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review 2016-09-13 01:43
Review: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy) by Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy) - Marie Rutkoski

Quick review for a quick read. So. Many. Tense. Misunderstandings. Even manipulations? Either way you look at it, "The Winner's Crime" was intriguingly done in places with the back and forth tension. As engaging as it was in places, however, it felt like the book sagged in places more than it should've. Yet when the emotional quality of the work hit, it hit hard and quickly. Kestrel and Arin both have to live with the decisions they made in the previous book as well as the ones they make in this story, which set them directly in opposition with each other. Sometimes I wanted to throttle the both of them. There are a lot of political manipulations, caustic (from frankly immature and blind decision making) repercussions and intentional hiding of details in the mix of the danger and betrayal that happens in this book.

Kestrel reminds me of the equivalent of Marie Antoinette's character from "Rose of Versalles". She really doesn't think things through at all and is grossly immature and naive. Then again, so is Arin. I don't really care for either of the characters personally for their recklessness (which more often than not cost human lives and broken relationships.) Yet...somehow I found myself invested in the larger story to see what happens. Rutkoski does a great job with establishing character motivations and emotion and that's what keeps me reading this rather epic series. I'm definitely intrigued to see where this tale goes in the third book of "The Winner's Trilogy". But for me, the book was a winner, albeit with caveats.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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review 2016-03-30 01:18
Winner's Curse Book Review
The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutkoski

I know I am of the unpopular opinion for this one, and I loved the first book.  Honestly, I was bored. Maybe its because I listed to the book even though the narrator was really good. I just wasn't into the story this time around. 

 

Kestrel is to be engaged to a  man she does not love. She would rather be with Arin. But there are other things to worry about. More important things like always winning the game even though it might cost one of their lives. 

 

I cant even say what I didn't really like about this book. Maybe it just was wrong timing. I may try and read it instead of listening to it one of these days to see if that makes a difference. 

 

I have seen some really good reviews for the last book, The Winner's kiss whose book birthday is today. So I will say I am still invested to finish this series off. 

 

 

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url 2016-01-05 02:35
Best Books I Read in 2015

Today I thought that I'd share my favorite reads from 2015. I've been posting these on a Goodreads shelf all year long, but some of them are books I'd also marked as favorites in 2014: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, and The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. Those I read in 2014, though they were officially published in 2015 -- would still recommend reading those! Last year I only made a video as a means of recommending books to people who didn't like YA much, but this year I wanted to make a full list!

 

*note: not all were published in 2015!

Great contemporary reads --

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn, and Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Written in the Stars is a heartfelt exploration of an arranged marriage in Pakistan, written simply to maximize its impact and our identification with the main character on her horrific journey. Dumplin' is a romantic coming-of-age about a fat girl who competes in a beauty pageant to regain her confidence and self-love. About a girl trying to break into a men-only secret society, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is another great read from E. Lockhart. And what happens when you take three self-destructive, morally grey people and force them to interact with each other? A high stakes psychological thriller from Stephanie Kuehn, potentially her best work yet in Delicate Monsters. Black Iris is Leah Raeder's heart book, sexy, romantic suspense layered with questions about gender identity and sexuality. All are wonderful explorations of growing up in a patriarchal world.

You can read my reviews of: Black Iris, Delicate Monsters, and Dumplin'. I nominated Dumplin' and Delicate Monsters in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and encouraged others to be excited for the release of Dumplin'.

Magical realism that takes risks in its narrative --

Chime by Franny Billingsley, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

YA magical realism is a wonderful expanding genre that's pushing the boundaries of the typical YA narrative. All three of these stories are told in their own cyclical, winding ways, and all three have absolutely gorgeous writing. Chime tells the story of a girl regaining her confidence as she discovers the truth; Bone Gap tells a story about perception and beauty; and The Accident Season tells the story of a family broken by a tragic past. Highly recommended, and can't wait for more magical realism to crop up.

I discussed Bone Gap and The Accident Season here. I nominated Bone Gap in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards.

