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Review – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy) by Marie Rutkoski

 

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) 

By Marie Rutkoski

SummaryWinning what you want may cost you everything you love 

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.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Winner’s Curse has been on my TBR for awhile. I vaguely remember the hype when it came out and then, more recently, the hype when the finale released. I am glad I waited to read it because I didn’t have any expectations at this point and just wanted an entertaining story to engage me and not feel like work to trudge through. The Winner’s Curse was exactly what I needed and I enjoyed it.

Kestrel was a likable character because she was different. She was not a rule follower and the fact that her father was a general allowed her a little more freedom to be more of herself. She played instruments and went around without an escort despite the society frowning upon it. She had great instincts and was good at strategizing, even giving her father tips when she felt so inclined. She ended up purchasing a slave at an auction without really understanding why. She wasn’t the type to take advantage of her station and participate in the slave trade, but she couldn’t help herself. 

It could’ve been a love story and I suppose in some ways it was, but not in the way I expected. It was like she noticed the slave’s defiance and craved that as someone who also considered herself defiant. She wanted someone who understood her, I think. And he did, but he had some motives of his own. I feel like they had a mutual respect that neither one wanted to acknowledge too much and I don’t know if it’s really love so much as respect and attraction, but I’m intrigued to see where the story will go after the events that took place in this first book. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but I was glad that it wasn’t centered completely on Kestrel and her feelings for a slave and dealt with outside plots and forces, too. 

I don’t think the book is without flaws, though. The romance, if you can call it that, seemed a bit rushed, but maybe that’s because I don’t really think they love each other and I think they have a respect and wariness about the other that creates a sort of push and pull. It was good tension, but I’m not completely sold on the relationship. I also think it rushed what takes years or even decades to happen in societies. I don’t want to give too many details away, but the events, while plausible, would not happen overnight and literally do in the book. That’s not how revolutions or wars work in short spans of time, though the things that happen would totally happen over a longer length of time. I don’t understand why the events are so rushed, but it kind if makes the whole book seem a lot less plausible as a whole. I have to believe there’s a reason for the rushed events because the author has some places she needs to put the characters in order to formulate her grand story, so since it’s the first book, I’ll cut it some slack and continue reading. 

I am concerned about a triangle, though, but I haven’t read the synopsis of book two, so I might be way off.

Overall, the book was entertaining and I finished it quickly, so it did exactly what I needed it to do. I’m back on my reading wagon where I don’t spend days on the same paragraph of whatever book I’m trying to finish, and that’s what I needed. I recommend the book, but only as long as you’re not expecting it to be the next earth shattering YA novel. It’s.. it’s just not quite there yet.

Star 4

Review – It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

 

It Ends With Us

By Colleen Hoover

SummarySOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Most of Colleen Hoover’s books are romances that destroy me in a good way. Some of them do have points to make on top of being amazing romances. It Ends With Us is not the same.

It Ends With Us was really good. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of her other books. She wrote engaging and deep characters you can’t help but care about, like she does in all her other books. She gave me a romance I wanted to root for and a situation destined to explode in everyone’s face somehow, which is also kind of normal for her books. 

The book is very difficult to read, so if you’re sensitive to abuse of any kind, you should not read this book.

The rest of my review, though kind of vague, is still very much a spoiler for anyone who wants to go into the book expecting a Colleen Hoover book and I think it will be different if you read it and you know more about what will happen. I think the book is best read without knowing what it’s about. 

———-

The book dealt with domestic violence and that has impacted the reviews it has. A lot of the negative reviews seem to be from some people who didn’t see it through to the end OR people who wanted a different end. Both opinions are, to me, why this book needs to exist.. at least for people who haven’t been through it themselves.

Domestic violence is something NO ONE should put up with. It’s clear that someone being abused needs to leave… in theory. It is much murkier for the people involved. It’s easy to sit there and judge someone for not leaving when they are being abused when you’ve never dealt with it. I know that because I’ve felt that way. But you don’t know what you don’t know or haven’t been through and the great thing about literature is that it can take you somewhere you’ve never been and that is what It Ends With Us does. It is hard to read about someone who puts up with bits of abuse and not want to tear your hair out. If you want to put the book down and pretend like you know what it’s about, do that. It’s easier on your emotions. It’s a lot harder to keep reading and really put yourself in the person’s shoes. You don’t know how it will end and the title honestly doesn’t help. I wish everyone who DNFed it because they didn’t want to see a character make excuses would have just given it a few more chapters. This wasn’t a book romanticizing abuse. It was a book about abuse and the strength it takes to walk away.

