Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher
IBSN:9780374384685)
Blurb:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

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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2013 marked the end of a lot of my favorite series. That meant lots of holes in my heart, but thankfully Marie Rutkoski has written a new series to add to my favorites list. I hadn’t heard much about The Winner’s Curse when I received it, but after seeing all the advance buzz I quickly moved it to the top of my TBR pile. I’m so happy I did. This book was my first read of the year but I will wager that it will make my favorites list at the end of the year.

The Winner’s Curse is a sweeping fantasy novel with a heart wrenching romance. There were so many unexpected layers to the story. Marie Rutkoski really explores right and wrong and the gray area between. I loved seeing how far the characters would go for love and loyalty. The push and pull between Kestrel and Arin was remarkable.

There were no easy answers in The Winner’s Curse. Nothing was simple for these characters. I never knew how things were going to work out and I loved that. I was on the edge of my seat from the very beginning.

I love a good high fantasy with intricate world building, but this world is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s very well fleshed out but not overly detailed. I look forward to learning more about it but I was very pleased with my first look.

I hope I’ve conveyed just how much I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse. It was a captivating a gorgeous story. I highly recommend it.

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Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Release Date: January 7, 2014
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Edelweiss
IBSN:9780062211194
Blurb:

Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

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I’ve been having a semi hard time getting into books lately. I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I used to so I always want something that’s going to capture my interest quickly. That certainly describes No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale.

What an odd and truly unique book. At the heart of No One Else Can Have You is a small (tiny) town, Friendship, Wisconsin. I’m from a small town so I always love reading about them. Friendship is unlike any other though. It’s filled to the brim with some strange folks. I’m not talking about your run of the mill crazy. Nope, some of these were truly messed up! But in such fascinated ways.

Kippy Brushman, our mystery solving main character, was no exception when it came to messed up characters. She’s all kinds of crazy, but in fun endearing ways. Her best friend was found horrifically murdered and when the cops don’t seem like they’re doing a good job, she takes it upon herself to solve the murder. Kippy was a fun character. She may have been a little out there but that was what made her likable in my opinion.

My favorite part of No One Else Can Have You was the very dark humor. There was laugh out loud moments followed quickly by some little gruesome tidbit. There was a few really disturbing parts, but I’ve never minded that kind of thing.

 No One Else Can Have You is unlike any other YA. If you’re in the mood for something completely different definitely pick this one up.

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Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

 

Release Date: September 10, 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: NetGalley
IBSN: 9781423183099
Blurb:

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

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I’ve been putting off this review for quite awhile. I just don’t think I have the words to properly express my feelings. Code Name Verity knocked my socks off last year, what an amazing and heartbreaking book. I went into Rose Under Fire with the same expectation and I was not disappointed.

Code Name Verity shocked you and broke your heart into a thousand tiny little pieces, Rose Under Fire was just as devastating but in a slow, subtle way. Elizabeth Wein let us readers know that Rose is safe very early on but it does ease the heart ache you feel for Rose after she’s captured.

Honestly, nothing I say can do this book justice. I am a mere human after all. It’s a beautiful and harrowing story. I found it impossible to put down. I thought about the wonderful characters and their lovely friendships long after it was over. The best and most horrifying part is that it was taken right out of history. This camp was a real place. I understand that it’s hard to read about these things but I think it’s so important that we always remember this bleak time in our past.

I am 100% an Elizabeth Wein fan. She’s telling such important stories so beautifully. Read them if you haven’t.

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

Release Date: September 10, 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Amazon Vine
IBSN:
Blurb:

From the author the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

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I probably shouldn’t even review Fangirl. It’s not like there was ever any question about whether or not I’d love it. I devoured Eleanor & Park and Attachments earlier this year and absolutely loved them. So I knew I was going to love Fangirl. It’s not even fair for me to review it but I’m going to anyway.

To be completely honest I didn’t really know what Fangirl was about. Like I said, it was love at first sight so I didn’t care. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the book takes place in college. Cath just started her freshman year and her world is kind of crumbling around her.

 Fangirl has so many wonderful layers. Family plays a big role. Cath has an unstable father, a wild twin sister, and an absent mom. Cath struggles with all those things and her crippling fear of venturing out into the world of college. There’s also a great subtle friendship that I loved.

Then there’s the romance. Oh my goodness. At first I didn’t know who the love interest was. I really appreciate that looking back on it because when it happened I literally SWOONED. Really, I did. The romance was so sweet. Cath and her swoon worthy boy don’t seem like the best match at first but they’re a beautiful fit.

