The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski [thoughts]

The Winner's CurseThe Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
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Release Date:March 4th 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Goodreads description: 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

I didn’t really know what The Winner’s Curse was about, but it got a lot of buzz and I was interested.

The Winner’s Curse is about war! Kestrel (oh that name. It had a point but still.) is from a country/society that invaded another country and took it over. They live in their houses and use the people as slaves. Kestrel is a general’s daughter in a highly militaristic society. Arin, a slave she acquires, is…well, a slave. He doesn’t like the people that conquered his land, because really, who would? But they are interested in each other, of course.

Overall, I really liked this book. It was engaging and I was entertained. Kestrel isn’t amazingly skilled at every aspect of life, she’s actually bad at fighting and her father wants her to join the military. She’s good at strategy but she doesn’t want to join up and fight. She also doesn’t want to get married, but those are her only choices. She’s defiant, but she’s vulnerable too.

Arin is a slave and he’s understandably angry. His way of life has changed and now he’s a slave, along with his people. Every day he sees the remnants of his society under the power of violent conquerors. When he’s sold to Kestrel, he’s resistant, but his interest in her grows. I was kind of pleasantly surprised by Arin’s story, I loved that there was stuff going on I didn’t see coming, and it felt realistic.

Their romance was kind of weird for me. I couldn’t always understand why they were drawn together. I wasn’t completely against it, and I could like it at certain points, but I wasn’t completely sold.

I liked seeing the story from both sets of eyes. I liked the world and there were several things going on I didn’t expect. My major issue with it is something I could rant about but don’t want to spoil for anyone, and it might not be as huge for everyone else: towards the end a turn in the book kind of made everything fall apart for me. It kind of tore at some of the ideas the book had built up earlier. I couldn’t take the twist seriously and it bummed me out on the book,. and it’s something the next book will build on, so I’m not very sure about that. But I’m still interested in the world and characters and I want to see what else can happen.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Despite my big issue with part of the ending, I liked this book and this world! I want to read it again at some point and I will keep reading the series. It’s not a case of love but it is a lot of like and appreciation! I’ve actually read The Shadow Society by Rutkoski and I think I gave it 3 stars (before blogging), so I think she’s talented and I’m interested in her work. If you like war, especially if you’re interested in ancient Rome/Greece and strategy and difficult romances, I think you’d enjoy this one!

 

Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace [Review + Giveaway]

Muckers cover Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace
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Release Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers


Description: Sandra Neil Wallace’s debut historical fiction novel Muckers is based on the true story of the 1950 Jerome Muckers football team and the championship season that rallied an Arizona town together and turned tragedy into a triumph.
The inspiring yet heartbreaking novel delves deep into the rocky terrain of a racially-divided town and a team whose world is suddenly upended, widening the rift between Anglos and Mexican Americans forced to choose between cohesion or rebellion.

Red O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town. Red will be part of the final graduating class of Hatley High School, but he’s got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he’s been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby’s old position as quarterback, and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship. Maybe then his angry, broken-hearted father will acknowledge him, and they’ll be able to put Bobby’s death behind them.

While the Muckers are racially-united, their town is divided. Anglos live near the top of the mountain and Mexican Americans down below—where Red’s best friend Cruz lives, and Angie, who Red longs to be with. When the Communist scare threatens to tear the team apart, Red and the hardscrabble Muckers must find a way to go undefeated and win the state title.

Unforgettable characters fighting to make their mark on the field and in the world combine for a period novel that will spark dialogue on this timely subject.

TLC Book Tours

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of Muckers from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my opinion.

I decided to read Muckers because the family issues sounded interesting, along with the idea of a team and town with racial issues uniting behind a diverse team.

I’m grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where football is ridiculously important. I loved watching football in high school, but so much of it had to do with the fact that I knew the players and that games were a social event. I didn’t understand everything about the game, but I shared intense emotions and hope with the other members of the audience. I can understand how and why football was so important to the people in this town.

The Muckers are a team from a small mining town in Arizona. The town in the book is fictional, but the story is based on real events. The town revolves around and relies on the mine. The mining company owns most of the town and employs most of the residents. After WWII, things for the mining town aren’t looking so great economically. There are rumors that the mine might shut down and the residents will have no choice but to move to other towns.

Red tells the story in first person. His family is Irish. He’s had a hard time of it, he lost his brother in the war and his parents never recovered. His mom had a meltdown and is still in the hospital. His dad is important at the mine and an alcoholic. Red is kind of on his own. He has two close friends, Rabbit and Cruz. His brother was great at football, and Red has the potential to be great, too. The town knows that big changes are on the horizon, so they’re even more interested in a big win from the team, which adds more pressure to Red.