Female-led historical journeys --

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Elizabeth Wein is a reigning queen of YA historical fiction, and Rose Under Fire was a gorgeous tale of female friendship tested under terrible circumstances. Walk on Earth a Stranger is about a girl with a fantastical ability to discover gold on an Oregon Trail-like, self-discovery journey to California, and it's as fantastic as that sounds.Daughter of the Forest is loosely based on the legend of the Children of Lir and "The Six Swans," a fairy tale told by the Grimms and many more. It's gorgeous and I absolutely adore the commingling of tender romance, Celtic atmosphere, and fantastical curses.

You can read my review of Walk on Earth a Stranger. Because of my love for Daughter of the Forest, I wrote a recommendation list of adult fiction for YA readers. I nominated Walk on Earth a Stranger in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and encouraged others to be excited for its release.

Er, the only Urban Fantasy recommendation I have is Burned by Karen Marie Moning. A few years ago, I got caught up in adult urban fantasy, which is often sexy and led by kickass heroines. At this point, I'm not reading much adult UF (though feel free to recommend me some books!); only the Fever series remains on my tbr list.

Fantasy! Fantasy! Fantasy!

The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove, Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge, Serpentine by Cindy Pon, Eon by Alison Goodman, Poison Study by Maria Snyder, and A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Goodness, where to start? The Golden Specific is a part of the MG trilogy I said was most inventive MG fantasy I've read since Harry Potter. Shadow Scale is the much anticipated sequel to Seraphina, and is, like its predecessor, a wonderfully written masterpiece. Crown Duel is the most fun I've had with fantasy in a while. As Small Review said: "It's like a fantasy Pride and Prejudice with an imperfect main character who grows throughout the book, a swoony slow burn hate-turned-love romance, and lots and lots of political intrigue." Uprooted has a side plot of slow burning hate-to-love romance, a determined, spirited heroine who learns to wield magic with skill, plenty of plot twists and an absolutely wonderful main female friendship. Plus, of course, a creative fairy tale world, with a cinematically creepy evil Wood. Crimson Bound is very much of the same ilk as Uprooted; enjoyed one, and well, you should read the other. At its core, Serpentine features a wonderful main female friendship which runs well alongside a sweet romance, lush setting inspired by Chinese folklore, and an innately discussable premise about a girl with a power that makes her feel Other. Eon is an epic fantasy inspired by Japanese and Chinese mythology, full of daring adventure and heartbreaking action and romance, and layered with questions on gender identity. I'd definitely recommend Poison Study to fans of Throne of Glass; Poison Study is about the food taster to the Commander of a military regime, and the political intrigue, magic, and romance she unexpectedly finds. A Thousand Nights is a loose epic fantasy retelling of 1001 Nights, and features a heroine who defies the odds in not only surviving the threat of murder from her husband but also in becoming a stronger leader and a goddess in her own right. ALL FANTASTIC FANTASY READS!

You can read my reviews of: A Thousand Nights, Eon, Serpentine, Crimson Bound, Uprooted, Shadow Scale, and the Mapmakers trilogy. I discussed Crown Duel and Poison Study here. I nominated Serpentine and A Thousand Nights in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards.

Science Fiction for your Star Wars craving --

Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci

I'm thinking that the success of Star Wars is going to led to an upswing in YA science fiction. In the meantime, however, perhaps you'd like to satiate a craving for YA sci fi with Cecil Castellucci's space epic. In the Tin Star duology, our scavenger-esque, survivor oriented heroine must fend for herself while navigating intergalatic politics and a sweet, cross-species romance, and answer for crimes she did not commit.

You can read my review of Stone in the Sky here.

Nonfiction for the rainy days --

Six Myths of Our Time by Marina Warner, The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction by James A. Millward, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming is an absolutely amazing memoir. I usually say that I don't read things written in verse, but man am I glad that I broke that "rule" for BGD! HIGHLY recommended for everyone. Jacqueline Woodson can evoke beautiful imagery in such few words. I related to her experiences despite having a very different identity. Can't wait to read more from her. As for the other two books, if you're interested in cultural myths or the Silk Road, you'll be as pleased as I was in reading them.