I think all of us bookish, nerdy girls could see a little of ourselves in Cath. She writes fan fiction and has a healthy obsession with Simon Snow (a Harry Potter esque book series). She’s shy and would rather spend her time with people on the internet than in real life people. I don’t know about you but that sounds an awful lot like me.

 Fangirl has so many elements to love. Rainbow Rowell captures all of them so well. If you’re looking for an honest portrayal of finding your place in the world look no further. Plus, it’s witty and just plain fun!

pi5

Audiobook Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland by Stephen King

 

Release Date: June 4, 2013
Read By: Michael Kelly
Age Group: Adult
Received From: 9781781162644)
IBSN: 978-1781162644
Blurb:

“I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts,” says Stephen King, who has combined these elements into a wonderful new story. Joyland is a whodunit noir crime novel and a haunting ghost story set in the world of an amusement park.

It tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a ‘carny’ in small-town North Carolina and has to confront the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the way both will change his life forever. It is also a wonderful coming-of-age novel about friendship, loss, and your first heartbreak. Who dares enter the funhouse of fear?

reviewtagIt’s been many many years since I read a book by Stephen King. Probably about 8 or so and that was a reread of Pet Semetary. So when I had the opportunity to review Joyland I jumped on it.

I did have just a few hesitations when I found out Joyland isn’t Stephen King’s regular horror fair, but then I reminded myself of The Body, The Green Mile, and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. I hoped that this would be a story as good as those and it was.

At its heart Joyland is a coming of age tale that anyone could relate too. Devin Jones tells us the story of the summer his heart was broken, the summer he saved lives by chance, and the summer he solved a murder.

Dev’s story is entwined with that of the ghost that haunts the horror house at Joyland. The mystery is a good one. I did figure it out before Dev but not by much.

The audiobook is read by Michael Kelly. He has a pleasant voice and it was so easy to picture him as Dev. I’ve listened to some audiobooks and thought the narrators weren’t a good fit but that wasn’t the case at all with Joyland.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. The story and characters were so well done that I continued to think about them long after I was done.

pi5

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

 

Release Date: September 3, 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: NetGalley
IBSN:9780316213103
Blurb:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

reviewtagMy first experience with Holly Black was The Poison Eaters, which features the short story that inspired The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. When I read that story way back when I was pretty enthralled with it. Vampires living in walled cities, once you get in you can never leave, eternal parties? It all sounded so fascinating. So I was ecstatic to hear Holly was writing a full length book and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown might have one of the best first chapters I’ve ever read. It’s the epitome of starting off with a bang. This book is dark, darker than anything I’ve read by Holly Black thus far. It’s not for the faint of heart. I’ve always liked a bit of darkness so I really enjoyed that Black didn’t hold anything back.

Tana was a really great character. She was amazingly strong and held up so well in the face of all the crazy scary events. Tana meets a lot of people (and vampires) in the book and it seemed like every one of them was incredibly fleshed out. They almost all had a small back story that brought them to life.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is chilling and atmospheric. Some would say the story is slow but it kept me captivated the entire time. I highly recommend it. Even for those of you that have sworn off vampires.

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Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

 

Release Date: September 24, 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From:
IBSN:9781619631441
Blurb:

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

reviewtagI’ve been looking forward to something new from Trish Doller ever since I read the last sentence of Something Like Normal. It was one of my favorite books from 2012.  Her sophomore book Where the Stars Still Shine definitely lived up to my high expectations.

I can’t remember the last time I was so utterly enthralled by a book this quick. Callie’s voice is so clear from page one. You can’t help but feel her heartbreak and loneliness. I loved how real she felt. She had been through some really hard things but she wasn’t completely closed off to these new people that love her. It seems like so often characters that have been through something tragic have these impenetrable walls. Trish Doller finds the perfect balance with Callie. It was refreshing.

The secondary characters were also fabulous. I was a little worried about Alex to begin with. He could easily been a cliche, but he turned out to be so much more. Their relationship was very realistic and heartfelt. I also really adored Callie’s father. His love for Callie shined so brightly.

The setting is spectacular. Tarpon Springs is a real town in Florida and you feel like you’ve visited there all your life while reading. Trish Doller really brings it to life for us.

The writing was just as gorgeous in Where the Stars Still Shine as it was in her first book. This is truly a beautiful story and I can’t recommend it to you guys enough.

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