Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter!

I feel like I’m a little late in the celebratory Harry Potter has been around for 20 years posts, but I just really wanted to talk about it!

 

Because Harry Potter, obviously.  How can I not talk about Harry Potter?  If you need to know two things about me, it’s that I like Harry Potter and yarn.  Yarn is a completely different post, but Harry Potter…that’s why we’re here today.  I’m almost positive I’ve mentioned some of this before, but it’s worth talking about again…because this is Harry Potter we’re talking about here.

I can’t believe Sorcerer’s Stone has been around for 20 years!  I’ve spent most of my life reading and obsessing over Harry Potter, and I can’t imagine life without it.  I started reading Harry Potter when I was in high school, and I honestly have a hard time remembering what life was like before Harry Potter.

I have a lot of memories of Harry Potter, and it’s had such a big impact on my life.  I’m totally taking a trip down memory lane here:

  • I remember hearing about the books, and thinking they sounded a little stupid.  It wasn’t until I saw Sorcerer’s Stone on DVD one weekend that I checked out the first 4 books from the library and read them.  That DVD I saw?  A rental from Blockbuster…I can’t believe Harry Potter’s been around long enough that Blockbuster used to be a thing.
  • I only went to the midnight release parties for Deathly Hallows and Cursed Child.  Deathly Hallows…it was the first midnight release party I could go to, since I had no way to get to the ones for Order Of The Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince.  I honestly thought it would be the only one I’d ever go to, until Cursed Child came out.
  • I remember for Deathly Hallows, I went to the Barnes And Noble by my house, in a costume I threw together at the last minute, and then getting the book and staying up all night to read it.  I went into work that day tired, but glad I had done it, knowing it would be my last time staying up all night reading Harry Potter.  For a few weeks, everyone was reading it during their lunch break, and it was really hard waiting for them to finish so I could actually talk about it.
  • And when the Cursed Child script was released, I found myself at Mysterious Galaxy, dressed up as Fleur Delacour, and feeling like the magic was back, even if it was a script for a play I’d never see.  I don’t think I ever did a review on the script, and I haven’t picked it up since then, but still, the magic of Harry Potter was back for a night.
  • All of the time reading Mugglenet, and wondering what would happen next.  Also: all of the time I spent on fanfiction.net, and all of the fanfics I read.  Not to mention when I starting writing my own fanfiction.  Which I still do, and it’s the one thing I keep coming back to, at least for writing.  When in doubt, write Harry Potter fanfic!
  • That time I was obsessed with A Very Potter Musical.  I saw that one, and the sequel, but I never saw the third one I know is out there…
  • Really identifying as a Hufflepuff.  I always thought I was a Ravenclaw, since I LOVE reading.  But then I was sorted into Pottermore, and I was like, nope, I am not a Ravenclaw, I am a Hufflepuff, I have found my people.
  • I will always remember waiting anxiously for the next book to come out, and all of time spent reading theories and discussions.  In a way, all of the people who are reading Harry Potter for the first time are really lucky, because they don’t have to wait for each book to come out…but I don’t think I’d want to give up all of the title hoaxes and JKR’s interactive website with clues and all of the hype surrounding each book.
  • Being able to crochet some of the really cool things mentioned in the series.  I made the Luna Lovegood scarf, I have a Hufflepuff scarf, and I crocheted the hat and capelet I wore when I dressed up as Fleur Delacour.  There are so many other things I want to make, and one of these days, I will have to make more HP-themed things.

I do think a big reason why I really got into writing was my desire to write my own take on the series.  Would I still on gone on to write my stories?  Maybe, but I’ll never know for sure.  14-year-old me wasn’t very confident in her ability to write a story, but writing HP fanfic helped me believe in myself and feel more confident that I could write.

The Luna Lovegood Scarf

As evidenced by this list of Harry Potter podcasts, this post about reading Harry Potter with a sibling, a post wondering what would happen if Hermione had more female friends, Harry Potter tattoos, a wonderful post about reading Harry Potter as the series came out, and lessons we’ve learned from Harry Potter, a lot of people have been influenced by the series.  I know all of those links come from one blog, but…a lot of people have had their own experiences with HP, and I love that there’s such a range of thoughts and discussions, and things we’ve learned because of one series.

