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review 2019-08-26 15:11
Book Review: The Winner's Kiss
The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy) - Marie Rutkoski

Book: The Winner's Kiss


Author: Marie Rutkoski


Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance


Summary: War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn't forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people - and certainly more than she did for him. At least, that's what he thinks. In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they've done to her. But no one gets what they want just by wishing. As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win? -Farrar Straus Giroux Books, 2016.


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url 2016-04-28 02:46
Spring Book Haul 2016

Even though I'm moving in a couple of months, I seem to have a penchant for buying books. I mean, my bookshelf is teeming with books that I still haven't read and WHAT DO I DO? I BUY EVEN MORE BOOKS. Ugh, I dread when I'll have to lug these sluggers with me to the Post Office for shipping. BUT ANYWAY LET'S BE CHEERFUL. LET'S LOOK AT THE AWESOMENESS I BOUGHT AND HAVE READ!

The Books That I've Read:

1. The Winner's Kiss - Marie Rutkoski

I LOVE the Winner's trilogy. The Winner's Crime was on my Best Books of 2015 list, The Winner's Curse was onmy Best Books of 2014 list. I nominated The Winner's Crime in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards and probably have mentioned these books at multiple points, in multiple posts in this blog (5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over,Preview of 2015 Books, Review: The Winner's Curse, TBR: Releases to Watch Out For, Review: The Winner's Crime, My Reading Profile, & more). It should thus come as no surprise to you that I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss and spent the 29th reading that book. Also spent the weekend and week before trying to sneak peeks at the book through Amazon excerpt, which is an obsessive habit I have when I reaaaaaally want to read a book (until I shake and distract myself by doing something else).


Ahem, anyways. This book surprised me in a lot of ways, all of them good. I also understand why they changed the covers -- the girl in the ball gown no longer fits the horrific scenes of war. If the first book set the grounds for the differences between the two countries and the romance, establishing our link with Arin and Kestrel; and if the second book delved deeper into strategy, games, political intrigue, alliances and quiet rebellion amid heartbreaking loss; then the third book was about all of that coming to head. War. Violence. The consequences of the politics between these three major countries. The differences in beliefs and how they've shaped our characters' attitudes and hopes but how there's still common ground to be had. The power of love and stories, forgiveness and new life amid an onslaught of death. As always, lots of character development, beautiful writing, romance, political intrigue, strategy, intriguing world-building, and more. Yes to these books.

The second book reminded me a little of Bitterblue (by Kristin Cashore). This book reminded me a little of the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. Right now, I can't think of a good comp title for the first book, but I think that if you like any of the aforementioned books, you should definitely try The Winner's trilogy.

2. Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn is mentioned by a lot of fantasy authors, it seems. So I wanted to try one of her books, and Summers at Castle Auburn is the one that was recommended. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I'm not a huge fan of books that begin with the main character as a child. Summers at Castle Auburn does that. But it also does something which I am a HUGE fan of -- twining the romance in with the main plot very heavily, and also making the main character's coming-of-age twined in with her realization that her initial crush sucks and that the real romantic interest is the one she loves. If you watched my booktube video, you saw how many dogeared pages there was. That's because when the romance is that way, I bookmark basically every page there's even the slightest encounter between the main character and the romantic interest. It makes no sense, but I love it, and I read Summers at Castle Auburn the day before I was presenting a poster at a research conference, and clearly I should've gotten sleep. Instead I read. And had a book hangover. *Sigh*

3. Serpentine - Cindy Pon

I read Serpentine a while ago. I reviewed Serpentine, nominated Serpentine in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and included Serpentine in my Best Books of 2015 list as well as my Cinderella Book tag. I ordered Serpentine when I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss, so the book didn't arrive until just now, but I'm happy to finally have my own shiny copy... and y'all should read the book too! Highly recommended from me (just check out any of those links!).

4. The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

Like with Serpentine, The Wrath and the Dawn I had already read. I just wanted to own a copy. Persian culture is slightly different from Middle Eastern culture, I think, but as someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I can say that Renee Ahdieh capture the essence of Arab culture pretty well.

