Book Review

Book Review [Re-Read]: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: YA fantasy romance
Length: 355 pages
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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.

RE-READ WAS SO WORTH IT.

I listened to this on Audible with narration by Justine Eyre. I really loved it on audio and thought the voices and accents were great. Highly recommend in this format.

Oooooh I missed this book, Ooooooh I missed these characters and this romance that still felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest when I finished it.

THIS OTP Y’ALL. Kestrel and Arin are all mine. I can’t get enough and love the absolute slow, angsty burn they give off the entire book. Coming from two different sides in their world they have a lot to conquer to realize they want each other. They slowly build from a tentative friendship to a passion-filled moment where the pieces start to fall into place. I love that the power dynamic flips between the two and we get to see how each responds to their struggles. While still fighting for their country, Kestrel and Arin realize they have started to fight for each other too.

Sneaky politicking and schemes abound in this entire series, but I love seeing the start-up in TWCurse. There’s a glimpse of the players laying out plans and putting others into action that really build over the books. I love the sharp mind Kestrel has to flush out and strategize. It’s even cooler how their game, Bite and Sting, has its own roll in the books.

So much action. I love how things are constantly fluctuating from slower, quiet moments to big, WHAT WILL HAPPEN moments. I found myself this time (it’s been 3 years since I’ve read it), still guessing a bit and LOVING IT. I generally knew what was going to happen, yet, when a book can provide the feels a second time around, you know it’s good.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy (focus on romance)
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few passionate kisses
  • Violence: battles/skirmishes, duels, poison, swords

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
Length: 384 pages
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. 

Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own. Release date, page length, etc. subject to change before publication.

OVERALL ENJOYED.

I feel really conflicted about this book. It took me longer than usual to get through and I really did enjoy it, but I didn’t love how the ending went down which kinda bummed the book overall.

The world building was really cool. I love that it was set in Romania! That is unique and vastly different than a lot of YA books and thought it was great. The world building was well done and I felt like I was running all over the countryside with Theo and Huck. They really went on an adventure and that wasn’t stagnant in the slightest.

What I did realize after finishing this book was that I am not [as big of a] fan of second chance romances where they grew up together. I didn’t get all the feels for them that I was hoping. Their banter and interactions were sweet and funny so I still shipped them overall. I was happy things worked out enough in the end. They had decent chemistry but I hated the nickname Banshee (and he would not stop calling her that).

What annoyed me with the ending was the transition to caring more about her Father than Huck. I get that the premise was about family, BUT Y’ALL, we spent the entire book reconnecting with Huck and looking for her Dad (where Theo continually talked about how annoyed and upset she was with him). Then, she leaves Huck in his moment of need to find her Dad, and I don’t know. Since she talked up not liking him, I frankly didn’t care that much what happened to him. There was an interesting twist involving Theo that was creepy and accurate for a novel set around Vlad the Impaler.

I did like the dialogue and writing style. The addition of the history from the region was very interesting. Bennett must have done a lot of research to make it as accurate as possible (with creative choices for the book). I do enjoy her style and look forward to reading more books from her.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: poison, dark magic, scythes, losing a finger

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press) for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own.

IT PAINS ME THAT I DIDN’T LOVE THIS.

I found myself scanning by the end. This let me down compared to Sky in the Deep (a favorite of mine last year). I’m trying to break it down so here are some bullet points:

What I did like:

  • I liked having Halvard as the protagonist. Since he’s up and coming as the next clan leader it was a good perspective. He learned and experienced a lot to help him better serve his people. I found him fierce and easy to cheer for. I wanted things to work out for him.
  • Tova. I really enjoyed her character.
  • The strong focus on family bonds. This was a highlight in SITD too. A favorite part is the fierce loyalty they feel for one another and trying to protect what sense of peace they have.
  • Realllll obsessed with the cover.
  • It’s a really quick read! Even when I started scanning (which wasn’t until after the halfway mark) I noticed how fast I was flying through it. The chapters are short and the writing has a whimsical style to it.
  • How clean the book is. I love a book that doesn’t have excessive amounts of language or romance. This hit those marks well (regardless of what I thought overall). It’s a clear YA book.