The Fleur Delacour Capelet (Left) and The Beauxbatons Hat (Right)

There’s something very special about Harry Potter, and it means so much to me.  I have a lot of really good memories associated with Harry Potter, and it’s something I’ll be re-reading for years to come.  My life would not be the same without Harry Potter.

ARC Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Book: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Published February 2017 by Del Ray|368 Pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: Dark Gifts #1

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I remember hearing about this book and being so excited about it.  It’s an alternate London, where commoners are basically slaves for 10 years to those in power.  It seemed up my alley, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  And for some reason, I never got around to reviewing this book, and since I was looking forward to it, I did want to talk about it.

It was really hard for me to get into, and I don’t know that I’m interested enough to keep going with the series. The origin of slave days seemed really confusing, and not explained very well.  It’s the same with the origin of those with skill, and for the life of me, I cannot remember how it started.  It just didn’t seem like the world was explained- you were immersed in the world, which was different, but I found myself wondering what the history was, and I hate that whatever was explained isn’t sticking.

I do wonder when it’s supposed to take place- there were times when it felt like the technology was modern enough, but at the same time, it felt like an alternate Victorian London.  I did like that, the alternate Victorian London feel, and now that I think about it, it is sort of a steampunk London, which worked pretty well with the concept of a slaveday.

Still, I feel like this book is another book in the wave of books where the upper class has powers that the lower class doesn’t have (or isn’t supposed to have, but does).  Maybe I’m just jaded about this type of book already, but for me, there are better books in this genre to read.  Maybe if I had read this book before some of the other similar books out there, I would have felt differently.  Or maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.  Either way, it’s not for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

2 stars.  For me, this one was okay, and I don’t know if I’ll be continuing the series.

Book Review: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Book: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Published May 2016 by Scholastic Press|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Sin Eater’s Daughter #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

Return to the darkly beautiful world of The Sin Eater’s Daughter with a sequel that will leave you awed, terrified . . . and desperate for more.

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin’s life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won’t reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

I randomly picked this one up from the library, having remembered that I read (and liked) the first one.  I wish I had re-read the first one, because I didn’t know these characters, and I couldn’t figure out why.  It took awhile before I realized it focused on different characters.  We do see the characters from the first book, but not in a way I expected, and I remember wondering how they got to the point we saw them in this book.  Re-reading the first book probably would have helped a lot.

I was a lot more bored reading this book, and I’m honestly not sure why I kept reading.  Probably to see what happened.  I did like the world, though, since we get to see a different part of it in this book.  I liked the use of magic, and how it has consequences.  I feel like that doesn’t come up a lot in fantasy- magic having consequences.  It would have been easy to go with the no consequences route, but other than the world building, I don’t remember much of anything about this book.

Part of me wonders if I would have liked the book more if I had re-read the first book.  I doubt I’ll re-read the first one anytime soon, but if I do, maybe I’ll give this one another try.  And while this book wasn’t memorable (and also a little bit boring), I do want to read the next book to see how things go.

2 stars.  It was okay, and while I didn’t love it, I do want to read the next book to see what happens.  I wish I had more to say about The Sleeping Prince, but I don’t.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Releases Of 2017 (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Favorite Books Of 2017 (So Far)

This list turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I’ve read a lot less this year than I have in previous years, and what I have read…I’ve been less than enthused.  These books are definitely the stand-outs, and I had no problem picking a list of 10 favorites!  All links go to Goodreads!

