Review of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski + Giveaway

I don’t typically write reviews, but occasionally I come across a book that I love so very dearly that I must shout about it. I also posted this review on There and Draft Again.

 Winning 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.

At the urging of many a book blogger, I pre-ordered The Winner’s Curse long before release, received the gorgeous hardcover, and somehow managed to squish in reading it. I’m typically terrible about finding the time to joy read, but HOLY COW THIS BOOK. It gripped me. I stayed up way too late and ignored friends and simply basked in this masterpiece. (Also had a happy panic attack when this happened.) I have a hundred and one things to say about it, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to four or five. First off, the writing. I loved some of the unusual descriptions that many people wouldn’t be able to get away with. Somehow the author was able to make them totally work. Those lines that I’m always afraid are a little too ironic or a little too intense? She puts them in there, guys! And not just anywhere. They are chapter endings. THE ACTUAL ENDING, ZOMG. This is what prompted me to gush all over Twitter that I think I have a kindred spirit, to run out and buy all her other books pronto. I’m now a crazy fan, thank you very much.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my adoration for the writing off of my chest, there’s Kestrel. I haven’t liked a main character this much in years. She’s smart and cunning, and she knows how to use her intelligence without rubbing everybody’s face in it. Her personality was realistic and deep. I loved that she didn’t go around earning respect by being as tough or attractive as others. Instead, she was very much her own person, with her own tastes and friends and qualities and weaknesses. I love a character with a passionate streak, or deeply wounded with complicated motivations, even some who are harsh and unforgiving; but I also love a character with downright sense. Kestrel is sensible while still managing to feel things deeply, and she knows how to strategize around life crap that gets thrown at her. Basically, I adore her. Arin, the Herrani slave Kestrel wins at auction at the beginning of the story (thus invoking the “Winner’s Curse”), was expertly layered in every sense. His entire race has been conquered and made slaves — and that alone is enough to justify the bitterness he shows toward his purchaser — but he’s not whiny at all, and that made me literally want to hug him. He is displeased and incensed by his circumstances, so he sets out to change them, and he does so in a smoldering cloud of awesome. The conflict between him and Kestrel was crackling, and I liked it even more than their romance. There’s nothing quite like two honorable characters, equal of mind and soul, going at each other with words [knives, swords, poison, chains…ahem].

The secondary characters do not disappoint. Kestrel’s friends, Jess and Ronan (especially Ronan); an opponent of hers, Irex; and perhaps my favorite, Kestrel’s father, a general in the Valorian army — are all interesting, complex, and real in their own right.

Oh wait, General Trajan totally deserves his own paragraph because the father/daughter relationship is so freaking flawless. Kestrel’s father sometimes seems too unemotional and commanding, yet the way his wife died gives him cause to pull away AND cause to want his daughter to be as rugged and logical as possible. Also? He treats her as an equal. So much of the Young Adult genre eloquently reflects how idiotic parents can seem to a teenager, but I LOVE that someone decided to portray a teen that is actually pretty good at putting herself in her parent’s shoes and understanding him as a person (teens can be sympathetic and observant too, y’know). Trajan, although rather emotionally challenged, does everything he can to give her equal parts privilege and responsibility. And although she finds herself disagreeing entirely with his political views, Kestrel manages to never personally betray him — which, you know, just made me <3 <3 <3 her all the more.

I love that Rutkoski doesn’t shy away from showing many sides of mortality. There are slimy characters, people we think are well-meaning who turn out to be douchy, and there are beautiful, sacrificial souls that might have seemed shallow until the surface was scratched. (I AM rather bitter that we didn’t see enough Ronan in this book. I want more Ronan.) Nothing in the story was overtly magical, and that made me love it ten times more. Kestrel’s world is layered in history and humanity instead of symbolism and supernatural powers. I’ve always been drawn toward the more realistic/historical worlds in the fantasy genre — especially when the emphasis is on the characters! — and I’ve never felt that there is enough of them. The Winner’s Curse is the first in a trilogy, so there’s more coming, YAY!

Since I want more people to read this amazing book, but I want to keep mine close to my pillow, I’m giving away a brand new hardcover, right here, right now. Be sure to follow Marie on various forms of media so you can keep track of this series. I guarantee you won’t want to miss it. Giveaway is open internationally (anywhere The Book Depository ships!). Ends 6/20/14.

Enter the Rafflecoptor Giveaway

Buy the Book

Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children’s fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner’s Curse, the first of which was published in March 2014. Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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Some Books I’m Looking Forward To

I know, I never blog anymore! I’ve turned into a hermit. When I do peek out of the Scrivener doc, it’s to tweet or text a CP and freak out yet again over a missing plot point — which of course wouldn’t be missing if I wasn’t constantly rearranging the events in KNIGHTS OF RILCH. (More on my wild and crazy revisions in this post I wrote for There and Draft Again.)

