BABY BOOK REVIEW: SWORD AND VERSE

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SUMMARY (goodreads):

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

BABY REVIEW:

What a disappointment. I had high hopes for Sword and Verse. The author created a new language just for her book! If you can create a language, you MUST be able to use it, right?

Wrong.

I think she spent a little too much time on linguistics and not enough on her plot. Let me put a disclaimer that I skimmed a LOT of this book, but this was what I got from it:

BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD

 

 

Page 20: Raisa is already raised from lowest slave level to Tutor-in-training: training WITH the prince. Yeah, sure. And she avoided execution somehow, which was also unclear. Then there were the names and the places- an info dump if there ever was one. Raisa was the most normal name of any of them. I’m all for creativity, but please don’t give me 15 crazy names of people, places and things in the first 20 pages that I’m supposed to remember.

Page 30: She and the prince, who have never spoken before, ARE IN LOVE. Kissing ALL THE TIME.

Page 50: They sneak off to the library to have sex, and continue to do so several times throughout the book, even after the prince is betrothed to another girl, who’s super nice. Did I mention that she’s fifteen? But she was 14 when this love affair got started, and she barely breaks 16 by the time you actually get to the plot? Unrestrained teenage hormones are obviously a key factor in pushing this plot.

The rest (because after I spent 50 pages flipping through shivers and coos and the laughable idea that the ONLY PRINCE could sneak off so easily, for so long): There’s some kind of revolution, but Raisa is only concerned with how long it is before the prince gets married to the other girl- who is SUPER NICE, as far as I can tell. But it doesn’t seem to matter, because they still sneak off together anyway. Raisa only joins (begrudgingly) when people- important people- get kidnapped. And then there’s hardly any action, just some planning and suddenly, BAM. Raisa is the ruler of the whole place, some kind of priestess that can consult with an oracle and all sorts of random stuff like that. Good grief! A language rebellion wasn’t enough? It’s frustrating because I thought this would be in the vein of The Pledge, by Kimberly Derting, which was a great book about language and class separation. Maybe that was my mistake. But I certainly expected more than this.

I am very, very disappointed in this one. Insta-love, 8000 random characters, NO real action that I could find, and a very sketchy way of trying to have a happy ending. It would have been much more satisfying if there had been any true sacrifice from ANYONE in this book.

WHAT TO WATCH (more spoilers)

There was the bad romance, of course. Lots of not-so-innuendo about what they were doing and how. That permeated the book.

There was some violence, though not nearly as much as expected when you see the word sword in the title and a picture of it on the cover. Isn’t it supposed to be a revolution?

As far as drugs and drinking go, I couldn’t tell you, because I didn’t get that deep into it, to catch those details. The same goes for language, though I think I can safely say that since the author created a language, the curing wouldn’t be what we normally see.

The resolution of the whole affair seemed to rely on her suddenly becoming the magical priestess, something I am so not on board with. Can’t have a happy ending? THAT’S FINE. Don’t add some random plot element at the end so that everything can be hunky-dory.

This book was not for me. I thought it was awful, and yet, it was so hyped! Maybe I’ll write a post up about hype- because this is happening more and more. It’s a travesty, especially when people pre-order books based on some contrived excitement. A synopsis does not a good book make.

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NAMELESS

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SUMMARY:

Four clans have been at war for centuries: the Kodiak, the Raven, the Wolf and the Ram. Through brutal war tactics, the Ram have dominated the region, inflicting death and destruction on their neighbors.

Seventeen-year-old Zo is a Wolf and a Healer who volunteers to infiltrate the Ram as a spy on behalf of the allied clans. She offers herself as a Ram slave, joining the people who are called the “nameless.” Hers is a suicide mission – Zo’s despair after losing her parents in a Ram raid has left her seeking both revenge and an end to her own misery. But after her younger sister follows her into Rams Gate, Zo must find a way to survive her dangerous mission and keep her sister safe.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the friendship of a young Ram whose life she saves, the confusing feelings she develops for a Ram soldier, and an underground nameless insurrection. Zo learns that revenge, loyalty and love are more complicated than she ever imagined in the first installment of this two-book series.

