The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

A while ago I had heard that Cynthia Hand (one of my favorite authors) was coming out with a new book and that it was going to be a standalone. 

screams jimmy

Some people like standalones, some people don’t. I, however, am cool with both, but I do love the fact that I won’t have to wait another two or three years before the story wraps itself up. Oh, and I am also glad to announce that said novel now has a cover.

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As happy as I am that the cover came out for this book, I am a little perturbed that I have to wait until February before  I can actually get a copy of “The Last Time We Say Goodbye.” Alright, enough talking/writing, here’s the cover…

cynthia hand

“The Last Time We Say Goodbye” by Cynthia Hand

Release Date: February 10, 2015

Publishing House: HarperTeen

Format: Hardcover 400 pages

Goodreads Summary:

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

jenny han to all the boys i've loved before book

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with a broken heart. Some eat chocolate or ice cream, some watch endless amount of romantic movies, and some listen to love songs, wallowing in their pain. The options are practically limitless, but the way Lara Jean Covey prefers to ease the pain of a broken heart is by writing a letter to the boy who broke it. She holds nothing back while writing the letter, and once written, it is to be placed it in her teal colored hat box. No one will ever read the letter but Lara Jean; somehow, writing about what she felt while she was with that person helps her to let them go. Why should she dwell on a relationship that was only ever in her head, on someone who will never feel the same way that she does? Why not write a goodbye letter, and move on in life?

Her letters always seemed harmless, but when they get sent, Lara Jean has to decide how to clean up the mess she made in writing them. The problem with tidying up her mess, though, is that she doesn’t know where to start! Lara Jean has a long journey ahead of her if she is to resolve this catastrophe that has affected everyone she cares about. Can she protect herself from getting hurt while she tries to fix things with her family and friends, or will Lara Jean end up with another letter in her hat box and a broken heart?

I really liked “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.” It was one of those reads that you’ve heard about from people or seen on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, but you just never thought to pick it up on you own. I probably wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t for my sister; her description of the characters and story made me want to read it, and I am very glad I got the opportunity.

Lara Jean is in my top five favorite female characters (America from “The Selection” is #1 at the moment) because of how real she was. A lot of heroines that I have read about are so unrealistic, and I guess a lot of times I don’t connect with them. I may like the book, but it’s like there is something holding me back from really liking the main female character; they’re not someone (usually) who I would want to be friends with in real life. Lara Jean, however, would be an awesome friend to have. She’s funny, sweet, smart, and a little quirky, and I could imagine her being a real high school student just trying to survive after something REALLY embarrassing had happened to her. If I was in her shoes, I would have crawled under a rock to wait it out so I wouldn’t have to deal with the humiliation.

stiles teen wolf

Lara Jean, though, took the situation in stride (granted, she’s fictional) and it made for some very funny situations. They were so funny in fact, that I would actually burst out laughing (at inopportune times, I might add). I tried to stop myself from laughing out loud, at least while I was hanging out with people, but it could not be contained.

hunter hayes laugh 4

I haven’t had a book do that to me in a long time and I forgot what it was like to have one make me burst out laughing like this one did.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is worth a lot more than laughs, and it deals with some pretty big topics that I think a lot of teens/people eventually deal with in life. I also loved that this book didn’t ended up being one of those awful, empty, vain books where the characters’ minds are so vacant that there is no potential for character growth. I was so proud of Lara Jean for how much she grew as a person in this book. Jenny Han didn’t compromise her character’s (unlike a lot of authors I’ve read) personality, making her someone she wasn’t, she just helped Lara Jean grow up a little and moved her in the right direction. It was cool to see that happen in a more realistic way. Now that you know a little about Lara Jean (I can’t tell you too much because it will ruin the story), let’s talk about some of the other characters.

Josh, Josh, Josh…

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At first, I kind of liked his character and I wanted to know more about him and his relationship with Margot, but the longer I read this book, the more I came to dislike his character (you’ll understand why I disliked him once you read this book).  In the beginning I felt bad for Josh, and I wanted Margot and him to resolve their issues because you knew that they wanted to get back together, but then he started to get all moody towards Lara Jean (kind of unintentionally, but still), and it was really irritating. I felt like he didn’t deserve to have Lara Jean as a friend and that she was way too good for him. The final nail his coffin (for me) happened in the last couple of chapters; it was just SOOOOO selfish of him, and what he did put a lot of other people in bad positions.

teen wolf jackson

I was done with the character long before that scene had happened, but it made me dislike him even more.*Sighs*

Josh and his awfulness aside, I felt like Jenny Han did a really good job of creating believable situations between friends and siblings, especially between the Song sisters. Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty all love each other, but that doesn’t make things easy, and I liked seeing their dynamic as they went about life. I do have to say that Margot was a bit cold for my taste, and the scene that really made me dislike her attitude was when she came home for Christmas break. Something happened and she treated Lara Jean really terribly when it wasn’t even her sister’s fault. I get that people lash out, but that was unwarranted! I do have to give props to the author, though, because after all their fights, the sisters decide to mend their broken fences and forgive one another. It reminded me of the last epic scene in “Frozen.” I’m always up for a story about sisters sticking together!