But today is release day for a book I’ve been excited about, and I thought I’d seize the moment and mention some others I’m looking forward to (once I dig myself out from under all these millions of edits *headdesk*).  And yeah, I realize most of these are Young Adult Sci-Fi. It’s a Sci-Fi year. I’m grooving with it. Because seriously, it’s freaking awesome.

First, Young Adult Sci-Fi ULTRAVIOLET CATASTROPHE by Jamie Grey is out in the world today! I just ordered my paperback and I cannot wait for it to get here. Not that I’ll have time to read something for fun for awhile (nervous laughter), but when I do, eeeekkk!!

Grey_Ultraviolet_web

Ultraviolet Catastrophe by Jamie Grey

Quantum Electrodynamics. String Theory. Schrödinger’s cat. For sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler, they’re just confusing terms in her science textbooks, until she finds out that her parents have been drugging her to suppress her outrageous IQ. Now Branston Academy, a school run by the world’s most powerful scientists, has tracked her down and is dying for her to attend – as a research subject.
She takes refuge at Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific community where her father works as a top-notch scientist, and begins her new life as girl genius at Quantum High. But the assignments at her new school make the Manhattan Project look like preschool – and Lexie barely survived freshman algebra.
Her first big assignment – creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge – is also her first chance to prove she can hold her own with the rest of QT’s prodigies. But while working with the infuriatingly hot Asher Rosen, QT’s teen wonder, Lexie uncovers a mistake in their master equation. Instead of a wormhole, the machine they’re building would produce deadly ultraviolet rays that could destroy the world. Now Lexie and Asher have to use their combined brainpower to uncover the truth behind the device. Before everyone at Quantum Technologies is caught in an ultraviolet catastrophe.
Next, the sequel to Leigh Ann Kopan’s debut, ONE. I don’t even have to tell you how much I enjoyed that book. I’m even more excited to read the sequel because it’s from Elias’s perspective! Only two more weeks!!!
Two

Coming October 8th, 2013

Two by Leigh Ann Kopans

Elias and Merrin are on the run.
After escaping the Biotech Hub, they thought they could breathe easy, or at least a little easier.  But when bombs slam into the Social Welfare Hub only hours after their arrival, it becomes clear there’s nowhere to hide – and no end to what Biotech will do to get them back.
Their last chance for safety and answers is the Clandestine Service Hub. CS has intel on the real, broader purpose behind Fisk’s experiments , and the newfound knowledge of  the  horrors  hidden  deep within Biotech’s walls sends Merrin back to  recover a secret formula that could ruin the Supers’ world forever—and might just save the lives of the Biotech victims spiraling out of control.
Elias’ sisters are counted among the victims of Fisk’s experiments, and if Elias can’t find and help them, their powers will destroy them–sooner rather than later. Returning to the place it all began terrifies him, but with Fisk ready to make an example out of Merrin, and his sisters’ lives –and the lives of all Supers–hanging in the balance, he might not have a choice. If he can’t find the courage to face his worst fears, Elias might lose more than his newfound powers.
He might lose everyone he loves.
I’ve been following Sarah on Twitter for awhile and I basically love everything she ever says. I’m convinced her book is going to be a treasure trove of all her usual wisdom and wit. Basically, I’m crazy pumped. *grabby hands*
Reclaimed

Coming October 15th, 2013

Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory

Jenna Oliver doesn’t have time to get involved with one boy, let alone two.
All Jenna wants is to escape her evaporating small town and her alcoholic mother. She’s determined she’ll go to college and find a life that is wholly hers—one that isn’t tainted by her family’s past. But when the McAlister twins move to town and Jenna gets involved with both of them, she learns the life she planned may not be the one she gets.
Ian McAlister doesn’t want to start over; he wants to remember.
Ian can’t recall a single thing from the last three months—and he seems to be losing more memories every day. His family knows the truth, but no one will tell him what really happened before he lost his memory. When he meets Jenna, Ian believes that he can be normal again because she makes not remembering something he can handle.
The secret Ian can’t remember is the one Luke McAlister can’t forget.
Luke has always lived in the shadow of his twin brother until Jenna stumbles into his life. She sees past who he’s supposed to be, and her kiss brings back the spark that life stole. Even though Luke feels like his brother deserves her more, Luke can’t resist Jenna—which is the trigger that makes Ian’s memory return.
Jenna, Ian, & Luke are about to learn there are only so many secrets you can keep before the truth comes to reclaim you.
I’ve been hog wild about Cait’s writing ever since I read her debut NA Gothic Romance, Eyre House. I’m not really crazy about New Adult (yet), but I can tell you this: You do NOT want to miss one of her books. You MUST experience her incredible imagination, her knack for nailing descriptions, for amazing characters and beautiful settings.
PW-Front-Cover