THOUGHTS:

PLOT: I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I think I went into it with too high expectations from the rave reviews I had seen before the release date. I don’t know what changed between the ARC and the finished copy, but I didn’t see the kind of excellence I wanted to. The idea, in and of itself, is great. It’s a different take on a sort of cult life, futuristic fantasy faction land, and I loved the originality of the idea. The execution, however, felt like too much of the author trying to make elements of other popular YA books fit into her novel. The Prim (Hunger Games) little sister in danger situation? Check. The factions that all excel in one field or another, a la Divergent? Check. A love triange? Check. (But, to be fair, it wasn’t much of one). It saddened me that the execution fell so flat for me, and I wish that even the pacing had been better. There was a lot of talking, talking, talking, each character thinking, feeling guilty, feeling torn, and then all at once a flurry of action that made sense, but with no buildup or anticipation. The cliffhanger at the end was good, although abrupt, and I’ll probably at least skim the next book, since it’s only a duology.

CHARACTERS: Eh…I don’t want to talk about them. Honestly, it’s been a week since I finished this book, and I don’t even remember them. The girl was Zo, someone whose name started with a G….Gryphon? I don’t have the book, and now I can’t check. I think it was Gryphon. Anyway, they all did a lot of thinking- mostly about how betrayed everyone would be if they knew the truth. It was all so roundabout, and it got tiresome quickly, especially with so much potential for other things. I don’t think I can really say anything more about the characters- just that they were all intending to do something selfless, and ended up only seeming self-absorbed.

WHAT TO WATCH

This one was pretty clean, with only a few references to sex- one of the gate guards is particularly disgusting, and takes what he wants from many of the girls in the community, and intends to do so with Zo as well as her younger sister, but (SPOILER) nothing happens. That’s all.

OVERALL: I’d give this one two and a half stars, maybe. It was only okay in some parts, but there were a few occasions that I really enjoyed it. So of course, these are all subjective opinions, and I’d love to hear yours if you’ve read it!

BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW AND BONE

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SUMMARY

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

MY THOUGHTS

PLOT: Okay, the first time I picked up this book, I put it down almost immediately. A few months ago, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it.  This time, with some helpful prodding from Brianna Shrum (who is excellent) I enjoyed it much more. I think this is the only love triangle that I’ve been on board with, and I’m actually excited to read more- I’m feeling the Darkling love SO MUCH and despite that, I love Mal, too. The plot is kind of weird and was a little slow at first, which may have contributed to my lack of enthusiasm. This time, however, I pushed through, and I didn’t regret it. I enjoyed the pacing, although the ending seemed a little bit off and I wish I had been more invested in it. I will definitely be finishing the series, though, because I think this could turn out being a really great series (and I would like to have these three under my belt before I start Six of Crows so I’m familiar with the universe).

CHARACTERS: Point number one, and perhaps the most important point, is that the way Bardugo wrote the Darkling is 100% perfection. You never know whether he is hero of villain (okay, you pretty much know, but you don’t care) his motives are vague, his morality is entirely questionable and you just. don’t. care. I understand now why many, many people choose the Darkling as their #1 book boyfriend- although he isn’t mine (yet) he’s climbing right up the list with those quartz eyes. However, it’ll be tough to beat the Caliph of Khorasan- Khalid’s tiger eyes and also vague morality are well established in my heart.

The reason I didn’t give this book five stars is Alina, our heroine. Although by the end of the book she had changed and had become something different- someone better- for much of the book I skimmed her thoughts unless they had to do with the Darkling. Her inferiority complex is something I just couldn’t understand, and couldn’t enjoy reading. I would have preferred if she came into her own sooner, and we got to see more of her powerful side. As it was, each change was sudden, abrupt, and almost a little bit confusing when it came to the final pages of the book. I do look forward to seeing where Bardugo goes with this character, though, because I think she could be pretty great once she gets used to being powerful.