  1. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.  I really liked If I Was Your Girl.  Amanda is an amazing character, and it was hard to stop reading it.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I’m not going to lie, part of why I read this book was because it was mentioned on the Gilmore Girls revival.  I really liked seeing the journey she took, and how much hiking changed her.
  3. The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead.  Don’t let the Oprah sticker fool you, this book is really good!  You felt what it was like to be a runaway slave, and how terrifying the Underground Railroad really was.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  This is easily my favorite book I’ve read all year.  I thought it was completely amazing, and if you pick up one book this year, this is one I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
  5. The March Series by John Lewis.  This is right up there with The Hate U Give- I’m having a hard time picking a favorite between the two.  This series is one of my favorites because John Lewis shows how hard he- and countless others- fought so that everyone could be equal.
  6. A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.  I didn’t like this one the way I liked ACOTAR or ACOMAF, but it’s still one of my favorite books from this year because I liked seeing where things went.
  7. The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  I loved the audio, which I really recommend if you’re considering reading this book.  I felt very immersed i the world, and loved the take on 1001 nights.
  8. Legion by Julie Kagawa.  I was not expecting the book to start or end the way it did, and it’s my favorite book in this series so far.  Which is interesting/funny because I wasn’t a big fan of the series at first.
  9. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.  I thought Los Lagos was really vivid, and it had an Alice In Wonderland feel to it, which I really liked.  The magic and traditions really made the book come to life.
  10. City Of Saints And Thieves by Natalie Anderson.  One of my favorite things about this book is how detailed and well-researched it seemed.  The author worked with refugees, and that really came through.  I also liked the rules of being a thief that we saw scattered throughout the book.

Book Review: A Thousand Boy Wishes by Tillie Cole

Book: A Thousand Boy Wishes by Tillie Cole

Self-Published March 2016|316 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime.One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation?Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.A stand-alone young adult tearjerker romance, recommended for ages fourteen and up.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, and I was in the mood for some cute and sweet and something that would probably result in me sobbing my heart out because it had been ripped to shreds.  I sort of it with this book. but not really.

The crying happened, so it did get me emotionally, but it wasn’t cute and sweet, and it was…blah.  That is really the best way to describe this book.  I wanted to love it, I really did.  Maybe I don’t have a soul or something, because I’m clearly in the minority here.  I do drink my coffee black (at least when I make coffee at home or at work, but Starbucks and various other coffee shops are a different story), maybe that goes with my apparently black soul.

There will be spoilers, just in case anyone is wondering.  You might want to stop reading here, if you don’t want spoilers.

Anyway, back to the book.  Their friendship/romantic relationship was so weird.  It was one-sided to the point of no one else seemed to exist for them.  Rune seemed friendless, and while Poppy seemed to have a few friends, she seemed to keep them at a distance.  Literally, no one else existed for them.  Their families seemed to fade in the background as well.

When she stopped talking to him, I literally thought she was pregnant at first, but that wouldn’t have explained why Poppy and her family moved away for a couple of years.  Her dying of cancer was cliche and boring, and it sort of felt like I was reading a Lurlene McDaniel book.  I’m not sure if anyone else remembers them, but they’re those YA books that focus on sick kids?  Something about A Thousand Boy Wishes reminded me of those books.  It felt sort of tired, and maybe I’m over the whole girl-dying-of-cancer thing.  Maybe if I hadn’t read other books (like The Fault In Our Stars or If I Stay), I would have liked it a little more.  It’s like a mix of Nicholas Sparks, The Fault In Our Stars with a dash of Lurlene McDaniel.  I’m not kidding.

Poppy and Rune were really wooden/cardboard, at least for me.  The fact that they liked music (Poppy) and photography (Rune), could have been an interesting aspect to the book, but it was boring and uninteresting and just sort of there.  There seemed to be very little character development, and it felt like they were just going through the motions.

Also, Rune being from Norway?  I swear, it’s sole existence was for him to seem like this mysterious, exotic bad boy. Exotic seems like a weird word to use, because for some reason, I don’t associate it with Norway, of all places.  But it made him different and appealing to all of the girls.  He is literally the manic pixie dream boy, and it was irritating. Poppy, not so much, but it was there.  And Rune being Norwegian- it was pretty much there to get him away from Poppy, so she wouldn’t have to face him once she got sick.  Makes it easier to not talk to him when HE’S IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY.  Him moving was there so he could turn into this horrible, soul of darkness person that hated everyone and everything, because she clearly would not have stopped talking to him if he were still in Georgia.

