Friday, December 19, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.
-from The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkowski
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In Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse, seventeen year-old Kestrel must choose to marry or enter the military as she enters adulthood. As the only child of the most revered general in her people's history, the pressure to join the military and continue to acquire more land and enslave more people is great. But when Kestrel befriends a slave she purchased on a whim, she slowly begins to question the customs of her people and quickly finds herself in the middle of more than she anticipated.

This book isn't quite dystopian and barely qualifies for fantasy, but it does take place in another time and place with elements that make it feel both futuristic and historical. It started out really slow for me and the only thing that kept me going is that Rutkoski's writing is so well done that I trusted her talents (that, and the gorgeous cover! ha). I'm glad I did trust because this book really picks up about a third of the way in and I was unable to put it down! The action and change of pace really turned this into one of my favorite books this year!

Kestrel is also a great asset to this book because she's a heroine who is strong and courageous yet relatable and flawed. While she accepts her people's customs of keeping slaves and doesn't really know any different, she also questions their captivity and even goes so far to free her nurse maid. Sometimes Kestrel's desire to do what she wants or to do what is right gets her in trouble, but for the most part this is what I liked about her. It made her seem less perfect and polished; I loved when she would mouth off to people and speak her mind. It made me relate to her much more!

My perception of Arin changed a lot throughout the book. While I think I enjoy his character overall, he is very good at keeping a poker face to not only Kestrel, but also the reader. Any negative feelings I have toward him were probably more due to Rutkoski's writing abilities than any inabilities. There is so much more to examine, but it's difficult to do this without spoilers or giving too much away that will affect your reading experience. To better understand what I mean about Arin.... you'll just have to read the book for yourself!

Overall this was just what I needed to get me out of a reading rut. When I was finished with the book I was so sad to find that the sequel doesn't come out for another few months! What will I do with that much time to wait?!

Bottom Line: This is a great book for any fantasy/dystopian fans who want light fantasy without science fiction. A great story overall and I can't wait for the sequel! 5/5 Stars

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Today would have been my grandpa's 81st birthday. He passed away 6 months ago yesterday. 

While I know he walked with me through my wedding day (see above) and I know he's here with me in spirit everyday, there's a special sort of hole in my heart today missing him more than ever. 

Tyler's grandma's birthday is later this month, too. We are missing her the same and hope that the two of them are celebrating their birthday month together in Heaven with a lot of fun. 

We love you, Grandpa and Grandma

Friday, December 12, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself?
-from Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Amazon | Goodreads

Stephanie Perkins third novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, might just be one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2014. I was so excited for it that I specifically reserved it to read while on my honeymoon so that the wedding planning stress wouldn't take away from my experience! I'm very pleased that I did because lounging on the beach in Cancun, Mexico was just the spot to enjoy this sweet, warm and fuzzy novel that only Stephanie Perkins could have written.

This novel is the story about Isla, a senior at the American School in Paris, who readers might remember from a brief encounter in Perkins' first novel, Anna and the French Kiss. Ever since her first year in Paris, Isla has had a hopeless crush on Josh, a talented cartoon artist who is way out of her league. When Isla has a chance in encounter with Josh in Manhattan over school break, she gets the opportunity to enter his life and make their romance a reality. But with it comes all sorts of other realities for which Isla just might not be ready. 

For fans of Perkins, this novel has everything we already love and the same sharp wit and swoon-worthy-yet-realistic-romance we were counting on. Perkins proves again that regular teen crushes and ordinary teen problems are just as noteworthy to write about as anything else. What I love about Perkins is her ability to give power to such a seemingly trivial subject. It's easy to describe this book as a teen romance, but it's much more difficult to articulate the substance that's in it. 

I was probably able to relate to Isla more than any of Perkins characters because of how shy, introverted and her automatic response to do what is responsible. Like myself as a teen, Isla is highly devoted and loyal to her long-term crush and even thrives off of observing from the shadows. But when faced with the challenge of actually participating in his world, she's forced out of her comfort zone to navigate uncharted territories. While this might not be the most relatable story to others, it really was special to me so I might be biased in how much I enjoyed this novel. 

Similarly, Perkins doesn't make this just a love story. It also navigates issues with friendship, friendship alongside romance, familial issues, dealing with a significant other's family, etc. Similar to Rainbow Rowell, Perkins makes her supporting characters do more than support. They have lives of their own that affect the main characters in this book. I especially enjoyed the way Isla's autistic best friend Kurt factored into her relationship with Josh and gave it a new dynamic that brought out her need to be responsible. This challenged her need to be romantic and get what she wanted, hence depth to a superficial sounding love story. 

While I don't think the characters in Isla popped as strongly as those in Anna and Lola, I still enjoyed this book so much. Even though I related to it in a particularly specific way, I think any lover of YA romance would find other ways they can relate to this book and enjoy it just as much! And, as always, we get cameos from our favorite couples in Perkins' previous novels. Yay!

Bottom Line: If you loved Stephanie Perkins other novels, you've probably already read this one. Although, if you haven't - what are you waiting for?! This series would make a great gift for any teen girl in your life!