Mal was a great character, and I do love him- he’s my kind of guy, and in any other book, I would adore him. But in this book, he’s competing with the Darkling, and that’s pretty much impossible. I understand this love triangle, though, because there’s an impossible pull toward the Darkling, and to me he’s just a fictional character. To Alina, he’s flesh and blood and smoking hot. So I totally get this LT, even though it hurts.

In all honesty, Genya the Tailor was my favorite character. Much like Despina from The Wrath and the Dawn, Genya is the servant who is much more, with a plucky determination, beauty, and flair all her own. I loved her flash and the way she acted- and I truly hope I see her in future books.

OVERALL: I’ll give this four stars, because Alina was so frustrating and the ending seemed a little bit rushed to me. But I did love many aspects of this book, and can’t wait to see more.

WHAT TO WATCH:

There are some pretty heated kiss scenes, but nothing too untoward happens. There are some hints to what the king does to servants he finds attractive, but nothing is detailed and the reader is left to draw conclusions on their own. They drink something called kvas, which seems to be some sort of alcohol, but no one is getting obviously drunk or acting crazy. Violence is the only issue- there are some scenes that are a little gory, and I wouldn’t want younger readers exposed to descriptions of the volcra, monsters in the Fold. I do wonder, though, what causes the Grisha’s powers- it never really tells you whether it’s just elemental or genetic mutation or if it’s magic. That’s something I’ll have to keep a lookout for.

BABY BOOK REVIEW: COURT OF FIVES

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JUST LET ME SLEEP

So, I’ve been reading more lately. And I’m trying to catch up on a few reviews, and this one is the latest. Now, I was really excited for this book, especially because it came in a dry spell of releases I wanted. Once again, I found myself disappointed. This book is HUGE. Not, Game of Thrones huge, but for a YA novel, it was a monster. Therefore, I expected even more.

WHAT I ACTUALLY GOT

First of all, there were immediately way too many characters and way too much filler. I understand that you’ll have that sometimes with a large family scene, but Jane Austen’s Elizabeth had four sisters, and it never felt flat or boring to read scenes where they all conversed. There was too much information and backstory being poured into that first few pages/chapters, and even when I got to the Fives race, my attention waned. And the characters didn’t spark anything in me- they were all irritating, and I didn’t feel like they would get any better. I didn’t get through the Fives race- and that was why I stopped. When I couldn’t even get through the event the book seemed to be named for, or the preliminary trials for it (I really don’t remember) I decided that I had better things to read. I’d give it 1.5 stars, maybe two because it may have gotten better and the world-building had some solid elements, but I didn’t stick around to find out more.

BABY BOOK REVIEW: WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER

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WELCOME TO ANOTHER BOOK I CAN’T REVIEW

Of course, it happened to debut at #2 on the NYT Bestseller list. Because I just can’t seem to like what OBVIOUSLY MUST BE A GOOD BOOK. (see An Ember in the Ashes, Red Queen, etc)

Anyway.

I’ll admit that I didn’t finish this one. I don’t know if maybe I wasn’t in the mood, or if it isn’t just me, but this one didn’t strike me. I don’t like books where the MC (and her love interest) are under a certain age, because then it becomes absolutely unrealistic to me if they fall madly,deeply in love, the kind of love that ends worlds. I was once fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, etc. That age group of people are not capable of the kind of love that is pushed in books. Now this has become the beginnings of a rant about aging, and I didn’t mean that, and I didn’t necessarily see that when I skimmed this one.

The other problem was the nature of the book- she’s called a witch, not some kind of elemental, or even just lucky, and that crosses the line for me. Maybe I should have realized that before, but there’s a difference between being some kind of mutant/having a superpower and just straight up magic, which I don’t like.