Writing out this list made me realize what sort of books I'm looking to read for 2016 and beyond, and the kind of books that I specifically enjoy. Almost all my favorite contemporaries are diverse books; I no longer am interested in reading books from the perspective of a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, rich teenager unless, like Frankie Landau-Banks, they have something very different to offer. I also don't read a lot of science fiction or historical fiction, it seems, but I'm looking to change that, particularly since historical fiction seems really focused on its leading ladies and the friendships that change their lives. YA Magical realism is my go-to for stories that break the mold, and I'd love to see more books published in that genre. Fantasy? Man, there's a reason fantasy is my favorite genre. Fantasy books that give me romance ship feelings (Crown Duel, Poison Study), or are fairy tale retellings with atmosphere (Uprooted, Crimson Bound), or are layered, literary stories I can slowly unpeel (A Thousand Nights, The Golden Specific, Shadow Scale), or are coming-of-age stories with complex and diverse world-building (Eon, Serpentine) -- yes. These are my kind of books. If any of that fits your reading tastes, you may be interested in reading some of the recommendations above.

What were the favorite books that you read in 2015? Do we share any? Have you read any of the books I listed? Let's discuss!
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url 2015-12-16 17:40
My Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards Nominations

Hello! Did you know that the nominations for the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards are happening NOW until this Friday, December 18th? Normally, I must admit, I don't pay much attention to book awards and lists (aside from Printz/NBA/Morris), but the Book Shimmy Awards are 100% determined by the community. We have agency in what we are going to be voting for, and I hope that you'll join me in nominating your favorites! (I hope that we have some common favorites as well...)

 
My goal in this was to nominate every one of my favorite books published in 2015 at least once. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I tried my best, and even if I liked some books more than others, I didn't want to nominate something more than once. So, here we go!
 
 
Best of Shelf
Award given to the best overall book published in 2015.

 
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. This was a really hard book to choose. BEST OVERALL BOOK??! I don't about you, but I like books for very different reasons. Some have excellent romances. Some have beautiful prose. Some have action-packed plots. Maybe I was influenced bythe recently released excerpt of The Winner's Kiss, but the Winner's trilogy reminds me of Kristin Cashore's books, which definitely make my favorite books of all time list. Not one scene is ever unnecessary in The Winner's Trilogy. Masterful plotting, masterful characterization... and how many times have I paused, wondering whether Kestrel and Arin will ever come to an accord of their own making? THAT EXCERPT! I reviewed The Winner's Crime, encouraged people to pre-order the novel, and basically said whenever I could how awesome the book is.

The Pagemaster
Award given to favorite YA author of the year. (Author must have published a book in 2015.)

Nova Ren Suma. At first, I was going to nominate Samantha Shannon, but her books aren't technically considered YA. And then I looked at my list, saw The Walls Around Us and remembered a blog post I'd read from Nova Ren Suma about the surprises she'd had as an author. As someone who is trying to navigate different careers and expectations of life, I really resonated with that post. Nova's dedication in the Walls Around Us is also perfect for the YA community. She seems like an incredibly sweet author, and The Walls Around Us, as I said in my review andanother post, is like a tribute to girls in all our complexity. Yes to Nova Ren Suma.

New Kid of the Shelf
Award for best debut YA author of 2015.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. In some sense, this isn't fair of me because Chessie and I are good friends, but I really did enjoy Made You Up. I interviewed Chessie on this blog when her deal had recently been announced and when her book was soon to be released. I reviewed Made You Up and encouraged you all to pre-order the book when you could, because it was one of theawesome 2015 books that I'd read. I gave away an annotated ARC of Made You Up. There are only so many ways that someone can say this is an amazing debut novel and Francesca Zappia is an amazing author to watch.

