Book Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, The Winner’s Kiss

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: YA, Romance, Fantasy

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: 2014, 2015, 2016
Hardcover: 355, 402, 484 pages

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.



Would I recommend this book:
HELL YES



REVIEW

As I write this, I am struggling to pull my thoughts together and be…coherent.  There is so much that I want to say about this series that I can’t possibly say all at once without overwhelming you.  I have so many feelings that I can’t describe either. Ugh.

Rutkoski’s writing is seamless and intelligent.  She weaves together romance, fantasy and politics in such an expert manner that I can’t express how impossibly challenging this is.  I’ve read some stories that can’t seem to get the formula right but she did. Meaning, the author either slaps the two lovers together and it becomes the main focus of the story while, at the same time, the author also wishes for us to see all the other issues going on around them and it just becomes this frustrating blob. So, I am praising Rutkoski for her awesome world-building. She’s organized things so smoothly.

Now, as I go forward with this review, I don’t believe I will be giving away anything that wouldn’t already be known if you’ve read the summaries for the second and third book.  For the majority of this review, I will be concentrating on the first book.  No worries.

The beginning of this series is The Winner’s Curse.  Now…what can I say to interest you in reading this series?

In short, the winner’s curse is a concept that states the winner will tend to overpay.

Kestrel was born under the wrong star.  She is a privileged young woman who becomes restless when realizing all her prosperity comes at an unforgivable price.  Her father is the general of the empire and urges for her to take part in a war she doesn’t believe in.  Unfortunately, she could not kill even if she wanted to.  Yet, regardless of her lack of physical strength, she overcomes this with her incredible tenacity and wit and bravery.  But, of course, there is a fragility in her that we will come to know…  And because of the gentle aspects of her that we come to admire later, she purchases a slave, Arin, at an auction.  This sets her off on a course that will put everything she once held dear at stake.  And it will take everything she has to prevent a war from breaking.

The first book is a little rocky in the world-building aspect, however, it is self-contained.  First books to a series usually are, I feel, so this is a minor problem that can be easily over-looked.  It’s not exactly inspired by any period in time but you can see hints of our world in theirs from the political pieces involved.  The world is incredibly imaginative and undeniably thrilling.  If you are not a fantasy lover, this book may be easier for you to slip into than others as it’s not very heavy-handed.  The language I felt was intuitive, and its structure and storytelling clever as it is not as fast-paced as we are use to with many novels.

Now, what has me SOARING for this book is the romance involved. I LOVE it when a story doesn’t have that instalove between the main pairing. You have no idea how much I appreciate it when the author takes his/her time with their characters.  The journey these two will travel will be tragic, making the end all the more sweeter.  It is subtle and slow-blooming at the start of their relationship, which to me is all the more poignant because their love should not have been born.  They develop a deep yearning for one another, and if you can understand a love where you dare not think about, then you can understand them.  But, please, watch over their story.

I will not say much about Arin because I feel that may spoil the story for you.  He is someone that I wish for you to discover on your own.

Frankly speaking, by the end of each book, you will feel breathless and light-headed.  I’ve read so many reviews where they couldn’t put the books down and read it all in one sitting.  You will turn the pages of this book because there will be twists and turns, events that will have you wanting to throw the book across the room and cry, and just break your heart.

But the pain is exquisite.

I love love love love loved this story.  It is hard for me to see anyone who wouldn’t swoon over it, but I do hope you love it too.  I think it’s a timeless tale that will have you reading it over and over again, I don’t doubt.



Romance:
Yes.



Favorite Section: 

I loved absolutely everything… It’s hard to pick out just one.  But this section, from The Winner’s Kiss, hits close to home with me due to recent events in my life.

Kestrel thought that maybe she had been wrong, and Risha had been wrong, about forgiveness, that it was neither mud nor stone, but resembled more the drifting white spores.  They came loose from the trees when they were ready.  Soft to the touch, but made to be let go, so that they could find a place to plant and grow.



Rating:
 5/5 Stars

Book Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

lexicon

Title: Lexicon

Author: Max Barry

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Scifi, Romance

Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 18 2013
Hardcover: 390 pages

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics–at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”, adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Bronte, Eliot, and Lowell–who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.



Would I recommend this book:
HELL YES


REVIEW

The story opens with a needle plunging into Wil’s eye. In the meantime, his kidnappers are asking him: “Would you describe yourself as more of a dog person or a cat person?” and “What is your favorite color?” and et cetera.

Ridiculous but gripping, isn’t it?

The idea of the book is that words have power—simply put—and there are individuals who call themselves “poets” who practice this power. So, basically, these individuals are capable of killing by using specific “words”. How? Words can cause an individual to drop all their defenses and become persuadable. And the reason why these individuals are known as poets is because they are named after famous poets in order to hide their true identity. This is because once a person knows you, they are capable of distinguishing which segment you belong to and which words would best work on you. I bet you’re thinking: If these individuals can’t even trust their own, then that just smells trouble. You bet.

As you well know, we have a dual-narrative: one being Emily’s and the other, being Wil’s. While we have Wil being taken captive because he is the only person to have survived the tragedy at Broken Hill, Australia, we have Emily, a hustler from California who is whisked away into a school in Virginia that teaches special individuals the meaning of words. So, you are being thrown back and forth between the two protagonists, but eventually, their stories collide and intertwine. This is handled very well and you will be satisfied.

Now, I’d rather not say anymore than I already did because I think it would take away some of the magic about going into an amazing story, like this, while blind. I was very taken aback by this back and highly recommend it! 


Romance: Yes.