And don’t even get me started on epilogue, which was a complete and total cop-out in my opinion.  I know it wrapped things up and gave him some closure, because HE DIED AND END UP IN HEAVEN WITH HIS POPPY.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT EPILOGUE?

I’d rather read the HP epilogue.  Admittedly, that’s grown on me over the years, but the one at the end of this book? Seriously?  I did not need to read that.  He randomly dies 10 years later?  That’s it?  That is not the happy ending I thought I’d get, considering this book is described as romance.  I wanted him to move on, find some happiness in a world where Poppy isn’t living, but that never seemed to happen for him in the fast forward we get.  Yes, there’s closure, and Poppy was his entire world, but…I would have been fine had the epilogue not been included.

I did like the concept of a thousand kisses, and writing down your memories of the really good/meaningful ones. And the cover is really pretty.  I’d frame that and hang it on my wall, it’s that pretty to look at.

3 stars.  I know I spent pretty much this whole post ranting about this book, but I really can’t bring myself to give it a lower rating.  I get why people love this book so much, and it was well-written enough, even though it was full of cliches that didn’t appeal to me.  It’s cute enough, and I did like it, even though it doesn’t seem like it. I don’t even know why I like it, but I do.

Book Review: A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Book: A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Published May 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s|597 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: A Court Of Thorns And Roses #3

Genre: NA Fantasy

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I really liked ACOMAF!  I was really looking forward to reading this one, and it was one of my most anticipated books for this year.  I really enjoyed the first two, and after the way ACOMAF ended, I knew it was going to be a long wait until I got to read this one.

I really wanted more with Tamlin- I found that part of the book to be disappointing.  I thought it would be a bigger deal than it turned out to be.  I’m not sure how I thought that would go, but it wasn’t what actually happened in the book.  We do, eventually, see Tamlin’s reaction, and as much as I don’t like him, I wanted more from his point of view, especially with Feyre and Rhys.  Maybe I expected her to have to be more…romantically involved with Tamlin? Or that things would somehow go back to the way it was before she went to the Night Court.  I remember feeling like, what on earth is Feyre getting herself into?  There was such a sense of disbelief at the end of the previous book, and…I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I was let down by what happened.  Let’s just go with that.

I am also curious about the rest of the series.  Things are pretty resolved in this book, and I’m wondering if new problems are going to pop up, or if things aren’t as resolved as they seem.  Another thing I’m wondering about is if this series is set in the same world as her Throne Of Glass series.  Because there’s a similar feel to both series, and for some reason, it feels like it’s set in the same world.  If they’re not, that’s cool, but I am curious, so if anyone knows for sure, I’d really like to know.

I feel like I don’t have a lot to say about this installment in the series.  And I’m not as obsessed with this book as I am with the previous two.  I did re-read her Throne Of Glass series right before picking up this book, so maybe I was feeling a little burned out.  There was enough of a gap, that I shouldn’t have felt that way, but maybe there wasn’t enough time after all.  For whatever reason, I don’t feel the same way about this one that I did with the previous two books.

4 stars.  I’m hesitant to give it 4 stars, because I feel like I struggled a little bit to get through this more than I did the rest of the series.  But it did pick up, and even though it’s more 3.5, I figured I’d round up.

Book Review: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Published September 2005 by HMH Books For Young Readers|308 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl — she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening — something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened. Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.

In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem — monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.

I’ve read a couple of Okorafor’s books, and thought I’d read this one.  It’s not my favorite book of hers, but I still liked it a lot.  Zahrah The Windseeker is this really cool middle grade that’s about learning how to accept yourself and overcoming your fears and overcoming fear of the unknown.  I really liked that about the book.

I also really liked how there’s this interesting blend of past and present- there’s something about Zahrah that feels really old, and yet there’s something very modern, especially where technology is concerned.  I think that’s something she does really well.  If you liked Akata Witch, this is a really good book to pick up.  Even if you haven’t, it’s still a really good read.