I’m sorry that I didn’t love this one, because I was really looking forward to it after the western beauty that is Vengeance Road, but I’m not going to say I wouldn’t recommend it, because I think for the right audience it would be fabulous. That audience just wasn’t me.

Have you read it? Did you like it? 

BOOK REVIEW: ANOTHER DAY

“Most of the time when we think we’re looking for death, we’re really looking for love.”

SUMMARY

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.

In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

MY THOUGHTS

I don’t know how to get into this. I really enjoyed Every Day, way back when it first came out and I didn’t know anything about the story. I remember loving A, loving Rhiannon, loving the bittersweet, unsatisfactory ending that left me wanting more, but not too much more. I wanted to know if he ever got to have his own body, and if Rhiannon found someone else to love, because loving A was impossible.

Then I found out Another Day was a thing. I was excited, yes. Nervous, yes. But this was not at all what I had expected, or wanted, from it. I didn’t think I would have such a problem with seeing the story from Rhiannon’s point of view, but her story took all the romance and mystery out of it for me. In fact, I don’t know why A liked her at all. She’s a complete stereotype, and without sounding insensitive, I can’t go into why. Suffice to say that I don’t like people who can’t stand up for themselves, who let themselves be trampled all because they don’t think they’re worth enough to be treated right, and I certainly don’t want to read about them.

The entire book, after every encounter with Justin, I felt more angry with Rhiannon, and after every encounter with A, I was more confused as to why he was so determined to be with her. It just didn’t make sense, unless A has some kind of hero complex.

In addition, I found this book to be less about the story of A, Rhiannon, and the mystery of why A changed every night and more about the ever more controversial subject of gender and the role it plays in relationships. Too many long monologues about why ‘gender doesn’t matter’ and ‘love covers all’ for me to be comfortable, because to me, gender does matter.

But I digress. Another Day fell flat for me, and I’m sorely disappointed that it ended in the same place as Every Day, with far fewer answers and far more questions.

WHAT TO WATCH

Oh, you know. Homosexuality and transgender characters abound, so if you don’t approve of that, I wouldn’t pick this one up. Heterosexuality is also casually thrown in, with sex happening frequently. There is underage drinking and partying, and drugs are mentioned a few times. I wouldn’t recommend this for those with a sensitive conscience, and definitely not for young readers.

OVERALL

I’ll give Another Day two stars for the writing style- it kept pace, for the most part, and rarely dragged, though I did skim some. But I didn’t like the content- I’m not interested in reading about people, knowingly or not, experiment with their sexuality while at the same time be driven into depression and desperation by their boyfriend, his actions, and their unwillingness to step away from the situation. To me, Rhiannon was the bad guy, and I know that wasn’t the point of the book, but that’s where it ended up for me.

I received an ARC of this book thanks to NetGalley and Random House. This has not influenced my review in any way.

REVIEW: BONE GAP

“You can slip into the gap and never find your way out.

Or maybe you don’t want to find your way out.”

SUMMARY (GOODREADS):

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

MY THOUGHTS

Baby Review:

So, my first thought when I reached page 6 of this book was ‘Why didn’t I pick this up sooner?’ And that feeling stayed with me through the entire novel. A melancholy mystery, both thrilling and sticky as molasses, Bone Gap is as good a novel as I have ever read. I’ll admit that it was hard at times, when I was halfway through the book and I still couldn’t describe it to anyone who asked me what it was about better than ‘A girl went missing and there’s bees.’ And yet I still give this book 5 out of 5 stars for the way it wrapped around me like a warm blanket and made me feel like I was drowning in honey. In a good way- a great way.