There were times when I was reading it where I thought about how much I wanted to go back to the previous page and just change what happened. I wanted to also give excuses or reasoning. If I wanted to do that for a couple of fictional characters, I can’t even imagine how badly I’d want to do that in real life and THAT is the point of the book. It’s hard to do what needs to be done.

On other hand, there are also negative reviews from people who didn’t like seeing a character walk away from her abusive partner when he was so willing to change. The book exists for those people, too, even if they maybe missed the point a bit. It’s hard to do what needs to be done. It’s easy to just keep seeing something through, hope for change, and believe that love will all work out. Maybe he would change. But what if he didn’t? What happens if/when your child watches you just see it through, just deal with this incident, just clean up the pieces of the glass Dad broke before he he gets mad again, just hope for a better future? People can change… but sometimes they stay the same. What are you willing to risk? What will you put up with?

I really don’t mean to go into this review trashing any opinions if they didn’t like the book because they are completely entitled to hate it, but I feel passionate about this book and why it’s so good because it actually impacted my opinion. I am one of those tough no-one-will-ever-put-their-hands-on-me type of people. OF COURSE you should leave. But the author manipulated the situation for me. I didn’t read the synopsis or anything. I thought I was reading a romance and I wanted so badly to pretend like he wasn’t displaying signs of someone who might snap at any moment. I wasn’t sure what awful thing would happen and then it happened and it crushed me. I wanted to make excuses with the main character after the minor incidents. It was just an accident. Right? It put me into a situation I’ve never been in and it was really easy to see why someone might stay when everything else was so good. It was a constant test of willpower to leave someone you love who loves you. I get it now. I did not quite get it before because I’ve just never been able to put myself in those shoes. Now I have. 

It Ends With Us was a powerful book. I definitely recommend it for anyone who thinks it’s easy to walk away from domestic violence. For people like me (the me I was before this book), who hear about how hard it is to leave, but can’t really empathize and can’t really understand why anyone would stay in an awful situation or even let themselves get into in the first place. People display tendencies well before you’re stuck with them, right? This book is for them. If you’ve dealt with domestic violence, it might not be so good because you might view her as being really weak and it might anger you. I can totally see that. This book is much better for anyone who maybe just never really got domestic violence and thinks leaving would be easy or thinks it’s worth seeing it through because people can change. 

Star 5 

Review – The FIll-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

 

The Fill-In Boyfriend

By Kasie West

SummaryWhen Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I absolutely love Kasie West novels, especially her contemporary books. She always delivers a story that immediately hooks me and gives me characters I just can’t get enough of. While her books are quite short and I fly through them within a day or so, I still feel like the character building is well done. I always care about her characters, even the side ones, and I am fully invested in the story. This book was just as good as her other contemporaries that I love so much. 

In The Fill-In Boyfriend, Gia’s boyfriend broke up with her before walking into her prom with her. Her group of friends had another girl vying for alpha position and constantly grilled Gia about her boyfriend, making her feel like she made him up. So how could she face prom without him? When she spotted a cute boy sitting in a car in the same parking lot, she struck a deal and he became Bradley for the night. Good thing he was super good at acting.

I loved the set up. Gia was a kind of aloof and somewhat selfish person, worried about what everyone thought, which was exactly what got her in to the mess in the first place. But her spontaneous team up with Fill-In Bradley opened her eyes to a lot of things and made her take a second look at how she treated people. I love when books tackle the subject because it’s so relevant to a lot of teen girls, but even to people in general. I focus so much on how I feel about a situation that I often fail to realize that my nervousness looks like resting bitch face and maybe the vibe I’m throwing out is alienating people. Do I take the time to appreciate people around me or do something nice for people? We all need the reminder and Gia definitely did.

