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Completely Captivating: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Welcome Back!Twizzler Bites

I’m sitting here at my dining room table munching on Twizzler Bites (YUM) and enjoying the pretty sunlight coming in through the window while I work on this post. South Carolina winters are strange. One morning it’ll be a frigid 23F and five hours later it’ll be a comfortable 64F. I have the front door open (with the doggy gate up of course) and Miles the Pup is lounging on the rug. I’m pretty pleased with today overall!

Overview

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I adore this cover…le sigh…

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.

My Thoughts

A new fantasy series?! Yes please! I tried to get my hands on The Winner’s Curse all summer and fall but the waiting list at my local library was seriously a mile long! Finally it popped up on Overdrive, so I was able to listen to the audiobook. Although this book is classified as fantasy, I’d say it has more of a political intrigue plot with some fantasy elements woven throughout. Whatever it is, The Winner’s Curse is completely captivating and I couldn’t help but lose myself in the setting, characters, and story!

The world Kestrel lives in is well thought out and seems to resemble the Roman Empire in a lot of ways. Kestrel is member of the ruling Valorians and her people are the ruthless conquerors who have enslaved the Herrani people and treat them as cattle sold at auction. Despite the similarities to the Roman Empire, however, Kestrel’s world has its own qualities that give it a unique presence on the page, not to mention the political intrigue that begins to unwind! It is a well set up world that I am excited to visit more in the following books!

The romance between Kestrel and Arin, her newly acquired slave is subtle at first. It is slow to build as every interaction between the two in wrought with cords of romantic and emotional tensions. I didn’t feel rushed with this forbidden romance like one sometimes does in popular YA fiction, but every scene did leave me wanting more.

Recommended For

Because The Winner’s Curse is a slower paced read, with not a lot of action until the later half, I’d recommend it for older middle school readers and above, especially those who love a good romantic fantasy. I question whether  younger readers would have the patience to appreciate the slowly growing heat that is The Winner’s Curse. If you are one who can appreciate the gradual building of a good story, however, then you’ll enjoy this one like I did!

Details

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (March 4, 2014)
Format: Audiobook
Length: 8 hours and 24 minutes
Narrator: Justine Eyre (one of my faves!)
Series: First in a trilogy
YA/MG: Both

5

Crying Books and My Comfort Zone: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Welcome back!

There are tons of different types of books out there. There are books that want to make me laugh. Books that want to make me swoon. There are books that just want to entertain me. There are even books that want to make me think.  But then there are also these devious little books whose only desire in life is to make me cry.

I am a pretty emotional person in real life. I can cry at the drop of a hat. There was even a commercial about a friendly lady and her daughter who send their lonely elderly neighbor a greeting card. The old lady is so touched that she comes over and hugs the lady and her daughter…I WAS WEEPING! So, you see when I sit down to read a book I’m not in the mood to cry. When I read a book, I pick the ones that are going to make me laugh or swoon or think. I kind ofIf I Stay by Gayle Forman just want to be entertained. I don’t want to cry…and If I Stay by Gayle Forman ONLY wanted me to cry.

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck… A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Can’t you just tell from the summary that this is a book that is plotting the imminent emotional demise of all its readers?! YES! I knew this going into it, but I thought it’d be good to step out of my reading comfort zone a little. In the end, I’m glad I did but If I Stay isn’t a book that I can say I enjoyed.

Forman’s writing is stunning and almost musical and the story itself is well imagined. The lyrical writing is reflected in Mia’s love of music and everything about the story just kind of flows by smoothly even though the story weaves back and forth through flashbacks and the story’s current point.

Mia’s story was interesting. I was enthralled with the possibility of her decision. Which choice will she make and what will happen to her because of it? I loved learning about her life and family and friends up until that fateful moment on that particular snowy morning. You begin to see just how complicated and painful Mia’s decision is going to be. But Mia herself isn’t the most intriguing character I’ve ever read. She just doesn’t seem all that colorful of a person.  Her friends and family do, but Mia seems to fade into the background of the scenes she shares with her family and friends.

So. You want to know. Did If I Stay achieve its mischievous little goal to make me cry?

No. It didn’t. But that’s because I knew I had to protect myself going into it. Don’t get me wrong, this book was painfully heartbreaking and there were times where I was VERY CLOSE to shedding some tears while listening (I had the audiobook from my public library) but in the end I was stronger than the book….VICTORY!

The audiobook was a quick listen, and I believe I finished the book in a little over two days (while running or driving or cleaning the house).  I love getting through an audiobook that fast!

So, if you’re one of those people who do enjoy a good cry while reading (I know there are tons of you out there!!!) you should definitely pick up If I Stay by Gayle Forman. It may even be a good idea to stop by the store to pick up a box of Kleenex as well! I also have to mention that this book is definitely intended for high school readers as there is some language and some sexual scenes sprinkled throughout.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone a little, but now that I have I’m going to crawl right back into my preferred reading cave! :)

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (April 5, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4 hours and 48 mins

Narrator(s): Kristen Potter

Series: First in the If I Stay series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  If I Stay

wasn’t my favorite

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I Like Dragons! Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Well hi there!

Have I told you how much I love audiobooks? Well, I do! So, let’s talk about an audiobook I recently finished, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, because it’s really stinkin’ good!Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

So, I love fantasy but when I first read the summary for Seraphina I thought, “Dragons? Hmmm….not really my thing…”. So, I hesitated and didn’t read it. Then, I heard great things from other book bloggers and decided that it was time to read it, dragons and all.

I am so glad I did! I think I like dragons! Seraphina was a beautiful story of a girl with great talent but also a potentially dangerous secret. Hartman is definitely skilled at building a fantasy world. Everything from the society’s history, religion, customs, philosophy, fashion and music was so richly constructed. Seraphina’s world draws you in and quickly engulfs you.

I was attached to and loved Seraphina as a heroine. She is intelligent, brave, determined, sensitive, kindhearted, witty and easily able to connect with. If I lived in this made up fantasy land I think we’d hit it off pretty well. :) Her growth as a character comes with learning to accept her whole self and trust those who love her. All the supporting characters are three-dimensional as well, in the beginning I wasn’t sure if I liked Princess Glisselda, for example, but she greatly evolves throughout the story from a giddy princess to a mature young woman.

And there is romance. Yes…that’s right. *winks*

I didn’t realize until I finished reading that Seraphina is the first book in a series and that Dracomachia, book two, is slated to be released this coming July! YAY!!!

I feel like Seraphina is a little bit of a mix between Libba Bray’s The Gemma Doyle trilogy and Fire by Kristin Cashore – it just has similarities while also being its own story. So, if you were a fan of either books mentioned above, or you’re just a fantasy fan you’ll probably love Seraphina like I did!

Author: Rachel Hartman

Publisher: Listening Library (July 10, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 13 hrs and 15 mins

Narrator(s): Many Williams and Justine Eyre

Series: First in the Seraphina series

YA/MG: YA/MG

Buy the Book: Seraphina