THE PLOT:

One of the most confusing books I’ve ever read, Bone Gap is the kind of book that doesn’t release any of the answers to your many questions until far, far into the novel. If you’re a reader who likes to have a piece every few pages, you’re out of luck. All through the novel you’re left with question after question, building and building until you can hardly stand the anticipation and the wondering. Finn is a peculiar sort, Petey is wild and open, Sean is dark and brooding (also my favorite), Roza is beautiful and earthy, and you never know more than that when you’re reading. The plot has a sort of melancholy feel about it, and the music playing in my head was the theme of shows like Eureka and Granite Flats. Slow lazy, with the feeling that you don’t really know what’s lurking beneath the surface of the sleepy little town you find yourself in. Bone Gap is like that, delightfully creepy, nerve-wracking in the best sort of way because the danger could come from any direction, from any of these happy town people working away at their respective jobs.

Anyway, if I’m being honest with you all, I’ll tell you that you probably will have no clue what’s going on for most of the book. If you’re like me, you won’t care, and you’ll adore it for the rich, vibrant writing and the promise of a thrilling conclusion. Peppered with POV changes and flashbacks, this novel made me swoon with all the detailed history, the well-placed humor just when you think you’re going to drown in the honey molasses melancholy that surrounds the characters.

When there’s finally an answer to your questions, when you finally understand what the heck is going on, you still feel a little confused. I wish it had happened slower, but then if it was slower, it wouldn’t have been as (for lack of a better word) magical. Because it was magical, the way every tiny detail you’ve been learning about the town and its residents twine together and finally, finally you can see the whole story woven out like a tapestry and you understand. That final moment of clarity (which I’m still getting more glimpses of) make you truly aware of just how amazing this book is. So go read it. Now.

THE CHARACTERS: 

I love pretty much everyone in this book, and the way their relationships grow and change. Take, for instance, Finn and Petey (Priscilla). At the start of the book, Finn and Petey are the outcasts- strange, avoided, pitied. But as they grow into themselves and start to see each other (and others) for who they really are, they change. And the town changes with them, changing opinions and acting on them almost as one entity (a hivemind, if you will). Finn learns about himself with the help of Petey, and his determination and intensity is hard to balance- but Laura Ruby destroys it. She makes Finn into someone relatable even with the corn whispering to him, she makes Petey wild and fierce and lovable even with her insecurities and inner demons (figuratively, of course). No one gets annoying  in this book (except the Rude boys) which is a miracle in itself. It seems like at some point in most books the main character becomes so frustrating and irritating that you can’t help shaking the book as if you can knock some sense into them, but not Bone Gap.  There was never a moment when I wanted to skip over dialogue or inner feelings, and I’m so, so happy about that.

Even the villain in this story is so amazingly crafted- a mystery inside an enigma, blurred to the point of terrifying normalcy, never quite in view but always there, invading homes and lives and worlds. He crosses the line between fantasy and reality, jumps between worlds to enter your waking nightmares. And that’s all I’m going to say about him, because any more would make it less fun for you.

Sean and Roza, though. The most beautifully understated love story of all time. I ached for their POVs, because when they happened, it was such a soft, easy love story to fall into. Told in bits and pieces marked by the pain of separation and loss, their story winds into something beautiful, almost as if they didn’t know they were falling in love and you get to watch this new discovery of feelings. But Sean- how can I describe him? You’ll just have to go read the book. He’s so quietly heroic, and everyone sees him as the hero, but when you catch glimpses of the sadness in him, you can’t help but feel heartbroken. And you can never hate him for not going to find Roza because you can just feel that even living is almost too much for him,, let alone facing that despair of not finding her day after day after day. Roza, for her part, is wonderfully brave and bold, fresh like the dew and beautiful as the dawn, opening the world of Sean and Finn and then ripping that away when she’s stolen. A powerful sense of loss followers her story, but never so much that she gives up. She always keeps going, always looks for a way out, never forgets her home even when it seems impossible to get back. I could write 1000 more words about how much I love them, but I think you all should just pick up Bone Gap  and find out for yourselves.

WHAT TO WATCH (SPOILERS): 

There was some material inappropriate for younger teens- Finn is very clearly a teenage boy, and he thinks like one. He also acts like one. Petey is a teenage girl, and they do end up having sex, though it is not graphically described at all, only brushed over enough that you know it happened. One of the characters also ends up being gay, but that’s only commented on near the end of the book briefly. Other than that, there’s also a touch of the unknown- could be magic, could be imagination, or it could be another world entirely. But that’s all.