The last person I want to discuss in Peter. In the beginning of the book you know that he’s the popular, super good-looking guy at school. Peter’s the kind of guy that everyone either has a crush on, or they want to be like him. He was a good guy character, but when I first started this book, I didn’t like or dislike him; I guess you could say I was neutral when it came to Peter. I didn’t care whether he was in a scene or not, I was just reading “To All The Boys I’ve Love Before” because of how much I liked Lara Jean. But the more he was in the book, the more he endeared himself to me. His character snuck up on me when I wasn’t paying attention, and once I finally took a moment in the middle of the book to absorb what I liked and disliked, that’s when I realized how much I loved his character.

I don’t  know all the reasons why I ended up liking Peter so much, but I do know that I loved that he got along so well with Kitty and how nice he was to her and Lara Jean, and I also liked that he fit in with the Song/Covey family so well. It was really cute and sweet, and I liked what his character brought to this story. Lara Jean’s and Peter’s fake relationship was also quite funny at times (there’s a scene that involves a car, antiques, and competitive spirit. I was laughing so hard I almost cried!), and I really loved that Lara Jean brought out the best in him.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han ended well, but it was on a bittersweet note and it even made me tear up a bit.

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This was a beautifully written and sweet book. I so enjoyed Lara Jean as a character, and I loved seeing her grow into a young woman. This is a really great coming of age story. Loved it!!

Winter by Marissa Meyer: Release Delay

This morning I read something about Marissa Meyer’s book, “Winter,” being released nine months later than it should be. It was supposed to come out in February of 2015, but now it is set for November. My reactions to this discovery:

shockedI was quite shocked since it was supposed to come out in February,

jack sparrowthen I started to calculate how long my wait from “Cress” to “Winter” will be, and I started to scream internally…

frozen disneythen I was like, what the **** is happening to make her delay it so long?!

sheldonCrap, it’s sinking in (again) that it’s a year and five months until this book comes out.

Supernatural blahI am also wondering why Marissa had enough time to write a novella if “Winter” is so delayed? We want “Winter” not another novella/miniature book. We don’t have time for this!!

angstI miss Thorne already…

schmidt new girl 1If “Winter” is delayed into 2016, I am gonna be really angry.

not funnyI wonder if they (authors) find our pain funny, or something? Well, it’s not.

little mermaid 2I wonder if authors know what we go through for them?

Please forgive the rant, but I can’t take this from authors anymore.  I love Marissa Meyer dearly, but I find this to be cruel of her and her publisher to make us wait so long, and I hope that by the time “Winter” comes out I’ll still be into this series. Tastes change a lot in a year or two, and I hope for Marissa’s sake (and mine) that we’ll all still care about the story that has yet to be finished.

The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection #2): Take Two!

Alright, so this week I have really been trying to improve my blog and make it more professional while still being pretty and fun. Sadly, that means I have to go through all of my old reviews (I have this aversion to reading old posts because they tend to make me cringe). As I was looking at some of them, I saw the need for them to be edited (as expected), and “The Elite” was one of the ones that just needed to be completely rewritten. *Sighs* I was reading over it I began to wonder just how delusional I had been to write the things that I did. The reason I am so embarrassed with that old review because my perspective has changed so much over the last year! So, here is take two of my “The Elite” review, and I hope it is far better than the first.

 

the elite by kiera cass

 “The Elite” by Kiera Cass

4 out of 5 stars.

 So much has changed since the Selection started a few short months ago. The most markedly changed thing in Illéa, though, is America Singer. The America back home would never have had think about whether she loved Aspen Ledger if asked, she would have just answered with a simple, but heartfelt, “Yes.” America the Five would never have even thought to daydreamed about what it would be like to talk with the Prince of Illéa, let alone have the chance to get to know him. But the biggest thing that divides America into who she was and who she is would be that she has begun to care for someone other than Aspen, someone entirely unexpected: Maxon.