Cover Lust Award
Award given to the YA book with the most gorgeous cover design.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. Made You Up has made Bustle's list for best YA book coversas well as the beautiful covers list from Epic Reads and some categories in the viewer-votedYoung Adult Book Cover Awards. It's actually a cover that also represents aspects of the book well. If I'm not mistaken, the eyes of a pivotal character in the book are described as something like, taking a bunch of blue crayons and melting them together. The umbrella is a great representation of the main character trying to shield herself from things beyond her control. Plus, the emphasis on her red hair, which plays its own role, and the fact that she's illustrated allows you to picture her however you want. Win, Greenwillow Designer. Win.

We Need Diverse Books Award
Award given to the best YA book of 2015 that explores the diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. The interesting thing is, when I saw this award, my first thought was towards the excellent selection of diverse contemporary novels that I'd read, like Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. But contemporary generally seems to be where most diverse novels are; fantasy has a serious problem when it comes to including diversity because of some fallacious arguments. I enjoyed and reviewed Serpentine, and included Skybright in various lists about brave heroines. At its core, Serpentine is discussing what it means to be Other; with our patriarchal society marginalizing the voices of those who fit the aforementioned diverse label, well, Serpentine also seemed perfect for this category. Plus, y'know, the exploration of Chinese folklore, and a non Western-centric fantasy: that definitely fits the We Need Diverse Books Award criteria, no?

The Mental Health Matters Award
Award for the best book that shines a light on mental health.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. I considered adding Made You Up here as well, but I know that Francesca Zappia is planning on releasing books not focused on mental health, whereas all of Stephanie Kuehn's novels thus far have been about exploring mental health issues. I've reviewed and enjoyed Delicate Monsters, Complicit, and Charm and Strange. Basically, Stephanie Kuehn is a wordsmith, a masterful plotter exploring the complexities of the human mind, and I can't wait to see what she produces next. (The Smaller Evil looks so good!).

The Here and Now Award
Award for the best contemporary YA novel.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Undoubtedly, you've already heard of the awesomeness that is Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda; it was on the National Book Award longlist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I reviewed Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and encouraged people to pre-order the book. Simon was also recently optioned for a book to movie adaptation. Simon is a great YA contemporary, and I can't wait for more from Becky Albertalli.

The Reality Bites Award
Award for the best fantasy / sci-fi YA novel published in 2015.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This made me feel a little strange because I consider Bone Gap to be more like "magical realism" than SFF, but if there's no magical realism category, sure, Bone Gap, I'll mention you here. I can undoubtedly say that Bone Gap is one of the most unique YA books that I've read, which is probably why it was a National Book Award finalist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I love Laura Ruby's writing style; I love her willingness to try something completely different; I love her exploration of perception and beauty. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). 100% recommended.

Hot Under the Cover
Award for the best romance YA novel. (This also known as the Theo James Award for sexiest novel.)

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Well, this category was a little strange for me because none of my favorite YA novels are romance novels. They're romantic; the romance is frequently a side plot connected into the coming-of-age. But, ultimately, I still decided to nominate Dumplin'. I enjoyed and reviewed Dumplin', and discussed why people ought to anticipate its release. Willowdean made my list of favorite YA heroines, and I discussed more of the awesomeness of Dumplin' in aCinderella Book tag. I chose to nominate Dumplin' for romance because of all that and more. Julie Murphy has been getting reader emails suggesting that the romance is wish fulfillment because Willowdean is fat. No, ladies. Let's not play into this harmful societal narrative that fat girls deserve less. I enjoyed the romance in Dumplin', and my nominating Dumplin' for this category is also a statement against those reader emails.

World Series Champ
Award for your favorite new, on-going or series that ended in 2015!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. I was considering nominating The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (book 2 of The Bone Season, which I loved and have encouraged people to read), but it's technically considered adult and ineligible for the Book Shimmy Awards. I enjoyed and reviewed Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman; Seraphina is one of my favorite YA heroines. It's a shame that this inventive dragon duology has ended, but hopefully there will be more Rachel Hartman books to come!

