Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Sometimes a book is awesome.  Rarely, however, is the sequel better than the first.  This is that magical unicorn.  I LOVED this book.  It is everything I love in a fantasy and as I was reading it, I knew I was falling even more in love with Marie Rutkoski's writing.  It is magical in a way that requires no actual magic.  The history and detail she adds into each setting makes them totally realistic and very believable.  Her characters are human in a way that any teenager (or adult) could find themselves in them.  Kestrel is flawed but in a perfect way that, as the reader, you feel like you ARE her.  And the interactions between Arin and Kestrel are so painfully, achingly real, I just cant even (THE FEELS, ALL THE FEELS).  I cannot wait to read the third installment.  I would read all the installments, any installments, Marie Rutkoski's grocery list (seriously, what do you think Arin eats for breakfast).

Final Recommendations: read this series immediately, if you like powerful, flawed heroines, swoony romance, games of chance or skill, fantastic settings, courtly antics, daddy issues, evil emperors

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

If you enjoyed Kiera Cass' The Selection series but thought, "hey this needs more magical super-powers," then this is the series for you.  I enjoyed this book.  I liked the main character, Mare Barrow (pretty great name) and did not find her as self-reflecting, self-centered or generally whiny as ya heroines can sometimes become.  I enjoyed watching her grow into her powers but felt there could have been more of this.  And in the end, although I saw the two major plot twists developing as they happened, they were both very unique and satisfying.  I look forward to seeing more from this fascinating fantasy world.

Final Recommendations: if you like kick-butt heroines, x-men type powers, class struggles, forbidden romance, evil queens

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

The Orphan Queen was a slow start.  That being said, by the time I got to the end, I was racing through on the edge of my seat, and now I am dying to know more (and secretly building a time machine to the future to pick up book #2).  I loved the main character Wil in this novel.  She was solid, purposeful and while she did have some moments to whiny teenage angst, they were mostly justified (what with witnessing her parents murders as a child).  I LOOOVED the character Black Knife.  Jodi Meadows has a way with her male leads that draws you in with the first meeting.  The world building was adequate.  The world itself, fascinating and mysterious, however, our interaction with it as the reader was somewhat limited.  There are several novellas planned in the series, unfortunately, I do not think they will be enough to quell my desire to know more about the world and the ancillary characters involved in the story.  Overall, I did grow to really enjoy this novel and am sad that it is only a duology as I think there is so much material smooshed into this one book that could have been developed in a longer series.

Final Recommendations:  if you love high fantasy, mysterious organizations, even more mysterious vigilantes. swoony romance, royal jerks, strange magic

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

I love how Andrew Smith writes.  I would read his grocery lists and probably be enthralled.  That said, I do not think his books will appeal to everyone.  I am not one to pigeon-hole kids into a certain genre or specific narrator style.  I find that both myself and my students enjoy a variety of YA, but there are just certain students who this type of book appeals to more.  The Alex Crow is another masterpiece of all the stories coming together as one.  I loved the historical piece woven through the story of a young refugee escaping Syria.  I also am fascinated by Smith's use of "made up" and yet totally plausible science (both in this novel as well as in his previous gang-buster, Grasshopper Jungle).  There is less sex, drugs and cursing than in previous installments, however, more violence.  None of this really bothers me, though.  The novels are written for an audience of young adults who can handle these types of situations contextually through their reading, and Smith weaves together a story like no other.

Final Recommendations:  if you like weird science, boys bonding, refugee tales