I liked Red a lot. He was going through a really rough and confusing time. He’s a leader for the team, and winning is important to him. He wants to measure up to his brother and make his parents proud. He also has to deal with ridiculous people accusing others of being communists, and Red can see how unfair it is. Red has grown up with the racism and unfairness in the town, and one of his best friends is Mexican. Red doesn’t understand why people act the way they do, and it’s frustratingly easy to relate to. Red works really hard for the team, the town, and his family. Red faces loss and hope, and it’s so easy to like him.

The team works so hard. They know the town might not have much longer, and if it ends they won’t be together anymore. They want something important and lasting to remember and take with them. The town wants the same thing and some of the adults probably want it more than the team does. I can’t imaging how stressful it would be to have to deal with a huge season of football while knowing your whole town might dissolve and you might be separated from your friends.

A slight issue I had with the book is that it would have been interesting and relevant to see the story from a POC’s perspective. Racism affected Cruz a lot more than Red, but you only see the racism from Red’s viewpoint. It’s still an important story, and Red has a lot of confusion about what happens which might help kids seeing the same things happen. Witnessing hard things is still difficult, especially when it’s someone you care about.

3 star rating

I enjoyed reading Muckers! It’s not something I would have picked to read on my own, but I was really invested in what happened to Red and the team! The game scenes were really intense and fun to read, I was hanging on every word. I was definitely pulling for Red and hoping for the best for him! I probably wouldn’t read this one again, but I would be really interested to read more of Sandra Neil Wallace’s work! Also notable: the book is BRIGHT orange, has a map of the town (which was really helpful to me), and has newspages from the town’s paper throughout the book, which definitely added to the smalltown feel! I would recommend Muckers if you enjoy intense sports situations, people coming together, and characters you can’t help but root for.

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If you’re still not convinced, you might check out the rest of the tour and visit Sandra at www.sandraneilwallace.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Trailer

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys [book review]

Out of the Easy coverOut of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 12th 2013
Publisher: Philomel Books
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

I knew Out of the Easy was set in New Orleans, but I didn’t know much else about it. I saw something about a murder on the jacket flap. It was sort of a random pick.

“My mother’s a prostitute” is such a great first line. Josie has grown up with a neglectful and hateful mother. People have judged her for her mother’s choice of occupation. She’s worked hard at two jobs and school to be something better and different. She has hopes and dreams to change her life and make it better. She wants more out of life than the same old dirty life where nobody really gets ahead honestly.

Josie is familiar with the mean and dirty side of the Big Easy. She grew up with a mom who cared more about the money and desire that came from prostitution than her child. Her mother resented her and blamed her for changes in her body and the decline in desire. Josie grew up interacting with whores and a low class type of people. She’s close-ish with Willie, the madam or lady who runs the brothel where her mom works. Willie is a businesswoman, she sells sex but she also deals in information. She knows what happens in her area and she has scouts watching for information on the street. She’s closer to Cokie, Willie’s driver.  Cokie is the warmest person in Josie’s life.

She loves books and works at a bookstore. She also lives above the store and is close with the owner and his son. The owner is sick and she helps the son take care of him. When she meets a wealthy girl who goes to Smith in the Northeast, she starts wishing for that life. She’s always wanted out, but now she has a more specific goal.

The setup of the book was lovely, getting to know the city and the people in Josie’s life. Throughout the story the reader gets to know Willie, Cokie,  along with some of the prostitutes pretty well. There are some pretty fun stories about the crazy things that go on in the house. Some are cringe-worthy and some are entertaining.

There was the murder mystery that Josie was very interested in. Along with the seedy parts of New Orleans, there was organized crime and Josie’s mother is dating a creep of a crook. Josie was left in some lurches and had to figure out how to handle some things. I thought some of the drama was almost overdone. I get that it’s a dangerous life and dark times, but it was just a bit much for me.

Jesse was my favorite character and I wanted more of him! He was charming and Josie expected the worst of him. Like a lot of things, Jesse wasn’t what she expected. She thought he was low class and wouldn’t amount to much, and she was surprised to learn he too wanted more from life.

Josie misjudged a lot of people in her life, which is a realistic mistake. A few times, I was frustrated and wanted to tell her to go with her gut instead of hiding everything away and being isolated. She made mistakes, but she definitely learned from them. She was such a likable character because she had such realistic motivations and responses to her mistakes. I think she learned a lot in the story.

