Friday, April 11, 2014

The Winner's Curse: review

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Winner's Curse #1)
Released: March 4th 2014
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads summary: 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. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My thoughts:

The Winner's Curse is one of my favorite books this year so far. Especially after reading a handful of mediocre YA books lately, this book was able to get me out of my slump. I haven't read any of Rutkoski's books before, but her writing is very nice to read, so I will go track down my copy of The Shadow Society and read it asap. 

With a great opening line and eye-catching sideways page-numbers (because I notice these things) you can tell right away it's going to be a good book. Now, the story flows steadily, but there isn't much fighting-action for much of the book, so don't expect it. Kestrel plays the game of politics, which is her strength and natural talent. There's plenty of time for relationships to form, secrets to build, and people to manipulate, and there isn't a dull chapter in here. There is some actual action toward the end, but since Kestrel isn't an outstanding fighter or leader, she is not in the midst of war. Her independence annoyed me. As a character I mean. She kept making choices that, no matter how many times I yelled at her "Kestrel, you REALLY shouldn't do that" she chose to ignore me again and again. That, my friends, isn't a stupid character, it's a CONSISTENT one. I admire that she wasn't written to do things and made decisions just to please her readers. No, there will be some non-proud moments for her in there. That's awesome and makes her realistic, in my opinion.

This story is told in dual POVs, Kestrel, along with Arin. Normally I find this style annoying, but since it's also third person, and these two characters have a ton of secrets, I liked reading both a lot. Also, the voices are distinct, thank the gods. So I was never in doubt as to who we were reading about. Arin, unlike Kestrel, is a fighter (for himself and his people) so he's in the middle of whatever action/violence is happening at the moment. I like his history, learning it little by little, and see him as one of the most fleshed out counterparts I've read in a while. He isn't just "the guy", he's as much a part of the storyline as Kestrel is.

Kestrel and Arin are very different people, yes. They're also on opposites sides of a decade-ago won war. Kestrel is a Valdorian and her people are the rich once-savages who won the war and enslaved the Herrani, Arin's people. You can see why they're not immediately friends. But for some reason unknown to even Kestrel, she buys Arin at the auction and eventually, they become friends. Sort of. Neither is fond of the other for quite a good portion of the book, and neither trusts the other completely, and for good reason. For Kestrel and Arin each have their own ulterior motive in this so-called peace after wartime. 

I love the two languages are mentioned realistically with the Herrani and Valorian cultures meshing together. (While the book is written in English for all us non-fictional folks obviously, the mention of language switching/knowledge kept up well.) I would consider this book fantasy since all the places sounded made up, and not weirdly dystopian at all (frankly my dear, i've had enough of those lately) but a good and true fantasy, in my book, has maps. Maps of these lands we're learning about and seeing conquered. Maps for picturing out the strategies. If I had read an advanced copy I would assume immediately there would be maps included in the finished copy. Alas, there were not. But possibly some could be added to the second one? Unlikely, but I can hope?

Reading this book was surprising and interesting, I can't wait to see what's to come; I feel the story and world can only develop and get more interesting from here on out. And was that ending REALLY necessary? The one time I actually read a hype-book when it comes out…I have to wait anxiously for a whole year for the next one, along with every else. For any fans of Cashore's Graceling trilogy, or Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I can't recommend this book enough. This is your next fantasy read.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Arclight: review

Arclight by Joslin McQuein
Release Date: April 3, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Summary: No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. 

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

My thoughts:

I think a solid 3.5 here. I liked it. But it took me three quarters of the way through to realize I really have some issues, so that's something?

In theory, this story has great potential. It's creepy and mysterious and has an isolated colony of people protected from some unknown scariness. And on the back it says "for fans of Stephen King and Veronica Roth" ….um not quite. Those wouldn't be the two authors I'd pick. More like if you like Anne Aguirre's Enclave series and Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, maybe. (Those two series are a lot more violent though.)

Marina is our MC, and I did like her for most of the book. She's missing some of her memory, so she doesn't know much about herself…which is so convenient. She's not particularly strong willed or annoying. My problem with Marina is her inconsistent behavior. One page she's all "I'm going to follow this Fade into the Dark because I need to find out more about them." Then two pages later "Shoot them! Shoot them! I don't like the Fade and they have their creepy crawlies all over!" What? Really. 

Sure there's some romance, if you can call it that. To me though Tobin is such a flat character. I never felt anything for him, sympathy or otherwise, and I didn't understand Marina's attachment to him considering they hate each other (apparently) for the first 80 pages. It's all very fuzzy and when things do happen between them it's without ANY discussion or even any WORDS between them, even internal dialogue to let us reader know what Marina feels. Just, like, a few passionate moments that made me roll my eyes.

And (without spoilers) the whole thing with Cherish and Rue…didn't see that coming. I'm a little irked because the whole last hundred pages were written so strangely that I had no idea what the heck was going on, I would have connected the dots excitedly instead of turning the page to see this thing revealed and think…where did that come from? I actually stopped chewing mid bite (yes i eat when I read) in shock and confusion. If someone asked me to recap a lot of the book, I wouldn't be able to explain because all the creation of the Fade and Dark isn't easily explained and a bit inconsistent, I couldn't keep track.

The general pacing is a little scattered, unsure. Annie is my favorite character just because of her consistency and realistic personality.

If I didn't already own the second book, I might not continue this series immediately. Arclight is a good book, not my favorite, but I'm not sorry I read it. What really kept me going is that I needed to know what happened, and that's usually a good sign even if the characters are intolerable.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The Book Thief: movie review

Yes I know this came out six months ago. But it was only limited release, at least where I live, and I never got the chance to find a place to see it, so I had to wait for the library to get it.

I like this poster, but the movie-cover is good too, even though the original book cover is the best.

There are so many good things about this movie, and really nothing I can complain about, so I'll list them, and hopefully you'll feel the need to see/read it after reading this, if you haven't already.

This is one of the rare times I didn't reread the book before seeing the movie, which is too bad because according to Goodreads I read The Book Thief back in November of 2010. And that was back before I actually wrote any thoughts/reviews so all I have to go on is from a conversation my friend were having on there.

So: "it was very emotional…and good." is what I told her. She responded "glad you liked it." But I know I felt so much more than that!! Oh well, when I'm feeling in the mood to cry a lot, I'll pick it up again.

Why The Book Thief is a brilliant movie

  • You don't have to have read the book to still admire the wonderful and heart-wrenching story. 

  • For those who have read it, Death narrating? YES. The narrator has a great narrating voice too, sort of like Lemony Snicket. It was done well and I'm so glad they didn't leave it out! Essential to the uniqueness of it!

  • The score. The thing I am most critical about in movies. John Williams guys. He did this score and I loved it so very much and you will too because John Williams.

  • I don't remember, but I'm sure I cried in the book. Well I cried in here. A lot. During the book burnings, and the dying (people die, it was WWII so that is not a spoiler) and pretty much every emotional scene happy or sad.

  • The acting is excellent. I'm a big fan of Geoffery Rush and he was perfect for the role of Liesel's new father, and of course did especially well with the accent. Liesel herself is so perfectly as I pictured her in the book, and I wanted Rudy to be my best friend too. 

  • Yes the one thing I cannot account for is what was different than the book (as mentioned above), so maybe it's a very different experience from the book? Maybe it's not? Either way the movie is as good (as in quality) as a movie so I'm not comparing it to the book as much as usual.

I'm actually sticking with these few, short facts because the movie is so well done and I honestly don't have anything to rant about or complain about. Boring, I know. I'm so relieved though! For those who did read it more recently, or didn't read it until after, what did you think?