OVERALL: 

I feel like I shouldn’t talk about this book any more, lest I give something away. All I can emphasize is how much I loved . It easily jumps to the top of my favorite books so far this year, and that’s saying something. I’ve read a lot of books so far. 10 of 5 stars, okay? Bone Gap  is what every person should read to understand what the YA genre is about- it’s raw, it’s real, it’s magic in a place where magic doesn’t seem to exist, with unforgettable characters that reach in and grab your heart before you can put up any walls. It’s seeing the same world from different eyes, and that’s something we should all be aware of. We all belong to this world, and we shouldn’t step on anyone else because they see it differently than we do. Maybe the way they see it is going to save someone someday.

Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

THE WINNER’S CRIME

“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
Official Summary: (From goodreads.com)

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My thoughts: I think my mistake was reading it so soon after finishing the first one. Because after the wonder of The Winner’s Curse, what wouldn’t pale in comparison? I’m sorry to say that this one was just less thrilling. As a reader, I often felt overwhelmed with the sheer number of new events when there was no resolution to the first one. Or any following. I feel as though Rutkoski wanted to keep me on the edge of my seat, but she lost me in the continuing upward spiral of new revelations, when I hadn’t fully understood what came before.
    I think my biggest issue with this book was that fact- something new happened every few pages, and you never really knew why, and then there were few satisfying answers to questions that you first had while reading book one. I left book two feeling a little lost and sort of sad- I had expected more from the sequel of the book that made time explode (see the review of The Winner’s Curse).
    Additionally (and obviously this was a personal issue), I wish there had been just one moment where Arin and Kestrel were in sync, or some kind of peace between them. But all there was was mistaken hatred and anger and hurt. Even the letter explaining everything at the end of the book from Kestrel to Arin was lost, so he left thinking that she hated him (words borne of necessity because an enemy was listening) and she was swept away to the north without him knowing.
     Honestly, I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn’t read The Winner’s Curse and immediately picked up The Winner’s Curse. But that’s the way I read them, and this is how I felt- you may have felt differently, so let me know!
What to Watch (SPOILER alert):
     Really, the only thing worth mentioning in this is the violence. A spy is tortured, people are killed, and it’s no secret how they died. While it isn’t graphic, it may not be the best choice for younger readers. In addition, it does concentrate a bit more on the war Kestrel’s father is fighting in, and she offers up tactics to win battles in the east. Arin is attacked, and his face is cut open, which could be disturbing to some readers.
     Additionally, (and this was very minor) Arin is kissed once, propositioned once, and nearly lets the women have what they want, but stops himself in time. There is a slight description of these events, but nothing too serious.
     I liked this book, and I will be looking out for the third and final book in the trilogy, The Winner’s Kiss, but I wish there would have been more satisfactory resolutions to some of the issues brought up.
Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

THE WINNER’S CURSE

“…People in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”

Official Summary: (goodreads.com)

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

My thoughts: This book. Wow. And again, wow. I understand the praise on the back of this one, which is from two amazing authors. This book made time explode for me. I thought I was reading for about ten minutes, but nearly forty-five had passed. I finished this one in half a day, and I don’t regret that time for a moment. I would do it again. Here’s why.

     A lot of these books- the forbidden love, the dangerous elite society catching on, etc. are predictable. You know the love story will happen in the first three or so chapters, and what’s left is all secret meetings and soft glances, maybe a stolen liaison or two. Not so in The Winner’s Curse. The romance develops in the challenges, the angry truths, the realization that even though they can infuriate each other, there’s an understanding that overreaches the world they live in, and they will change the world for each other.