I loved the completely unique subject. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Louisiana and not in this time period. It’s a difficult time in a difficult place, which is unique and fascinating. It’s a look at the side of society people look down on, even Josie looked down on them sometimes and she was a part of it. It’s not easy for people that are in ruts to get stuck, to not be able to work their way out. But sometimes, with enough hard work you can find a way out.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Out of the Easy is a good read! I don’t think I would ever read it again, but I will definitely read more by Ruta Sepetys and plan on reading Shades of Gray. This book has an average rating of 4.07 rating on Goodreads, so if it sounds like something you like, you should definitely check it out! I think Out of the Easy would be great for you if you enjoy descriptions of old timey New Orleans, some crime and risque walks of life, and a girl finding her own way even when it’s difficult.

Check out Ruta Sepetys‘s website and twitter!

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen [book review]

Scarlet coverScarlet by A.C.Gaughen
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Release Date: February 14th 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Series: Scarlet #1

Goodreads description: Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I have been wanting to read Scarlet since I heard about it. I’m not sure why I kept forgetting to pick it up. Lately, I’ve seen the sequel mentioned and that made me want to bump it up on my TBR list.

Scarlet is a female member of Robin Hood’s band of outlaws. Everyone outside of the group and not in the know calls her Will Scarlet and thinks she’s just another merry man. They know Scarlet is strong, fast, and capable. They know Scarlet steals from the rich to feed the poor and that Robin trusts Scarlet. They don’t know Scarlet wraps her chest, has long hair, and wears dresses to church each week.

The band is trying to save the over-taxed people of Nottingham from the Sheriff and Prince John’s evil schemes. Most of the details are the same: Robin is an earl, he went to the Middle East and fought in the Crusades with King Richard, and when he came home his lands and title were no longer his and the people that relied on him were being mistreated. He gathers a crew and they try to feed the people and fight the oppressors. In this story, Lord Guisborne is a thieftaker who has come to rid the Sheriff of his thief problem.

Scarlet is such a great character. She is smart and skilled. She has knives, she can climb, and she’s the most capable thief of the group. She’s also kind and she wants to help people. She pretends to be a male member of the gang, but she’s still feminine. I love that she liked having long hair. A lot of times when there’s a strong female warrior type, they seem to have to leave girlish aspects behing. I like that Scarlet got to keep hers.  She also had postive and understanding views of other women which is so nice to see. Especially in a historical fiction, and even more so because Scarlet goes to church. I also liked that she went to church, it felt realistic for her character.

“I suppose you want me to say what a tart she is. Or you are? But really, every time you climb in her window, you make her think that’s all she’s good for. Bess is a nice girl.”

Scarlet also has a secret past that nobody in the band knows. I feel likst I should have figured the twist out because when I read it I felt like it should have been really obvious. However, I think I was just enjoying the book so much I didn’t need to try to guess things, if that makes sense. I think it might be easy for most people to guess, but I don’t think it would be very disappointing if you figure it out before the reveal. I liked what it ended up being and it made a lot of sense for the story. Some of the reactions after certain characters found out all of it were annoying, but that’s another thing.

I had issues with the romance of the book. There’s a bit of a triangle and I thought it was unnecessary. Some of it was just awkward. I feel like one of the guys was just there to generate jealousy for the other one. I did like Scarlet’s sort of exploratory sense of dealing with the situation. I liked that she was never ashamed of her feelings and that she stood up for herself when the guys were trying to boss her around or be too protective. I really loved her views on so many things and I really just love her as a character. I actually did like the “real” romance a lot, too.

I was slightly disappointed by some of Robin’s behavior. He wasn’t completely awful, but he had some typical male views for the time period. It makes sense that someone from his background might feel that way, but he is an outlaw and he is usually portrayed as kind in modern tales. Sure, he has is issues and anger, but he’s trying to help his people, which is something he doesn’t have to do. I think his personal feelings cause him to say some things he might not actually mean, which everyone does, but it felt weak for him. I wish he would have used a different tactic, I guess. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a deal, if you know what I mean!

4 star rating

Scarlet was lovely. I love the girl, I love the world. I want more! I had a few issues, but overall I loved it. I borrowed this from the library but I definitely want to buy a copy as soon as I can. I will definitely be reading Lady Thief and the rest of the series! I recommend it to everyone but especially if you love females kicking ass while maintaining feminity and putting up with a merry band of outlaws.

Check out A.C.Gaughen‘s website and twitter!