I loved the setting, especially the market and the jungle.  I thought the jungle was very vivid, and I could picture everything very clearly.  I really felt like I was with Zahrah in the jungle.  I really liked the market as well, but it didn’t have the life and vividness that the jungle had.

I also really liked that she came across another windseeker, and I wish we saw more of their relationship.  Even though Zahrah needs to take her own journey, and the other windseeker isn’t supposed to have a huge role in the book, I still wonder what sort of relationship they have once the book ends.  I thought her friendship with Dari was great, and how she kept going, even though she was scared, because she wanted to help him.  She really was willing to help him, no matter what.

I am curious about the ending.  I liked it, and it wrapped things up really well, but at the same time, I thought it left things open for a potential sequel.  As far as I can tell, it’s a stand-alone, which is fine, because it works really well on its own.  But there is part of me that wants to know how things turn out with Zahrah.

3 stars.  I liked it, and there are some things that I really liked (and even loved) about the book, but I didn’t love it the way I’ve loved her other books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Series I Still Haven’t Read Even Though I Keep Telling Myself I Will Read Them

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Series I Keep Meaning To Read But Still Haven’t

I can’t remember the last time I did a Top Ten Tuesday, but this topic seems like a good one to do!  I could go on forever about the books I want to read and never get around to actually reading, but these are the series I want to read but never do.

  1. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows.  I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages, but I never get around to it.  One day.  That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
  2. Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh.  I have this book sitting on my desk, and I just got it from the library a few days ago.  I don’t know if I’ll end up switching to the audio book- I might, because I loved the audio for the Wrath And The Dawn, and now I associate her books with listening, but I’ll try it and see.
  3. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard.  I have this book, and it’s sitting on my shelf…I just haven’t read it yet.  Maybe this summer I’ll read it?
  4. Lumberjanes.  I heard about this comic ages ago, and heard really good things about it, but I keep forgetting to get a copy so I can actually read it.
  5. Anathema by K.A. Tucker.  I loved her Ten Tiny Breaths series, and I want to read this one.  I have the e-book, but the narrator for the audio books is one of my favorite narrators, so I’m considering trying the audio book.
  6. The Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Ann Long.  I have a bunch of the books in this series, but I never seem to be in the mood for romance.
  7. The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  I’ve had this on my TBR for YEARS.  I wish I were kidding, but I’m not.  One day, I will get to it.
  8. The Reader by Traci Chee.  I started it, but couldn’t get into it, and I was really close to putting it in the DNF pile.  But then I decided to give the audio book a try, which I will do one of these days, because I am not ready to give up on this book yet.
  9. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel.  I got a few pages into the print version and knew that reading would drive me crazy because of the interview type format.  However, I think it’ll work really well as an audio book, so I’ll probably listen to it at some point.
  10. Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho.  This book sounds pretty cool, and I can’t wait to read it.  Especially since I have a copy on my shelf.

Audio Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Narrated by Justine Eyre

Book: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Narrated by Justine Eyre

Published March 2014 by Listening Library|8 hours, 24 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Alternate History

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.

This has been on my TBR for a while, and it seemed pretty popular, so when I saw the audio book at the library, I figured it would be a good time to check it out.

What I liked the most was seeing the privilege and power the Valorians have, and how they don’t care about the way the come in and conquer people.  They take what they want, because they can, and they enslave an entire country because they think they can.  You also get a sense of how the two different cultures are, and I liked that we get this really amazing immersion in their world.  It didn’t feel forced, and I liked that there was no info-dumping.

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance- it was so problematic for me, because Arin is Kestrel’s slave, and I feel like he can’t truly be in love with her, or have feelings for her, because she’s in a position of power and authority over him.  It’s a very unbalanced relationship, and I will be disappointed if they end up with each other in the end.

