Book Review: The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime, by Marie Rutkowski

Image- Winner's CurseThe Winner’s Curse ( Book #1 of The Winner’s Trilogy)

16-year-old Kestral, the daughter of a general in the Valorian Empire, is fast approaching the time when, by law, she must join the army or marry.  To distract herself, she buys a Herranian slave at the market, in a misguided attempt to help the young man. But her dealings with the new slave—Arin– open her eyes to how the Valorian Empire gained, and continues keep, its power.  Arin and Kestral are clearly drawn towards one another, but each is also fiercely devoted to their own country, and as they try to know each other better, their eyes are opened to the complicated political situation they are smack in the middle of.

This is an especially intelligent YA fantasy with a young women, who not only pursues romance, but also has her own political ambitions. I liked the way this story was told from both Kestel’s and Arin’s perspectives. Rutkowski sets up a believable living, breathing colonial-styled world full of political intrigue, and explores all the complex realities of trying to purse a relationship when there is an imbalance of power.  I identified with both Kestrel and Arin, and as their story unfolds, and felt just as swept up in their fondness for each other, even as the realities of their political situation forced itself in between the two of them, I kept hoping they’d somehow be able to stay together.

 

Image- The Winner's CrimeThe Winner’s Crime (Book 2 of The Winner’s Trilogy)

I’m not going to say much about the plot of this book because I don’t want to spoil the ending of The Winner’s Curse.  I will say I enjoyed this book as much as the first.  The story becomes even more political and I like how the romance simmers behind the scenes of Kestral’s and Arin’s devotion to their countries, each to trying to figure out how to do the right thing. As Kestral and Arin become further pulled into the political world, it becomes harder to figure out what is the right thing.

Like the first book, the second book wraps up the current plot and opens up an entirely new situation for the third book.  The third book looks like it will come out March 2016.  I can’t wait!

PS- The audiobook version of both books is excellent!

 

 

 

 

Book Review for: Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles

Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: January 2012
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
For Ages: 12 and up
Format: Listened to audiobook from Audible

This young adult sci-fi version of Cinderella was my favorite spring fiction read.  Cinder is a teen cyborg living in New Beijing.  Cyborgs are second-class citizens and her stepmother hates her, but Cinder has a reputation as the best mechanic in New Beijing and one step-sister who likes her. So far, the plague hasn’t hit her city and the cold war with the Lunar Nation hasn’t affected her either.  The day Prince Kai asks for Cinder’s help fixing his childhood android changes her life forever though. 

This was a fun, fresh story.  I guessed the ending reveal near the beginning of the story, but that just made me want to finish the book more.  Now I can’t wait for the sequel! PS: The audiobook version was quite good.

Review for Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon

Title: Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Rating: **** 1/2
Format: Listened to the audiobook version from Audible.com
For Ages: 10 and up (though an 8 or 9 year old who’s the youngest of a family will probably enjoy the audiobook version too.)

The Ring of Solomon can be read as a stand-alone novel for readers who have never had the pleasure of meeting the sarcastic, cheeky djinni, Bartimaeus of Uruk, or as a satisfying prequel for fans of the Amulet of Samarkand series.  This time around our favorite djinni is in ancient Israel. As in the previous books, in this universe, magicians use their knowledge of magical summoning spells to capture spirits, like djinni, from another world and make them do the magician’s bidding in the human world. King Solomon has his own powerful Marid, the highest level of spirits, trapped inside a magic ring that keeps everyone in line, including Bartimaeus, who finds himself enslaved by the king’s cruelest magician. Like usual, Bartimaeus is handling his predicament in the most amusingly bitter and rebellious way possible.

Solomon has also threatened the Queendom of Sheba with total destruction if Sheba doesn’t give in to a monthly blackmail payment in the next 10 days. Young Asmira, a seventeen-year-old girl in the hereditary guard to the Queen of Sheba is the Queendom’s only hope. She’s traveling to Israel on an important mission to kill King Solomon and take the ring.  If she succeeds, the Queendom will be free.

The Ring of Solomon is a fun adventure full of exciting fights and lots of banter. It’s lighter in tone than the previous darkly political series but still manages to make a lot of subtle points about slavery.  As a result, this story would make an excellent read-aloud for families or classrooms and would be an especially good audiobook for a family car trip, as the tale can be appreciated by both kids and adults alike.

The audiobook version is excellent.  The narrator manages to give each of the large cast of characters their own unique voice and inserts each of Bartimaeus’s famously funny footnotes (asides about any topic that comes into his head) in just the right part of the story each time.

June 2009: In Brief, Part 1

Highlights:
Sub Job – My last sub job for the school year was on field day as the computer teacher. In the morning, I herded a first grade class around the field day activities. In the afternoon, I taught two computer lessons, then spent the rest of the afternoon reading shelves in the media center. What’s reading a shelf? Apparently, it means looking at each and every non-fiction book on a shelf and making sure they’re in the correct Dewy Decimal order.  I love sub jobs with so much variety: a little running around, a little teaching, a little quiet work.  It makes the time fly by.

Vacation– We took 7 kids (2 of them ours) camping at Assateague Island and had a great time as usual.

Fiction Books Finished:

(The) London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd (****) – An excellent middle grade mystery about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome trying to figure out how his cousin simply disappeared on the London Eye (that big ferris wheel on the Thames.) I liked that the mystery was both a tense situation that held my attention, but also a case that older children could realistically solve in real life. (For ages 9 and up)

Sloppy Firsts, by Megan McCafferty (**** 1/2) – This is one of the best young adult chick-lit type books I’ve read. Jessica Darling’s best friend Hope moved away and now Jessica is forced to endure high school without the one person in the world who understands her. Instead she’s left with the friendship of "the clueless crew", a set of girls she’s out grown but can’t seem to part with either. Jessica’s wit and sensitivity make this story of high school truthful, funny, and especially insightful. (For ages 14 and up)
[Parent note: There is cursing, sexual innuendo, and drinking — though with consequences. Also, parents should know this is the first book in a series of five. I’ve only read this first book, but I hear the last three books take place after high school and are more mature in nature.]

Three to Get Deadly and Four to Score, both by Janet Evanovich (***) – The Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series is like a bag of potato chips for me. Sure, it’s not the best ever, but it satisfies my craving for something fun, and I can’t seem to stop at just one, or three, or…