Coming October 15th, 2013
Parawars: Uprising by Caitlin Greer

The Paranormal Uprising brought myth and legend out of the shadows and into real life. The war that followed tore the world apart. Two years after the Uprising, twenty-year-old Kendry is learning the hard way that the battle lines aren’t as clear-cut as human versus para. And the hard way means being hunted down by both human militants and para separatists. Trouble is, she has no idea why.On the run with only her mysterious gargoyle guardian, Kendry knows that finding out why she’s on everyone’s most-wanted list will be no easy task. It means charging headlong into a war she’d hoped to avoid, and is woefully unprepared for. So when she realizes that everyone in her life has been lying to her, discovering that she’s somehow the key to ending the war is the last thing she needs. With both sides tearing up the world to find her, it’s decision time for Kendry—keep running, or stand up and fight.

Add to Goodreads | AuthorCaitlinGreer.com

 

And THIS ONE! I’m lucky enough to have an ARC sitting on my Kindle at this very moment, and it’s taking all my willpower not to tear through it.  I need to finish about a kajillion other things before I start a new book, but I read the first two chapters. And ZOMG. You want this book. YOU WANT IT.
Unbreathable

Coming October 29th, 2013
Unbreathable by Hafsah Laziaf

One hundred and fifty years ago, Earth was destroyed, and the remaining humans fled to the dusty red planet of Jutaire, where the only oxygen is manufactured, food is scarce, and death strikes often.
When Lissa’s father discovers Earth still exists, she accidentally inhales the toxic air of Jutaire, and in one breath, discovers she isn’t quite human.
Her father hangs for his discovery, and Lissa knows the Chancellors will come for her, for she saw the Earth that night too. With nothing to lose, she sets out to expose the truth. It isn’t long before she meets Julian, a beautiful boy who can breathe the toxic air like she can – and shows her that the Jute, the original inhabitants of the planet, are more tangled in their lives than she knows.
But the Chancellors are only pawns in a greater game – one where the Jute control everything. Worse, the Jute plan to leave Jutaire for Earth, but to get there, they need her. And they’ll stop at nothing until Lissa is in their clutches, even if they kill every human in the process.
The race for Earth has begun.
Annnnd that’s all for today! But before I go I have to congratulate one of the sweetest, most lovely writers ever, Andrea Hannah, on her book deal! Her Young Adult Mystery, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, sold to Flux yesterday. Gahh, I’m so thrilled for you, Andrea! I’m just…I’m just…THIS MUCH HAPPY:
All right. Enough with the flails and back to revisions. I promise to blog again in the next month. Truly!
–Rachel

Review: ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

This gorgeous Young Adult Sci-Fi novel comes out on June 11th, 2013. I was lucky enough to be included in the street team, which meant I got a lovely ARC two months before the release. I don’t review many books on my blog (yet), but this one was completely outside of my genre and warranted a full blown post. Enjoy!

ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

I was excited for this book. I pre-ordered two copies as soon as the release date was announced. I near bounced out of my skin when ARCs were given to the members of Team ONE. But all of this was pretty new for me because…

I don’t go crazy over Young Adult. In fact, I hardly read any Young Adult (I know, I’m so boring). I don’t know if this is because I just exited my angsty teen years and I’m not that excited to revisit them, or what. Maybe it will change soon. If it does, it will be because of books like this one! *big, huge, gigantic smile*

So you can take this from a total Young Adult cynic: ONE passed my expectations. Over and above. Totally in love. Boom.

The story starts out with a fabulous hook — Merrin has only half of a super power. She doesn’t fit in with the mutant kids called Supers, and she doesn’t fit in with the Normal kids, either. She’s known as a One, a.k.a. a freak. Yeah, okay, typical teen feels, I don’t fit in, nobody understands me, etc. But not only did the futuristic world grab me, Merrin’s attitude was excellent. She’s not whiny, she doesn’t sit around being a pout. She does her best to use what she does have: an incredible brain. Yes. Main character we can get behind. Like, like, like.

Enter tall and gawky totally awkward and smiley love interest character. He’s just the right amount of push, enough to get into Merrin’s world — and just the right amount of no pressure, I like you, let’s be friends. He really reminded me of my little brother. A total sweetheart at the core. Someone you can be happy about every time he shows up. Love, love, love!

And just about the mid point, when I felt a little bogged down with “I love you, you’re so perfect for me” moments, the story starts spiralling out of control with about 80 pages of sheer action. The ending was perfection. Happy, but with danger lurking. Sequel, please!

Overall? Five out of five stars. No matter who you are or what genre you usually read, pick up ONE this June (and be ready for the sequel, TWO, coming in October!). You won’t regret it. If it isn’t your favorite, mail it to me so I can have extra copies to give to friends, because this is one of those I will be handing out everywhere.

–Rachel

Pre-order ONE
More about Leigh Ann Kopans
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