Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

From Goodreads: 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?

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski was a book that I was both excited and nervous about reading because I hoped that it would be more like The Winner’s Crime and less like The Winner’s Curse. Thankfully, The Winner’s Kiss struck a good balance between focusing on romance on the one hand and political machinations on the other.

At the end of The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel is banished to the Valorian work camp in the tundra. So, I assumed that it would take a long time for Arin to realize where she was. Surprisingly, that turned out to not be the case, and Kestrel is rescued within the first quarter of the The Winner's Kiss. As a result, the focus of the novel ends up being on the war between the East and the Valorian Empire, a decision that I was pleased with. 

With regards to the characters and romance, I really ended up loving Roshar and the bromance that developed between him and Arin. I also liked that Arin and Kestrel’s relationship finally seemed to mature, with both realizing that they needed to open up and trust the other person if they were going to have any sort of future together.

Where I think The Winner’s Kiss could be improved upon is with an epilogue. The ending was good, but it did leave me with questions about the future of the characters. An epilogue could have somewhat answered those questions!

The Winner’s Kiss was released in March 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Comments About the Cover: Why is the model posed so weirdly in all three covers of this trilogy?!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mini Reviews: Riders by Veronica Rossi and Ruined by Amy Tintera

From Goodreads: Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse. Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen - Conquest, Famine, and Death - are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence. They fail. Now - bound, bloodied, and drugged - Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for - not to mention all of humankind - he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky trilogy, I was really excited to read, Riders, the start of her newest series. Riders began promisingly with the main character, Gideon, being interrogated. Unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting that more than 80% of the book would consist of alternating chapters of Gideon’s interrogator asking him questions and Gideon telling his interrogator (and thereby, the reader) how he became War and learned to control his powers and horse. Another thing that I struggled with in Riders was the lack of information with regards to the worldbuilding. Only one character had the answers, and she revealed them slowly. Even that wasn’t enough, however, because many of my questions remain unanswered. Finally, knowing that Rossi is capable of writing a well-developed slow burning romance, I was disappointed to see that Gideon and Daryn developed feelings for each other almost instantly.

Riders was released in February 2016 by Tor Teen.
From Goodreads: Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped. But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family. In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family. Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life - and her family - on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Ruined by Amy Tintera was another book I was really looking forward to reading because I had enjoyed Tintera’s Reboot duology. With insta-love and extremely weak worldbuilding though, Ruined turned out to be an even bigger disappointment than Riders. Moreover, the characters in Ruined were underdeveloped, and the plot focused too much on the unrealistic romance. For example, it made me laugh that even after Cas’ father died due to Em, Cas' biggest concern was whether Em was only pretending to have feelings for him. Ultimately, while I have no idea why the Ruined have powers but their neighbours don’t or why everyone wants to exterminate the Ruined, I can tell you that I hate fantasy books where a girl out for revenge promptly falls in love and abandons her quest.

Ruined was released by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) via Edelweiss.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

From Goodreads: Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along. Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world. Neither of them expected a summer like this ... a summer that would rewrite their futures.  

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having disliked Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer and then loving The Start of Me and You, I was curious to see what my reaction to When We Collided would be. After reading When We Collided though, I can say that I have very mixed feelings about it; and the best way for me to review it is with a pros and cons list.

  • I loved reading about Jonah’s family! I can’t imagine growing up with so many siblings – two were enough for me, thank you very much – so if I want to experience life in a big family without having to deal with the lack of personal space, I can only do it through reading. Sadly, the only other book I’ve read where there's a big family is Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door.
  • A huge reason why I wanted to read When We Collided was because I knew it explored mental illness, which I think we need more of in YA. I know there are several books that explore depression, OCD and anxiety, but I had yet to read a book where the main character has bipolar disorder. Although Lord tackles the subject respectfully, I personally would have liked more facts to be presented about bipolar disorder (e.g. the different subtypes are mentioned, but we never learn about what makes them different from each other).
  • The romance was the biggest aspect I disliked about When We Collided. I just didn’t believe in it because Jonah and Vivi get together so fast and then barely talk about anything important. I also didn’t feel that it was very healthy because: a) it was full of drama and b) Vivi often manipulated Jonah’s emotions.
  • As much as I liked Jonah as a character, I would have preferred this book to have just been from Vivi’s perspective. Since Vivi’s point-of-view was so flowery and exaggerated, Jonah’s perspective didn’t seem as interesting, unfortunately.
When We Collided was released in April 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s. 

Comments About the Cover: The colourful splatters are prefect for representing both Vivi’s personality and her love for art.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

From Goodreads: Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early - the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids. But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Inspired by the Steubenville High School Rape Case, Aaron Hartzler’s What We Saw deftly handles topics like consent, slut shaming, teen drinking, and social media. I think this book would be perfect for a book club or novel study because it’s bound to generate discussion.

In What We Saw, the main character, Kate, is driven home by a friend after getting intoxicated at a party. Another girl at the same party, however, isn’t so lucky – and suddenly, there are allegations that she was raped by a few members of the school’s beloved basketball team, while unconscious. Despite the fact that it appears there were tons of witnesses and a video of the rape is briefly posted online, nobody comes forward to support the allegations. Kate wonders who to believe – a lone girl considered a slut or the rest of the student body?

I really liked Kate as a character because even though she was confused about where her loyalties should lie and was repeatedly told to not get involved by adults and peers alike, she still decided to seek the truth. Then, when she does find out what happened, she’s courageous enough to make some tough choices. It amazes and disgusts me that people can see terrible stuff like this happening and not do anything to stop the situation or speak up about it!

An absolute must read for teens, What We Saw was released in September 2015 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the cover, but not the font.