The Books That I Have Yet to Read:

5. A Fierce and Subtle Poison - Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison was on my 2016 YA Debuts I Want to Read list. As I mentioned in my Best Books of 2015 list, I want to read more Young Adult Magical Realism novels-- so much so that I made a list of my current YA Magical Realism recommendations. When I was in the Strand, I read the first couple of chapters of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and really loved both the writing and the setting of Puerto Rico (though I think that I still needed to attach the main character). The book has been blurbed by both Nova Ren Suma and Laura Ruby, and I love their books too, so I'm looking forward to finishing this one later!

6. Feed - M.T. Anderson

Ameriie at Books Beauty Ameriie recommended Feed to me a while ago, particularly the audiobook. But my library doesn't have the audiobook, and when I saw that Feed was at the Strand for only a few dollars and that Feed was "out of print," I bought it anyways. When I'm in a more science fiction mood, I'll read this one. I'm pretty sure it's considered a classic of YA literature too.

7. The Riddle-Master trilogy - Patricia A. McKillip

The Riddle-Master trilogy has one of my favorite opening chapters ever. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I was pretty entranced with this book. The first chapter introduces us to the main character, who is a land-owner. Traders are coming, so he tells his brother and sister to go about their duties. There are also childhood friends and others who are in the crowd when they find out about the traders. So, you get a clear sense of the immediate duties and setting for the MC's family and life (as well as a sense of the personalities of each of these side characters as they interact with each other). Then, you learn that the MC's parents disappeared a while ago, and that the siblings have all grieved in their own way, and his way was to go off on an adventure, solve a riddle, and a win a crown from a ghost. This backstory is revealed in a convincing way -- whereby we see his family recognizing that he's acting weird, and they confront him, and so we see what normal family dynamics are like, as well as when one of them is acting strangely. We get a sense of the main character's personality through his interactions with his family, his daily duties, and his backstory, and we get a sense of what the central conflict will be, since winning this crown clearly has consequences and implications that the main characters doesn't know yet. It's awesome. I felt like my brain got bigger reading that beginning, and so I immediately bought the entire trilogy. Can't wait to read the books!

SO, those were the books I bought this past spring. What are you planning on reading soon? What have you bought recently? Have you read any of these books? Let's discuss!
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url 2016-01-26 13:25
2016 YA Books I Want to Read

The first thing I'd like to emphasize in making a list of 2016 books on my tbr list: you and I both must be better allies and make sure to read books by PoC authors in 2016. If you feel like it's too hard to keep track of that tally, Dahlia Adler has made afantastic running list of YA novels written by authors of color being published in 2016-2017. If you have time, consider looking through that list and seeing which books may be on your tbr list and raise their reading priority, or consider adding the books to your tbr once you've read the GR summaries--whatever you do, at least please look at the list.

Okies! So here are some of my most anticipated books publishing in 2016. This list is definitely not the end all, be all, as that would fail to take account into recommendations and word of mouth from friends, and so on.


In no particular order...
2016 books i want to read

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken is a spin on Vlad the Impaler, who's now Lada. And directly from the summary: "Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu" (Lada's brother) "are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. " A ruthless leader caught in a game of power plus the Ottoman empire means there's going to be Turkish culture -- which overlaps with a lot of Middle-Eastern culture (e.g. my story on Turkish coins on the Lebanese purse). Plus this last line: "But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point." Some people don't like love triangles, but done right, they can be pretty awesome sources of tension and characterization.

