Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski


Title: The Winner’s Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

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The Summary:
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.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

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I’m going to be completely up front and honest. I’m enamored with this book. I want to go out and purchase it (I got my copy through the library), and put it on my shelf with my favorite books and pull it down occasionally just to pet the pretty cover. This story is on a whole different level. The world building is reason enough to pick this story up. I can’t get over the world building. It’s beautiful and lush and so visceral that I got lost in it.

I loved Kestrel. She’s a character that grows to stand on her own, and not in the shadow of her father or her friends. She is smart and strong, almost sneaky at times. She’s a great character who wormed her way into my heart. I love her interactions with Arin and the shift in their relationship as the story progresses. Speaking of Arin–I’m still on the fence about him. I figured out what his ‘secret’ was pretty early on in the story, but even that didn’t detract from anything.

“A kestrel is a hunting hawk.”
“Yes. The perfect name for a warrior girl.”
“Well.” His smile was slight, but it was there. “I suppose neither of us is the person we were believed we would become.”

The prose in this story is simply amazing. It’s so beautiful and sets up for an epic story. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book. It ends rather abruptly, and I might have thrown a temper tantrum realizing that I won’t get the next book for a while. Somehow I’ll manage. There is romance in this story, but it’s a slow build, and while there is another man who hopes for Kestrel’s attention, it’s obvious who holds her heart. While it slowly builds, the intensity between Arin and Kestrel is tangible. It burns off the pages and takes over everything. It shouldn’t happen, and it does, and the results– are complicated. They save each other from the world, but sometimes that’s not the best thing for them to do.

Overall: pink4The first half of this book was good, but it’s the second half of the book and the political plot that comes to fruition that really sold me. It’s brilliant, and unexpected and just mind blowing.

Book Review: Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


Title Hawksong (The Kiesha’ra #1)
Author:Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Published: September 28, 2004
Publisher: Laurel Leaf

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The Summary:
Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, and the golden hawk’s form in which she takes to the sky is as natural to her as the human one that graces her on land. The only thing more familiar to her is war: It has raged between her people and the serpiente for so long that no one can remember how the fighting began. And Danica is tired of it. As heir to the avian throne, she’ll do anything in her power to stop this war–even accept Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind’s greatest enemy, as her pair bond and make the two royal families one.

Now Danica must convince her people that Zane is just as committed to peace as she is–though she can’t help fearing that, despite his word, he will strike as swiftly and lethally as the cobra that is his second form. Among the serpiente, she’ll have to pretend to be in love, though when they’re alone, her reserve threatens to keep her and Zane worlds apart. And in their midst are dissenters who will do whatever it takes to destroy this union.

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In one of the Top Ten Tuesdays that I did, I wrote about things that I wished authors would write about. One of the things on my list was more shapeshifters that weren’t wolves. Don’t get me wrong, I love werewolves so.much. but I think they’ve saturated every book and I really wanted a palate cleanser. (The Top Ten Tuesday for reference’s sake) and one of the comments left was by Elizabeth at Oboechia Books, and she recommended Hawksong and the other books by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. It took a little while for my library to get it in, and when I got my hands on it, I was in the midst of a Bleach binge.

I devoured this book in like forty-five minutes. It’s a really quick, good read. I like the character of Danica a lot. As a female lead in any other setting but this one she would irritate me. Seeing as she’s a bird shapeshifter though, her flighty (oh lord forgive the pun), and reserved nature fits her really well. It’s not a detriment to the character at all. She is strong within her own right, standing up to the royal guard, her mother and at times Zane. She has a good head on her shoulders, and does what is right for her people. She’s motivated to end this war with the serpiente at whatever the cost. Enter Zane. The leader of the serpiente people, who in the beginning of the book lost his brother in a battle where Danica fought. He’s hotheaded and possesses a dangerous air. It works here too, the character’s other form being a snake, he’s emotional, quick to strike and will defend himself. I really liked the way the story fell into place.

The two different cultures shone when put under the microscope. They have different beliefs, different celebrations and formalities. It’s a detail that a lot of these ‘warring countries/arranged marriage type’ stories tend to gloss over. Both mess up when it comes to social turns, and it’s really great. There is not any insta-love. There’s hatred and fear, insta-lust and emotional growth and acceptance. It unfolds naturally. The supporting cast is just as great as the main cast, and I really fell for one of the supporting characters (and cheered with the fact that the story didn’t take a love triangle approach)

Overall: pink4 Great story, great cast, different breeds of shifters. Downside–a little rushed and wrapped up too quickly.

Book Review: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman


Title: The Grimm Legacy
Author: Polly Shulman
Publisher: July 8, 2010
Published: Putnam Juvenile

Rating: kasa_zpsdf6a064a kasa_zpsdf6a064a

Summary:
Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library – a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales; seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime or captured by the thief.

Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.

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Elizabeth is the new kid in a school, and has difficulty making friends. She’s quiet and a bit shy with a crush on the school’s star basketball player Marc. After doing a report on the Grimm Brothers, she’s pulled aside by her social studies instructor and is offered an after school job with the New York Circulating Materiel Repository– a library that loans patrons items, not books.

There are four main characters in the story: Elizabeth, the quiet new girl. Anjali the beautiful girl who has the attention of both Marc, the basketball star, and Aaron the surly boy who knows a little more than he should. The adults play a strong supporting role, often not so subtly nudging the kids in the right direction. The magic aspect of this story is really interesting. Anjali has the ability to use magic, Elizabeth can smell it, and Aaron can see it on certain objects. The biggest pull of this story is the Grimm collection, which are items directly out of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. The Grimm collection is secret, well guarded and only a select few can get into it. Halfway through the story, Elizabeth is granted access, which drove me a little crazy. The build up toward the Grimm collection was so high, so mysterious that it was almost blase when she did get into it. She and her friends are thrust into the middle of a mystery when they figure out that magical items are disappearing, or being returned stripped of their magic. They decide to go off on their own to find the person who is responsible. There are a few things that go wrong with this plan, and people aren’t who they say they are.

There’s almost too much going on in this book. The mystery of disappearing items would have been enough to carry the novel I think. The Grimm collection was something original, and I liked the concept of the library of borrowing items that weren’t necessarily books. I mean who wouldn’t want to go grab something from history and look at it? I know given the chance I’d spend many days there getting lost in history and looking at items first hand. But then the author throws in a magical bird that’s coming to attack the kids who work at the library, a collector of dolls that aren’t dolls, two really weird and unnecessary romance plots and disappearing adults at pivotal times in the story. The romance and crushes were overwrought and caused drama that didn’t need to be there. I was rolling my eyes a bit when it came to certain chapters. Elizabeth grows as a character only superficially.

Overall pink2 It’s aimed toward the high school/YA audience but it reads really young. Almost middle grade. Interesting concept that gets lost in too many details and random plot twists. I won’t be picking up the companion novel.

Book Review: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett


Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Published: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen

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Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

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I really enjoyed this book. Dusty (Destiny) is a nightmare, a magickind who feeds off of dreams. There’s a lot of different takes on magical/mythical creatures in this story, and we as readers are exposed to a few of them. The world is incredibly written and more importantly it makes sense. The imposition of the Will, which keeps magickind from harming each other and the Ordinary people, and the different social structure within the magic world itself. It does take place in a boarding school, so I can see where some people make the allusion to Harry Potter, but frankly the two aren’t all that similar.

I really like the characters in this story. They’ve got great voices, and while the romance is a bit run of the mill and predictable it’s natural and unforced. There’s not really a love triangle, just a bit of jealousy and things get resolved rather quickly toward the end of the book. There are a couple things that I disliked, the first being the pacing. I wanted more of the world building, more characters interacting. I liked that a couple characters weren’t who they seemed to be. On the other hand, and this brings me to my second dislike, is the fact that the bait-and-switch and major plot twist was kind of predictable. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book, but I had a strong feeling that certain characters were not as they seemed.

Overall pink5 a cute quick read with quirky characters and I’m looking forward to reading the second book.

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern.
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
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The Summary: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Review: I fell in love with this book, and I wasn’t certain I was going to. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for nearly a year now, and I’ve started and re-started it countless times. I sat down yesterday and powered through it in one go, and I have to say I’m hooked. I love the world that Morgenstern has created. It’s lush, full of description and really really beautiful. At times I felt that it was real, tangible and the setting and the world that this story takes place in caught a hold of me.

I really enjoyed this book. There were just a couple things that caused me to shake my head. The random lapse into second person narrative. This is not something I’m fond of at all, and probably one of the reasons why I kept starting/stopping this novel. The insta-love aspect is also something I’m not fond of, but it didn’t distract me too much. The promised fierce competition was a touch anti-climatic, but again, I don’t mind too much.

Honestly, I can see where people have issues with this book, and the amount of just polar opposite reviews makes me laugh. The time jumping, the point of view changes and the sheer amount of prose can be a lot for some to handle. It really did take me a while to read this, and since I did start and stop so many times that when I did finally sit down to read it, I had to start over. I think this is a book that needs more than one read through. There’s so much going on, and so many layers that it’s almost impossible to catch everything the first time through.

Plus, the writer in me goes bananas when I realize that she wrote this as a NaNoWriMo piece. Clearly it’s been edited and reworked, but I just love being able to read it like this.

Purchase The Night Circus Wherever books are sold. I bought my copy at Target.

Have you read The Night Circus? How did you feel about it? Let’s talk about this book.