The interesting fake dating turned friendship between Gia and Fill-In Bradley was so much fun. I loved watching it unfold. He was cute in a quirky and charming sort of way and he made Gia so much more real as a result. His sister, though difficult at first, ended up being one of my favorite characters in the book! I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and their families and I was sad to finish the book so quickly, but it was exactly what I needed to get me out of this weird “I don’t feel like reading anything on my shelf” rut that I was in. Kasie West is my go-to for YA contemporary novels and I just can’t get enough.

Star 4

Review – Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

 

Incarceron 

By Catherine Fisher

SummaryIncarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . . 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Incarceron has a gorgeous cover and a thrilling synopsis, so I couldn’t help but pick it up at the bookstore once I saw it. It has great reviews and seemed to be a great mixture of dystopia and steampunk, which sounded pretty awesome.

The book was about Finn, a prisoner inside the awful machinery world that was Incarceron. He was sure he came from outside and had visions of stars and lakes. To everyone else, he was likely cell-born, as Incarceron was said to create life in some instances. It was an ever changing machine and the entrances had been sealed for centuries. No one could go in or out, but there were legends of Sapphique, a man who escaped. Claudia was the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter on the Outside. In the Outside, Protocol demanded that there be no progress. Only a small portion of technology was allowed to be used; everything else was Era. They said the world got too out of hand and progress was to blame. She was betrothed to a prince she was fond of until his death. His stepmother, the Queen, had a son of her own who would be heir to the throne and Claudia was betrothed to him after the death of Giles. But when she found a key and spoke to Finn in the prison, she recognized him…

The plot of the novel seemed really interesting, but it was actually very slow going for me. I wasn’t engrossed in the characters whatsoever. I think the book has so much potential, but the execution was disappointing in just about every way. Claudia was the innocent daughter of the villain in the story, yet despite her fear of her terrifying father, she wasn’t afraid to do just about all things illegal behind his back and somehow think she could save the day and help prisoners escape from a prison she wasn’t fully capable of understanding. The Queen was an even worse villain, though I’m not really sure why.  Incarceron suffered from the same old YA tropes that took away from the unique premise. The story was mainly action based, which I would’ve enjoyed had the world building and character building been more present. All of the action felt like it was done with no real understanding of the consequences. Claudia just knew people were evil or awful without really having much proof, acted on her own biased whims, and yet it all worked out in her favor. The story just seemed too simple for such a complex world and I’m still not any wiser as to the how’s and why’s of the world I was just visiting.

This is one of those times when I own the sequel and am torn between just trudging through it or letting it sit for decades on my shelf, unread. If you’re a younger teen, this book might be just what you’re looking for. It’s fun, action packed, and full of mystery and plots. But for older teens and adults, it just fell short of my expectations. I think there comes a point when the whole “adults are evil with plots of their own and I, a teenage girl with no background about ANYTHING, know exactly what I’m doing” plots just don’t work for me. 

Star 2

 

Review – P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

By Kasie West

SummarySigned, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

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Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

Review:

I skipped the August 2016 Owlcrate box and missed out on this book, so I decided to borrow it from the library. I’m a huge fan of Kasie West novels and I couldn’t wait to dig in!

P.S. I Like You was such a cute contemporary story. It featured a quirky guitar player and songwriter and her awkwardness. Her best friend kept trying to set her up with people and double date. She couldn’t seem to talk to her crush at all. Her family life was a whir of chaos. And she had weird taste in music that no one in her immediate circle seemed to identify with.

In chemistry class, she somehow bonded with a stranger over desk graffiti and started passing letters. She knew the person had chemistry before her and sat at the same desk, but she didn’t know anything else. She thought it was a girl and it was revealed later that her mysterious pen pal was a guy. They had the same taste in music and Lily started to think maybe she was falling for the stranger. But who was he? Was he the guy her best friend kept setting her up with on double dates? Was he Lucas, the hunky boy she kept her eye on and had a massive crush on? Or someone else? 

I loved not knowing and I loved watching the whole thing unfold. 

I figured out who the letter writer was long before Lily and I was right, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all, in fact, I think it might have been more entertaining because I wanted to know if I was right and what Lily would do when the truth came out. 