Favorite Section:

That’s what’s happening if you’re getting all your news from one place. If you stop listening to someone the second you hear a word or phrase you’ve been taught belongs to the enemy, like “environment” or “job creators,” that’s what you’re doing. You might be an intelligent person, but once you let someone else filter the world for you, you have no way to critically analyze what you’re hearing. At best, absolute best case scenario, if they blatantly contradict themselves, you can spot that. But if they take basic care to maintain an internal logical consistency, which they all do, you’ve got nothing. You’ve delegated the ability to make up your mind.


Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Book Review: The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

The Glass Sentence

Title: The Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy #1)

Author: S. E. Grove

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: June 12 2014
Hardcover: 493 pages

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.


The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.



Would I recommend this book:
YES YES YES


REVIEW

The World:

In 1799, the Great Disruption shook the world, throwing time and place into a disequilibrium. Now, different eras exist on every continent! America is divided into New Occident (our east coast) and the Baldlands (our west coast–where several different eras coexist–also known as the Triple Eras), Europe is plummeted into a remote century, and many other continents are lost to uncharted Ages. As a result of this event, explorers and cartologers have become much sought-after professionals because these individuals try to make sense of the jumbled world.

The Characters:

Sophia Tims – Our 13-year-old protagonist is the niece of Shadrack Elli and the daughter of explorers.  At a very young age, she lost both of her parents in an expedition, and so, for most of her life, she was brought up by Shadrack and knows maps nearly as much as he does.  Unfortunately, Shadrack’s work kept him from fully parenting the young girl, and thus, Sophia needed to mature faster than other children, but this aspect of her is not the only reason why she’s set apart from everyone else–she has no internal clock.  In this world, it is a rare trait.  A moment may seem like hours to her.

Shadrack Elli – Is the uncle of Sophia and the best cartologer in the world due to his ability to read and write maps from paper to water.


Their adventure starts at Boston in 1891. The members of parliament announces that they will be closing their borders and will forcibly deport those without citizenship (families and individuals who haven’t left yet) by July fourth. This causes an enormous uproar. Then, only in a matter of days after the announcement was made, Shadrack Elli is kidnapped by Nihilismians. Nihilismians are people who believe that the current world isn’t real and they’ve concluded that Shadrack is the key in finding the carta mayor, the Map of the World, a legendary map that may undo what has been done to the world. In other words, rewriting time itself!

Shadrack leaves behind a glass map and a clue to his whereabouts, and so on that note, Sophia sets out to get him home. She is accompanied with a mysterious boy from the Baldlands, who promises to help her get to where she needs, however, more than one danger is at their heels, and for Sophia who knows not whether her uncle is still alive or dead–the girl who has no inner clock is racing against time because not only the men who stole her uncle away from her are tracking her down, but the world is changing…the Great Disruption threatens to topple the world yet again.

The concept of The Mapmakers Trilogy is brilliant and the world is utterly unique. It is thrilling, time-bending and horrific. There are fantastical beasts, mystical legends, tyrants, silver bones, leafy hair and pirates. What more could you ask for?

Though, there are some things about the story that aren’t perfect. Due to the densely imaginative world that the author created, there are inevitable hurdles that will be crossed and there is much info-dumping–but this skill takes time to perfect. Then, there are the characters. They are underdeveloped but likable/lovable. I would have liked a more in-depth characterization of our cast because the material in this volume alone could have been fitted into a whole series–and if that route was taken, more could have been done to fill-in these characters. Which brings me to the next issue, the end. I won’t spoil any details but I need to say that it was rushed. The slow build up at the beginning came down too fast. It’s like the incline of a rollercoaster, you’re anticipating the fall but the structure that seemed to tower over the sky itself ended up becoming a five second drop. And, lastly, the maps. The maps were introduced to us as a science but it is waved in front of us, attempting to explain but, in actuality, not explaining at all–and this may not have been an issue if it was science because not only are these maps on paper, it has been discovered that maps can be written on water, glass, clay, onions, et cetera. And these maps don’t exactly pinpoint destinations with outlines and coordinates explained by longitude and latitude, they record vivid memories, sensations, et cetera. Therefore, the right word to describe the creation of these maps should have been magic not science. It seemed that the world was scoffing at the creation of maps with magic when there are mythical creatures lurking in some of the various Ages. Maybe I am criticizing this aspect too much–maybe I am discovering a new pet peeve…

At any rate, even with all these imperfections, this is a diamond in the rough. Everything about this story is fascinating and mind-boggling. Love love love it! I am thoroughly looking forward to the next installment, The Golden Specific.



Romance:
 Yes! However, it is not the focus of this series but there is enough to make your toes curl. (Personally, I love subtlety.) Though, at my age, all I’m thinking is, “They’re too cute, they’re too cute~”


Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Favorite Books/Recommendations

Compilation of my favorite books! Hopefully this would introduce you to a new love? Or maybe we can rave about a shared interest together?

Novels
_________________

(Middle Grade)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Queen’s Thief
 by Megan Whalen Turner
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
One of the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Cat Royal by Julia Golding

(YA/New Adult)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Red Glass by Laura Resau
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Jelicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

(Fantasy)
Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip
The Seer And The Sword by Victoria Hanley

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier 
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
Dragonfly by Julia Golding
The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

(Scifi)
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

(Fiction)
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Giant’s House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken

(Romance)
Dreaming Of You by Lisa Kleypas
Tairen Soul by C.L. Wilson
Paradise by Judith McNaught
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Comics
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Saga
Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake
Beautiful Darkness
Ultimate Spider-man (Miles Morales)
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Batman: Dark Victory
Flashpoint
Amulet
After Man: SAM