Do you have any Robin Hood recs? I heard from Christina at You Book Me All Night Long that Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood is amazing. I’ve watched a lot of Robin Hood movies and the BBC show (where Harry Lloyd, my pretty, plays Will Scarlet) but I haven’t actually read much. Scarlet did have a list in the back of it, but I forgot to note them and I’d like recs I know people have enjoyed! 

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield [book review]

The Thirteenth Tale coverThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets… and the ghosts that haunt them still

I went into The Thirteenth Tale completely blind. I’ve heard the title and knew that people loved it, but I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I was at the library and had already picked out some books and I wanted five. I saw this one, recognized the title, and picked it up.

Margaret Lea grew up in her father’s bookstore. She always knew an intense love of books. She reads a certain type of book, so when a popular fiction author contacts her and asks her to write a biography, she’s surprised. She’s never read any of Vida Winter’s wildly popular novels. She finds a rare copy of Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a book of stories with the last one left out, and she devours it. She joins the ranks of Vida’s fans, wondering about the thirteenth tale. She’s intrigued by the missing stories: the thirteenth tale and Vida’s own story. Vida gives fake interviews to reporters and never shares details of her life.

This book is going to be so difficult for me to review because I am still not even sure how I feel about it. I don’t even feel equipped to discuss it. It was engaging and entertaining. I was definitely involved in the story. I did not find this story predictable in the least.

Margaret Lea is a vulnerable character. She is missing something and it defines her whole life. It defines her relationship with her parents and how she views books and the world at large. It definitely affects how she looks at Vida Winter and the story Vida shares. Vida Winter is gruff and combative. She’s got a story and she’s got a sickness. She has been in charge for so long that she isn’t used to anyone questioning her. Margaret’s spine and refusal to rollover surprises and impresses Vida. It was entertaining to see them clash, I think it was good for Vida to face opposition. Vida is also vulnerable in a lot of ways, but she has spent so long keeping that part of herself buried, along with the truth. I think she views the telling of her story to be a release. She needs to empty her soul.

I’m not really sure how to discuss the story Vida tells. It’s tragic and strange. There are bizarre siblings, Charlie and Isabelle and Isabelle’s twins, Adeline and Emmeline. There are so many psychological issues that are just frightening and they’re all things that seem sadly realistic. No wonder Vida would want to create a new life for herself and many other worlds if her past was so wretched. I think most people have things in their past they might not want to share with everyone.

Vida isn’t exactly straightforward in her tale of the twins. You learn early in her story that the story is leading to a certain point. The March family has a lot of issues and they don’t like to actually spend time raising children. The March twins have twin issues: they get lost in each other but they also fight and one is dominant while the other lets the dominant twin do whatever she wants. People around them try to help the family in different ways, but a lot of weird things happen. At the end of it all, there’s a surprise and you see the story in a different way. 

a photo of a quote from the book

Sorry, this is not a great picture but I was in a hurry! This is actually from the letter Vida sends Margaret asking her to write the biography. It caught my eye when I read it and after reading her story, it makes even more sense why she found solace in stories.

I think I expected a paranormal twin ability with this book, but it was something incredibly different from I expected. To be surprised was nice, but the wrap-up was still troubling. There was also the end of the story with Margaret, which was kind of ridiculous to me. However, I was extremely engaged with The Thirteenth Tale. My emotions during the story were all over the place, sometimes I didn’t enjoy what was happening but the story was still interesting. I like the idea of Vida’s strength and her weakness. She kept a lot hidden and buried and had to create a lot of different worlds and lives to cope with that. She turned her life around, but she still had a story of her own that followed and haunted her.

3 star rating

I liked this book and I think I’m still a bit perplexed and just sad about it. It definitely made me think and feel, which is what a book is supposed to do. I think I would like to read it again sometime and see the things I missed the first time. Reading a book with all the knowledge of the ending really puts it in a different light and can add a lot to the story. I don’t think this one will ever be a favorite, but I am glad I read it. I would recommend The Thirteenth Tale if you like sad, puzzling stories. Also, I don’t think it’s a ghost story but I definitely think it’s a haunted story, if that makes sense.

I know a lot of people love this one, so if you’ve read it, did you love it? Did you know they’re making a miniseries of it? My girl Sophie Turner who plays Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones and is a fellow Sansa stan is going to play Adeline. I’m not sure how they’re working out the twin thing and…other things, but Sophie is awesome so hopefully it will all be okay. If you’ve read it are you excited about the adapttion?