What I didn’t like:

  • That we hardly got to see Tova. She may have been a POV, but we hardly learned anything about her until the last few pages.
  • There is no romance (which I’m only noting as an issue because other reviews highlight it, but I did not see it). I stand by that sentence. Tova & Halvard don’t even have a full conversation with each other until so deep into the book there isn’t time to form chemistry. The kiss at the end came out of nowhere for me.
  • A lot of side characters (especially on the Svell’s side) who had no history. So they were supposed to be seen as bad, but I wasn’t invested in them.
  • It was missing depth and development for the plot in general. As I mentioned above, we barely know anything about the Svell (and Tova’s clan – the Kyrr). Everyone is thrown together without much of a story.

Okay, I think I have broken it down enough. While this wasn’t quite for me, it could be for you! There was definitely some highlights, I just overall had some issues.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: a lot, clans warring, arrows, knives, swords, axes, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Historical fiction + Romance
Length: 346 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life–and heart–to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…

SOPHOMORE BOOK IS EVEN BETTER.

Oooooh, I loved this even more than Next Year in Havana. Let me also say, I love the Audible narrator: Kyla Garcia. She did another amazing job and kept me completely entranced in this book.

I love Beatriz Perez so stinkin’ much. She was an amazing MC and brought out all of the feels. I love how strong and independent. Beatriz has so much loyalty and love for her family and her country. This control and defines all of her decisions. And even when I wanted to shout out her, I also understood her choices.

THIS ROMANCE THOUGH. Okay, didn’t start out in the best light (trigger: cheating), but guys. I will firmly stand by that this might be the only case where I accepted and was okay with it. Her relationship with Nicholas made me swoooooon. Oh, it was so good. And also destroyed me, but I’ve already accepted that this is how Cleeton likes to torture us. I was happy with the resolution and felt relieved at how it all came to a conclusion.

My reasoning for being 4.5 stars vs. 5 stars was that, at times, it was too political (for me personally). It would cause some scenes to drag on a little long when I had already gotten the point.

BUT, what was really cool was having Beatriz work with the CIA. It was really interesting to have that plot line and her relationships with the agent was intriguing and intense. I loved watching Beatriz navigate the crisis in Cuba, the JFK assassination and the beginnings of the Cold War. History was woven perfectly into the timeline.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and a handful of light detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: guns, murder, threats of warfare, mentions of the JFK assassination
  • Trigger warnings: cheating (while engaged)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kingdom (The Traitor’s Circle) by Erin Beaty

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 400 pages
Author: Erin Beaty
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Unlikely alliances are forged and trust is shattered in the stunning conclusion to The Traitor’s Trilogy.

A new queen under threat. 
An ambassador with a desperate scheme. 
Two kingdoms with everything to lose.

Once a spy and counselor to the throne, Sage Fowler has secured victory for her kingdom at a terrible cost. Now an ambassador representing Demora, Sage is about to face her greatest challenge to avoid a war with a rival kingdom.

After an assassination attempt destroys the chance for peace, Sage and her fiancé Major Alex Quinn risk a dangerous plot to reveal the culprit. But the stakes are higher than ever, and in the game of traitors, betrayal is the only certainty.

A FANTASTIC HAPPY-ENDING FILLED CONCLUSION.

OH HOW I LOVED THIS SERIES.

I question why it took me so long to get to this. I had heard mixed things, but should have trusted my gut. After I picked it up I never looked back. Perk of waiting so long? I barely had to wait to have all three books in my hands. A top series of 2019.

Sage went on an amazing character journey. I love that she realized her faults and choices had caused harm to her friends. She was able to apologize and actually become a better person for it.

The only tiny issue I had was how much Clare annoyed me. I could not handle her woe is me style and thought she was going to be a downfall to the plot. LUCKILY, things highly improved on this front and I loved how her story came to an end and thought it made sense for her and Sage’s relationship.