Kasie West writes adorable contemporary novels I can’t help but love. Most of my go-to contemporary authors are deep and dark and make me cry, but Kasie’s like a breath of fresh air and I know I’m going to sink into a well written and cute romance instead of something designed to torture my soul. I highly recommend the book and if you haven’t read her other books, just grab them all. I have yet to be disappointed!

Star 4

Review – The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

The Problem With Forever

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryHeartbreakingly real…a remarkable novel about the power of first love and the courage it takes to face your fears.” —Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting story about friendship, survival and finding your voice.

Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Problem with Forever was another gem from Jennifer L. Armentrout! I typically love most of her books with the exception of a few, so I grabbed this when it went on sale on Amazon. I picked it up when I was in the mood for a nice contemporary romance with a little bit of grit and it did not disappoint.

The book was similar to the Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry as far as dealing with damaged youth, broken homes, and characters a little more rough around the edges. Like McGarry, Armentrout handled it well, made the characters believable, and did not rely on tropes and stereotypes to get her points across. I really felt like I knew Mallory and Rider and that they were realistic characters. It also felt original, despite McGarry having a few stories in her series involving the same kind of characters. This story felt similar in theme, but I didn’t feel like I was reading something that had “been done before” or anything. 

I loved seeing Mallory grow as a character from the meek Mouse stuck in the past to someone who could argue an entire paragraph when she felt confident or passionate enough. I loved that the love interest, while still maintaining the whole tough and brooding persona was genuinely caring. I sometimes think we don’t see the softer side of guys in YA romance without losing the whole alpha male protector aspect. Armentrout gave us a character who was both in a way that really worked. 

I flew through the book in just a matter of hours over a snowy Saturday! I highly recommend it. I don’t know that I’ve read any similar books by the same author. She writes YA and paranormal/fantasy romance under Jennifer, but also New Adult contemporary romance under J. Lynn. This book, while contemporary, felt completely different from her J. Lynn books. I don’t know how she does it, but she keeps pumping out some quality stuff!

Star 4

Review – A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1) by Morgan Rhodes

 

A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1)

By Morgan Rhodes

Summary: Modern-day sisters discover deadly ancient magic in book 1 of this Falling Kingdoms spin-off series!

Worlds collide in this suspenseful, page-turning Falling Kingdoms spin-off series, which explores a whole new side of Mytica—and an even darker version of its magic.

Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….
Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I purchased this book because it stood out on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know it was a spinoff of the Falling Kingdoms series, which I had been planning on reading after hearing so much about, but I knew it was the same author, so I figured I’d give her other series a shot.

Since buying the book, I have read up the current book of the Falling Kingdoms series. I decided to pick it up after finishing Crystal Storm. I am enjoying the series, but it is a bit dramatic and ridiculous, so I was eager to see how the author would handle the present day Toronto world and that of Mytica, the setting of the Falling Kingdoms series.

I think there are aspects of A Book of Spirits and Thieves that I like much more than the Falling Kingdoms series. I read a lot of fantasy and the author’s writing is a little modern and a tad juvenile, making her Falling Kingdoms series a bit of one of those popcorn-munching guilty pleasures that I don’t pick up for the writing itself. Her writing works a lot better in the modern world where I expect characters to act a certain way and care about certain things, so I felt like I “believed” in the characters a little bit more than I do the characters of the Falling Kingdoms series. 

I liked the area of the book that was set in Mytica and I’m glad it didn’t really tie into anything with her other series at all as far as time period or characters or anything. It was just a magical plane of existence that worked in the modern world and Maddox’s struggle didn’t seem to fit in, but I knew it would tie in at some point and it did towards the ends. I know see how the two worlds are linked and I liked that whole set up.

I think I’ll likely continue the series, but I’m not rushing out for the next book because it’s still in hardcover. I feel like the author writes great YA fantasy fiction, but I feel like it’s one of those borrow instead of buy situations. I’ll wait for the library to stock the next book and go from there. This spin off series is fun and entertaining with a cast of characters you can’t help but care about. There is drama, relationships, mystery, betrayal, and secret societies. I definitely recommend reading, even if the Falling Kingdoms series isn’t for you. The setting in A Book of Spirits and Thieves changes the overall feel so that the writing fits a lot better than it does in an ancient world. 

Star 4