The relationship between them was my main problem, but I also disliked some other things about the book.  There are hints that the slavery we see in the book is really brutal, but unfortunately, it’s only hinted at.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I assumed that Kestrel had fair skin, while Arin had dark skin.  Something about the book reminded me of slavery in the U.S., and…now I have no idea where I’m going with this, or what point I’m trying to make with this.  I did not give this enough thought, and I’m sure people with more knowledge about slavery in the U.S. could say it a lot better than I ever could.  I was also reminded of the Roman empire, and I think this book, and An Ember In The Ashes would make really good read-a-likes.

Since I listened to the audio book, let’s talk about that!  I liked it as an audio book, and I think that’s why I finished the book, because I’m not sure I would have finished if I had gone with the print/e-book version.  I liked the narrator, but didn’t love her either.

3 stars.  I really liked the world, but I had some issues with the possible romance between Kestrel and Arin.  I have the 2nd book on audio from the library, so I’ll at least try out the 2nd book to see if I l’m more interested in the series.

Book Review: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Book: Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America by Helen Thorpe

Published September 2009 by Scribner|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

Written by a gifted journalist, a powerful account of four young Mexican women coming of age in Denver—two of whom have legal documentation, two of whom who don’t— and the challenges they face as they attempt to pursue the American dream.

Just  Like  Us takes readers on a compelling journey with four  young  Mexican-American  women  who  have  lived in  the  U.S.  since  childhood.  Exploring  not  only  the women’s personal life stories, this book also delves deep into an American subculture and the complex and controversial politics that surround the issue of immigration.

The story opens on the eve of the girls’ senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, all four want to make it into college and succeed, but only two have immigration papers. Meanwhile, after a Mexican immigrant shoots and kills a local police officer, Colorado becomes the place where national argu- ments over immigration rage most fiercely. As the girls’ lives play out against this backdrop of intense debate over whether they have any right to live here, readers will gain remarkable insight into both the power players and the most vulnerable members of society as they grapple with understanding one of the most complicated social issues of our times.

Moving, timely, and passionately told, Just Like Us is a riveting story about girlhood, friendship, identity, and survival.

I really liked Just Like Us.  We see 4 girls who are very much affected by immigration policies- 2 are legal citizens, and 2 are undocumented.  It highlights how hard it is to become a citizen, and how hard it is to come here legally. It doesn’t go into a lot of depth the entire process, but you get a glimpse of what it’s like to be undocumented, and how difficult it is to become a citizen.

All 4 girls were in limbo, and they all have one foot in each world.  I felt for them, because they never asked to come. They worked so hard in school, because they wanted better opportunities and didn’t want to end up being stuck, like their parents, even though it was a possibility.

There is a lot how to become a legal citizen that I don’t know, and it’s because I never had to think about it.  I doubt I’d be willing to do some of the jobs they (and their parents) took just to get by.

I also felt like the author was very sympathetic towards the girls.  It’s hard not to be, and she spent a lot of time with them, so it makes sense.  She does try to show all of the different sides of immigration, but it did feel uneven to a certain extent.  Almost everything relating to those opposing illegal immigration felt very technical and not emotional.  It did get bogged down in the legislative stuff.  It was a huge force for all four girls, and I understand why it comes up, but part of me wishes the book had completely focused on the girls.

They had a lot of opportunities, and there is no doubt these girls are hardworking and intelligent and deserve every bit of success they get.  But I wonder if maybe some of the opportunities the girls had are because of Thorpe’s involvement in their lives.

It was hard to get into at first, because it wasn’t linear at first, but once everything is set up, it settles is, and has a definite timeline.  Not only that, but once they get to college, we only see 3 of the girls, since one of them went off to college in California, and we don’t hear much about her once they all finish high school.  I get they were all best friends, and that she went her own way after high school, but I almost wish we didn’t learn more about her, because we got almost no updates after high school.

It did give a face to what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant, and that it’s so much more complicated than I thought it would be.  Their families were so willing to do whatever they could to survive, and the girls in particular wanted to change the world.  Their story made it personal.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I wish we saw all 4 girls through college, instead of 3 of them.  I do wonder how they’re doing, and how much their lives have changed since the book came out.