The Blast from the Past Award
Award given to the best historical fiction book published in 2015.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. It was pretty awkward realizing that I hadn't read much historical YA this year; I had planned to read Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee but... haven't yet. Still, Walk on Earth a Stranger fits; its historical, Oregon-trail quest-like elements are more prominent than the fantastical gold hunting magic. Lee/Leah was one of my favorite YA heroines. Walk on Earth made my Cinderella Book Tag list, and I told people to anticipate its release. Of course, I also reviewed Walk on Earth a Stranger. Walk on Earth a Stranger was a great introduction to the Gold Seer trilogy, and I'm looking forward to more from Rae Carson.

The Retelling Award
Award for the best YA retelling published in 2015.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. I considered nominating Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge -- I've loved every one of her dark spins on fairy tales, including her short stories and novellas, and I reviewed Crimson Bound, encouraged people to pre-order the awesome book -- but ultimately I want there to be more Middle Eastern books that actually feel Middle Eastern in the way that A Thousand Nights does. I also considered nominated Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I reviewed here, but it's technically not a YA book (it's like Red Rising, both published by Del Rey as adult fiction but both frequently making YA book lists, which the publisher isn't going to complain about because it wants the crossover crowds). I reviewed A Thousand Nightsand have sung its praises whenever I could, including discussing my love for the main character. As someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I felt that A Thousand Nights was authentic. The atmosphere was wonderful. ATN is an epic fantasy that should not be missed.

The Most Anticipated Award
Award for the book you are most excited to read that publishes in 2016.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have a list of 2016 books and 2016 debuts that I need to write up, but I haven't done so yet. The Star-Touched Queen was "pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance infused with Indian mythology, about an unlikely princess who must overcome her sinister horoscope and embarks on a quest to unravel her true identity and find the one she loves." A.) We don't have enough YA fantasy that's actually diverse, and very little YA fantasy that aren't Western or European centric. B.) Indian mythology! C.) I don't even like Hades and Persephone that much, but I read The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi and her writing IS GORGEOUS. YES PLEASE to this book.

Book Nerd of the Year
Award given to your favorite contributer to the YA community. Nominate your favorite YA book blogger, vlogger, podcaster, Instagramer, Tumblr-er, ect. (Please list their handle and which platform! Example = @EpicReads on Instagram)

Ameriie at the booktube channel, Books Beauty Ameriie. If you're reading this, you might feel offended that I didn't nominate you. I can guarantee you that I considered you, especially if we're (close) friends. But unlike most of you, I've hung out with Ameriie in person several times, and we've been friends for over three years, so I know her book nerd ways intimately. This girl, when we first hung out, I can still remember feeling nervous in the way that you always are when you're hanging out with someone for the first time, but she made our interaction comfortable with her book nerd ways. Sniffing all those books, discussing our favorites, always driving to bookstores at the end of one of our writing days spent together... I mean, even if you forgo my personal experiences with Ameriie, all you need to do is check out her channel and here's a particular book nerd video: How She Reads. If you aren't one of her subscribers yet, you're seriously missing out on a wonderful perspective on both YA and adult books.

Books I almost nominated...

Those were my Book Shimmy Award nominations! Do we have any in common? What have you decided to nominate for each category?
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review 2015-08-10 21:37
The Winner's Crime Book Review
The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy) - Marie Rutkoski

I was told this wasn't as good as the first one so I was ready to be disappointed. And I hate to say that I definitely am. Its just so boring to read the Winner's Crime. 90% of it was nothing happening. There was a bit of action in the end and even then I wasn't all that impressed. 

 

Kestrel is set to marry Verex, to save the Herrani's. But Arin thinks she's doing it out of her own will and after what she did he finds it hard to trust her. But he does against his will. The two are still fighting for the opposite side with Kestrel being a spy. Things get dangerous and consequences arise. 

 

Bleh. I feel drained after reading this one. I did still enjoy Kestrel and the writing style and word building. I just wish more happen. And I suppose there is a cliffhanger, but it didn't really leave me excited for the third one, though I'll probably still read it. 

 

 

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