ALEX AND SAGE. One of my new OTPs. UGH HOW I LOVE THEM. They infuriated me a lot less in this book, but I distinctly had a moment of being reallllll angry with Alex, WHY DUDE. But, hot dang, did he recover with fireworks. Their quiet moments WERE MY EVERYTHING. Typing this review makes me want to reread this book purely for their interactions. Oh, how I love them so.

A lot more drama and actual plot progression here too. It was easy to flip pages, and slowly read, savoring all of the moments this book had to give. I loved how much more intrigue this book had. There was less battle and more focus on the politics (and this change was done well). It kept me on my toes, when even I was pretty sure I knew who was behind everything there was still so much more to explain! I was interested in this as much as I was making sure Sage & Alex got the happy ending THEY DESERVED DANG IT.

Lots of female power in this too. Sage and her friends, Lani, Clare, and Queen Zoraya are a force to be reckoned with and I like that their subplot allowed a lot more insight into all of their lives. I learned more about them and their journey which had me really invested in them getting happy endings too (OHEMGEE the very end *shrieks with joy at how cute that scene was*).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + romance
  • Language: a little light language
  • Romance: kisses, a few tasteful little detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: arrows, murder, swords, fire
  • Trigger warnings: PTSD (from an extreme burn), mentions of past drug dependence

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Book Review

Book Review: Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1) by Kat Cho

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2  
Audience: Young adult fantasy/magical realism
Length: 429 pages
Author: Kat Cho
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Release Date: June 25th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway. 

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

A BIT DIFFERENT THAN I THOUGHT.

I was stoked to read this because the premise made it sound like we were dealing with an immortal cross of a fox/human that was wickedly good. What I received was a little less than that.

Instead this was mostly a high school romance story, and way more magical realism than it was fantasy. Since we were in present day Korea though, this definitely didn’t need any crazy fantasy world-building. It’s a mega city with delicious food.

Yes, food. That is what made my mouth water multiple times. So much so that at midnight one night when I was reading, I stopped, pulled up Pinterest and began to pin a hundred Korean recipes. We’ve had most of them since writing this, and they were delicious.

The romance was a cute-y, low stakes, not too fast (but not slow burn) high school saga. It developed over a few months and I was behind it. I liked where Miyoung and Jihoon were going. The crux of the whole plot wasn’t as strong as I was hoping. The reasoning for their initial conflict didn’t hit me in the heart strings like I think it meant too.

My biggest issue was the epilogue. IT DID NOT NEED THE EPILOGUE. WHY WOULD YOU CONTINUE A STORY WITHIN THE EPILOGUE WHEN IT WAS FINE THE WAY IT WAS? I don’t get it, and am now confused by the whole thing. I’ll have to see what the next book is about before making any final decisions.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult magical realism (I guess kind of fantasy?)
  • No language (double points for this)
  • Romance: some kisses, they do spend the night together but only sleeping
  • Violence: a handful of murders
  • Trigger warnings: physical child abuse

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Book Review

Book Review: Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 274 pages
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 1st, 1983
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

MY FIRST TAMORA PIERCE BOOK.

This book was less than 300 pages, so truly a quick read. I enjoyed it, but it also wasn’t world-shattering for me.

I really liked the coming of age story for Alanna. This book spans a few years of her life as she grows up pretending to be her brother so she can become a knight. She goes through a lot of growing pains that I could relate to and appreciated the addition of.

I had a hard time staying fully interested in the story. A lot was happening…and not happening all at once. The villains weren’t fully formed and weren’t in the book long enough for me to actually hate. They flitted through and I was like oh wait…what was that about?

What I am most excited about are the hints of the romance I must see in the future. It seems like it’s forming on solid ground, the guy is sweet and growing up in his own way. I think there’s a lot that could happen here and I am excited to know what happens between them.

There’s definitely inklings of what will happen in future installments and I am still interested in pursing them. It’s nice to have a break from big fantasies for something on a much smaller scale. I’m happy I finally picked this up!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: swords, poison, sickness

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