     And the writing. Oh, the writing. I am in raptures. Sweeping, elegant, beautifully painful at times, Rutkoski captures what it means to write a novel that takes you into its world. Some authors have a hard time describing a foreign world in a way that makes it both understandable and yet still uniquely beautiful, but this author certainly does not, capturing the essence of the Valorian world and the beautiful, rich culture of the Herrani.

     While I loved the conflict between Arin and Kestrel, the conclusion of the book tugged at me, confused me just a little, and left me…unsatisfied. While we see the reasoning, of course, it still feels just the slightest bit forced, like Rutkoski herself was pained to write it. Contrary to popular belief, if your writing is as good as Rutkoski’s, you don’t need to end with a cliffhanger, but she did, and it felt so…wrong that I just couldn’t appreciate the thrill.

What to Watch:

     The most unsettling thing in this book is the way the Herrani are treated as the slaves of the Valorian, and the descriptions of their rebellion. Many people die, by the sword or by poison, and a popular punishment is the cutting off of the ears and nose. Slaves are also beaten and verbally mistreated, spoken to like animals and insulted to their face. When the Herrani take revenge, they do it with a bloody overthrow, and the violence does continue when the Valorians return to attempt to retake the city.

     This is also a romantic novel, and while there are no scenes of a sexual nature between Arin and Kestrel, they do kiss a few times. Additionally, after the (SPOILER) Herrani revolution, their leader, a man called Cheat, makes unwelcome advances toward Kestrel until Arin comes in and kills him.

    I have a lot of respect for Rutkoski, coming out with a book as stunning as this one. Although the sequel didn’t impress me nearly as much (review coming soon), The Winner’s Curse will remain in my memory as one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Of course, you may have a different opinion, and I would love the feedback!

     Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

RED QUEEN

“You should know the difference between secrets and lies.”  

Official Summary: (goodreads.com)

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the center of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book. I really did. The writing was smooth, the idea of it was so magnificent, the setting was gorgeous and well-defined…so why don’t I remember it? The simple fact is that while everything else twisted and wove through the story like milk and honey, the characters fell flat for me. Mare, our heroine, is too…bland. Something about the way she reacts to every situation seems too little, too late, and she isn’t as striking as she needs to be to make this story work. I thought better of the Scarlet Guard members, but they appeared too infrequently, and when they did, it seemed as though they faded within just a few pages. And the princes. Oh, how I wished them to be more than they were. My hero was dull and never really did anything too heroic, which soured this book for me, because while I love a rip-roarin’ heroine, I like it better when she has a hero to keep her motivated, even if it’s not because he’s her hero. And his brother wasn’t much better, not until the very end, anyway, all pale and quiet and inconsequential in the heat of his brother and Mare’s chemistry.

But the writing aside from that was very good, descriptive without drowning you, giving you enough to imagine but not taking the fun out of it. And I did really like the premise and the execution of the storyline, but for me to be interested in the rest of the trilogy, I need the characters to come to life, and they didn’t do that for me.

What to Watch: (Spoilers!)

Honestly, in terms of what to watch, it’s pretty much nothing or everything depending on your perception. To me, the Silvers had simply mutated, developed abilities and then developed their own elite society, so those traits became stronger. Other people perceive it as magic. If that’s the case, this book is a huge no-no, because that’s the premise and the story revolves around these powers.

Other than that, you may want to be cautious of the violence- though it only appears sporadically, it does include torture and sometimes death, and it can be gruesome to those with a tender stomach. But that, you might be able to discern from the cover- a silver crown dripping blood, representative of the red blood of Mare infiltrating the Silver domain.

Overall, I liked this book, and would have loved it if the characters didn’t feel so forced. So bland. But that, of course, is only my opinion, and I would love to hear yours!

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

 UPDATE: NOW A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! Congratulations, Victoria Aveyard!!!

Update 2.0: I don’t know how I liked this book. Looking back, attempting a reread, I think I must have been blinded by hype, swept up in how other people feel. Because I hate this book. It bores me to tears, and the characters still have no flavor. I was going to try Glass Sword, but I get the feeling it’s not much better. Yikes.