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

I've loved every one of Stephanie Kuehn's novels, which often focus on a character who has mental illness, and feature plenty of mystery and thriller elements plus coming-of-age growth realizations. She's a wordsmith; nothing is wasted. Her characterization of mental illness and race and privilege and so many other issues is on point. Her characterization in general is great--she's giving a clear, distinctive voice to a lot of people whose voices aren't heard in the news very often. And her plotting -- she always, always has surprised me with where her stories go and what plot twists she has in store. Reading the synopsis for The Smaller Evil suggests that we're in for another high stakes psychological thriller with fascinating characters and a complicated plot to boot.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

I meant to read Under the Painted Sky last year, and I still want to -- it's definitely on my list for this year too. Stacey Lee has gotten heaps of praise for her historical YA novels, and I want to be one of her fascinated readers. Outrun the Moon is pitched as being perfect for fans of Code Name Verity, which I loved. It seems to be about the major earthquake to hit San Francisco in the twentieth century. As the last line of the synopsis says, "Breakout author Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival." Sounds amazing, doesn't it? And I want to read more historical YA this year, so Stacey Lee, I'm coming your way!

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Omg. The Raven Cycle is one of my all-time favorite series. I don't really know how to describe it. The first book mentions the idea of a fairy-tale esque curse on Blue: If she kisses her true love, he will die. And then implies that her true love is this boy, Gansey, who seems like a pompous ass when she first meets him. Yet in the end, she gets caught in Gansey's circle; he and his friends are on a quest to discover Glendower, a mythical sleeping Welsh king, who, it's rumored, will grant the person who woke him a wish. Amazing characterization, plotting, atmosphere, magic, explorations of privilege, friendship, romance -- this series has EVERYTHING. READ IT NOW NOW NOW NOW.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Another all-time favorite series. Also not sure how to describe the book. The first book is about Kestrel, the daughter of the Valorian general who helped their empire to win the war. She buys a Herrani slave, Arin, at an auction, and the series goes from threats of war to rebellion to romance to strategy games to OMG THIS HAS EVERYTHING. Great world-building, great characterization, great layered, feeling, great romance-- READ THE BOOKS NOW!

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch has been getting a lot of hype, and Susan Dennard has been on my tbr list for a while now, so I thought that I would start here. I don't know too much about the book, but there seems to be four different PoVs, and it's about these two girls who are best friends who are then pursued because one of them has a magical power that means she can discern whether people are telling lies. So in a high fantasy, this equates to a lot of political intrigue and adventure, and putting female friendship at the front is always a plus. I also hear there's a great romance... Action, adventure, political intrigue, friendship, romance--what's not to like?

Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins & A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood.

Anthologies are great. They're an easy way to discover new authors while reading about fascinating worlds and fun characters. The nature of the short story means that everything has to be compact; every scene must work on multiple levels. You can't get by with wasted words. I've enjoyed every anthology that I've read, if not every story within them, and a bunch of YA anthologies have helped me discover some of my favorite authors. For Summer Days and Summer Nights, I'm most excited to read the stories by Stephanie Perkins, Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and Veronica Roth. For A Tyranny of Petticoats, I'm most excited to read the stories by Elizabeth Wein, Marissa Meyer, and Marie Lu. And the other authors in Summer Days and Summer Nights (Franceca Lia Block, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith) and A Tyranny of Petticoats (Beth Revis, Andrea Cremer, J. Anderson Coats, Caroline Richmond, Katherine Longshore, Saundra Mitchell, Robin Talley, Kekla Magoon, Leslye Waltson, Y.S. Lee, and Lindsay Smith), I'm looking forward to being introduced to or becoming reacquainted with their work!

Bright Smoke Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

I don't know too much about this book, so I'll just leave the synopsis here ---> "This new series, pitched as "Romeo and Juliet meets Sabriel," re-imagines Shakespeare's story of feuding families and doomed lovers in a city threatened by necromancers and protected by "the Juliet," a girl born in every generation with powerful magic." A.) I've loved everything of Rosamund Hodge's that I've read. Both of her novels, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound. And all of her short stories. B.) Romeo and Juliet and necromancers? Oh, wow, that sounds amazing. I really do love the idea too of doomed lovers -- when Rosamund Hodge says that, I actually do believe it for her work, haha. Read how dark her short stories are! Magic, romance, political intrigue (feuding families), beautiful writing -- yes, yes, yes!


Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Again, another book where not too much has been released yet, so here's the synopsis --> "Three Dark Crowns tells the story of triplet sisters on a remote island ruled by powerful magic and ancient family lineages. Separated at birth, one of the sisters will grow up to be queen, but in order to ascend to the throne she must hone her magic for a dark purpose: assassinating her other two sisters before they kill her first. " I really enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood, and I love this element of three sisters, and the crown, and automatic pitting against each other, and magic, and a remote island, and ahhhhhhhh. I love every element -- sounds like great characterization and atmosphere are ahead!

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore seems slightly different from Shatter Me. It's Tahereh Mafi's debut MG novel, and it focuses on a sort of fairy-tale like story, where a girl's father disappears and she goes on a quest to find him. Here's what the summary says: "... this captivating new middle grade adventure where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places. " Sounds perfect. I also love Mafi's writing, and I trust that it'll be every bit as magical in Furthermore.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

I read the excerpt for this novel, and was blown away by the characterization and writing and atmosphere and everything. The blurb says: "A hero. A villain. A liar. Who's who?" It seems to have psychological thriller + suspense elements, mixed with April's talent for characterization and atmosphere. And here's what the last line of the summary says: "For fans of Holly Black, We Were Liars, and The Raven Boys, this mysterious tale full of intrigue, dread, beauty, and a whiff of something strange will leave you utterly entranced." I definitely qualify as a fan of all three, and that definitely puts this book on my radar.

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon

I loved Serpentine and can't wait to read the sequel! If you're a fan of how Truthwitch puts female friendship at the forefront, you'd love Serpentine. If you're a fan of the Chinese inspired elements of Alison Goodman's Eon duology, read Serpentine. If you want a lush setting inspired by Chinese mythology, great characterization and an intimate romance, and a plot that doesn't follow the usual conventions, CHECK OUT SERPENTINE and be excited with me for the sequel!

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

I haven't read a single book about Bruja magic. The main character, according to the summary, wants to get rid of her magic and tries to curse it out, only then her family disappears as a result of her actions. And according to the summary, "To get her family back they must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland..." Sounds GREAT.

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

The more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed Court of Fives by Kate Elliott and its complex world-building. As the synopsis for Poisoned Blade says, "the Fives" is "the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons in her embattled kingdom." The main character's world is separated into two classes, so there's also an imbedded class struggle. Here's how I described A Court of Fives: "A love letter to Little Women, female athletes, and epic fantasy set in a Greco-Roman inspired world rife with colonial class warfare." I'd very much recommend this to fans of The Winner's trilogy, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Kate Elliott comes up with in Poisoned Blade.

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

Looooooooove the Bone Season. The basic premise is that of an alternative London where you have clairvoyants/"unnaturals" (people with the ability to sometimes manipulate the aether, which is another spiritual plane) and voyants. London is ruled by a government that wants to crush the clairvoyants (hence the "Unnaturals" name), and so the main character is one of many clairvoyants who's in a gang. London is ruled by clairvoyant gangs. Then, one night, she's captured by the voyant police and sent to work at a harsh penal colony, where you find out about the existence of another race, the Rephaim, who essentially are the rulers of London, and they are more powerful than anyone else, particularly in the aether. As the series goes on, you learn more about Samantha Shannon's version of London, the clairvoyant powers, the Rephaim, etc. A series of FANTASTIC world-building, SO much imagination, and a huge, huge cast of characters that leads to unexpected plot twists... and oh, the cinematic action! It's all great fun and so layered, one of those series where rereading, you see all the details the author layered in over time. Highly recommended from me.

Okay, so those books are among my most anticipated non-debuts of 2016. I'd appreciate more recommendations for books to keep an eye out for! I don't think that I have enough books by diverse authors on this list, and I'm looking to be a better ally this year, so if you have any recs, let me know! I will also be keeping an eye out for that as the year goes along. Plus, my list always changes.

Do we have any anticipated titles in common? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2016? Let me know!

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