fantasy/Horror

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 

  • New paperback edition on sale now (The Rose & The Dagger will follow April 2017)
  • YA Fantasy-Fairy Tales

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

  • October 4th 2016
  • YA Mystery/Contemporary/LGBTQ

Replica by Lauren Oliver

  • October 4th 2016
  • YA Sci-Fi

The Female of The Species by Mindy McGinnis

  • September 20th 2016
  • YA/Contemporary/Mystery/Thriller

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

  • August 30th 2016
  • Fantasy/Middle Grade

YA ARCS: 

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

  • November 1st 2016
  • YA/Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

  • November 8th 2016
  • YA Fantasy/Re-telling

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

  • January 10th 2017
  • YA Fantasy/Re-telling

The Edge Of Everything by Jeff Giles

  • YA Fantasy

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James (author signed)

  • YA Fantasy

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston THANK YOU GRETCHEN @CHICNERDREADS!!! she gave me her copy cuz she knew how badly I wanted this ARC & missed it 2 days in a row *covers eyes*

  • February 14th 2017
  • YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

  • March 28th 2017
  • YA Historical Fantasy

The Freemason’s Daughter by Shelley Sackier

  • April 11th 2017
  • YA Historical Fiction

Non-YA ARCS (hehe)

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The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

  • October 6th 2016
  • Historical Fiction/Horror/Mystery

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

  • January 10th 2017
  • Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden (signed by author)

  • January 17th 2017
  • Historical Fiction/Fantasy

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

  • February 7th 2017
  • Sci-Fi Fantasy/Time Travel

Published books obtained through Signings/in booth giveaways

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The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin (signed by author)

  • August 4th 2015
  • Sci-Fi Fantasy

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

  • October 11th 2016
  • YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Vassa In The Night by Sarah Porter (signed by author)

  • September 20th 2016
  • YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Comics Purchased

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Lazarus (Volume 1) Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (Artist), Santiago Arcas (Illustrartor) (gift from hubby)

Black #1 by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith III (illustrator), Jamal Igle (Illustrator), Robin Riggs (Illustrator), Sarah Stern (Illustrator), Khary Randolph (Illustrator), Dave Sharpe (Illustrator), Sarah Litt (Editor) (signed by Tim Smith)

Bookish Freebies

Penguin Journal, Carve The Mark phone charger (universal), and the Heartless tee given away by Fierce Reads as a cover for the real score LOL (Heartless ARC)

I don’t even know where to start but I am beginning to form some sort of TBR for the rest of the year leading into 2017 🙂

 

 

 

Waiting On Wednesday: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Published by: Penguin Random House/Dutton Books For Young Readers

Date of Publication: February 14th 2017

Genres: YA Fiction

Pages: 240

 

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the award-winning author of Hold Still comes an achingly beautiful novel about grief and the enduring power of friendship.
“You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punch, We Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

 

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 

Reasons 4 Book Lusting We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (Goodreads Link here):

I recently read and loved Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads To You (review here) for her writing style & ability to bring to life the settings in her book. I’m big on character development and LaCour knows what she’s doing with the friendships/relationships she builds. We Are Okay takes place in New York City (my home city) where Marin now lives in her college dorm after leaving California in an attempt to flee her past. This being a story about grief and friendship, i’m hoping we get some amazing story telling and truly get a sense of the events that make Marin who she is now. I’m curious about her friend Mabel & how she is connected to Marin’s past. I get the feeling from the synopsis that Marin doesn’t have a family or has had a disconnect & i’m wondering whether we’ll get an amazing cast of supporting characters like we did in Everything Leads To You. I also love that this story is about female friendship because we don’t see that enough in YA. LaCour really knows how to portray the ups & downs of female friendships, hoping this will be a new favorite. Although she writes YA, in her last book I got the sense that the characters were much more mature for their age & had some life experience points under their belt. I’m hoping for a complex & deeply layered Marin, yea I like my characters rough around the edges lol smh.  Also, LaCour gets serious brownie points for this cover! at first I thought that she had gone the Graphic Novel route but quickly realized (& jumped 4 joy a bit) that it was her next YA Fiction book. Love the pastels against the night sky, she appears to be standing on her dorm room bed while looking out into a field somewhere that’s not NYC while snow falls…innnnnnneresting!

Waiting On Wednesday 

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


Title: The Valiant

Author: Lesley Livingston

Book: Hardcover, 288 pages

Expected Publication: February 14th 2017

Publisher: Razorbill Young Readers (Penguin Random House)






Edelweiss Synopsis:

A richly-imagined, gripping historical fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima,The Valiant recounts a seventeen-year-old’s tumultuous journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary female gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.

The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arena—and claim her place in history among the Valiant. 

Reasons:

When a synopsis includes the words/names: Gladiators, Julius Caesar, Celtic King, fighting arena, and warrior…I stop for a moment of silence while I try to contain my excitement. Female warrior protagonists? *SqUEeee* & it’s being released on Valentine’s Day, what better gift to give myself? Ok! fangirling over lol. A school of female gladiator’s run by none other than Julius Caesar himself?!?! SIGN ME UP! to read all about it that is (Lol). I’m a sucker for a strong female protog who isn’t afraid to get down & dirty, throw in a bit of Rome & you’re basically serenading me. I also love the names Fallon & Sorcha, they scream Fantasy & that cover is AWESOME to say the least. I only wish that the book was a bit longer but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of a possible trilogy.

Slowly but surely we’ve been seeing YA branch into different sub-genres and Historical Fiction is finally getting some love. With some of the more popular books like Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings & the collaborative project My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Asthon, and Jodi Meadows leading the way, I am hoping Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant joins their ranks & makes for a brutal & kick butt Valentine’s Day. Also, for those of you attending New York Comic Con this October like myself, Edelweiss has The Valiant listed for promotion at this event. So yes! I am already crossing my fingers & toes for the Book Gods to bless me with either a eGalley or physical ARC of The Valiant.

BTW, did any of you catch the “for fans of SJM & Cinda Williams Chima”? …Signed, Sealed, Delivered *sings* I’m YOURS!

Have any of you heard about The Valiant? If so, does it tickle your fancy? Eh? Lol. Feel free to drop THAT link with your Waiting On Wednesday’s. I have my Goodreads open & TBR ready for suggestions <3’s!