Despite the changes to her perspective, America is still unsure as to who she  truly loves, and neither Maxon nor Aspen are making it easy for her to choose. America is caught in the middle of these two young men and their attempts to win her heart. Half of her still belongs to Aspen and she misses what they used to have, but the other half of herself cares deeply for Maxon, too. These two young men are slowly splitting  her down the middle, and America is running out of time to decide who she wants to be with.

Eventually things begin to calm down for America, and it finally seems like her heart has made its choice. But when something heartbreaking happens to someone close to America, her world is turned upside down and she wonders just what her heart was thinking. The Rebels and their constant attacks aren’t helping matters, and as secrets hidden within the King’s home begin to surface, she is starting to think that these secrets, though meant to keep Illéa safe, are doing more harm than good to it. Can America keep going on in the Selection like nothing has happened, that everything is all right when nothing actually is? And what if she and Aspen don’t work out and she is chosen in the Selection? Could she, America Singer, spend the rest of her life as a queen who has to always conceal the truth from her people? Could she justify the lies enough to live with herself?

The first thing that I noticed about “The Elite” was that it had a much darker feel than “The Selection.” I would still consider it to be in the “fluff” genre (that is a compliment from me!), but it was more serious than “The Selection” in the fact that the Rebels attacked the castle a lot more, and the dystopian backdrop played a more significant role in the story. I got to see the Castes a bit more, too, and how brutal it could be to anyone  not perfectly in line with Illéa’s King. Speaking of kings…Maxon’s father, King Clarkson, was evil. You only see little glimpses of his cruel nature here and there, but at the very end of “The Elite” he fully displays just how wicked he is to his family. I was outraged with his cruelty and wondered how Queen Amberly could let go (almost) completely unchecked! Beside it being much darker, “The Elite” shifted the gears of this trilogy in a lot of different ways, one of them being the characters.

America is a totally different girl from the one that entered the Selection not so long ago. She sees things in a new light, including her feelings for both Maxon and Aspen. America has history with Aspen, but she also feels drawn to Maxon, and so she is quite conflicted in “The Elite.” This was one of the things that bothered me while I read this book; I thought it was so unfair to Maxon and Aspen, the way she went back and forth between them. It wasn’t intentional on her part, but it still happened and that made me a bit disappointed in her. Although I didn’t like it, I got where she was coming from, and that the author was creating an issue so that the character would have to overcome it eventually. It’s not okay what America did, but it makes sense in my head what she and the author were doing.

One of the things that I did like was that America remained an amazing friend; she had changed quite a bit since the Selection began, but she still had the pluck that had endeared her to me in the first book. It was that unconventional spunk to say, “No,” to doing something wrong (even when it might have helped her) that made me really admire America, and how she protected her maids without fear of the consequences. It takes courage to something right when everyone else is telling you to do something wrong.

Maxon was another character who changed a lot in “The Elite.” I adored him with every fiber of my being in “The Selection.” That book is hands down one of my favorite books, and is in my top-five favorites of 2012 for so many different reasons. Maxon was/is one of the reasons that made me love it so much. In “The Elite” he was still a good character, but I felt like I lost the sweet Maxon who had stolen my heart in “The Selection.” While I was reading this book, I had this weird feeling that I was somehow losing him, but then there would be these moments that made it seem like nothing was wrong, that nothing had changed. I loved those moments because they were the ones that reminded me of the real Maxon, but then something would happen and I would begin to wonder if I actually knew him at all. Who is the real Maxon? The one who is awkward, endearing, and sweet, or the one who just stabbed (emotionally) America in the heart? I mean, I guess I understand why he did it and everyone makes mistakes, but that is no excuse for what he did! What really kicked me in the *****, though, was that he showed ZERO remorse afterwards. He did it because he wanted to and because he could, and I think that is what made it hurt so much.

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 After that awful scene had come and gone, I was left brokenhearted. Would a good guy really do that to a girl he says he loves? Aspen never did that to America!!! I am wondering why I’m still in love with this character, and why I keep coming back to the abusive relationship we have together.

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*Sighs* I kinda hate myself because of my weakness towards this character, but I just can’t help it!

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The character I want to finish this post with is Aspen. My original review of this book now horrifies me because of how I reviewed Aspen’s character (I also cannot believe I forget to mention how Maxon had betrayed America). I am SO embarrassed that my old review even saw the light of day because I see so many things differently now than I did a year ago, especially when it comes to Aspen. I obviously hated him in the first two books, but about six months after I reviewed “The Elite” I began to simmer down; I wasn’t as wrapped in Maxon as I had been (betrayal and all), and then I got to read “The Guard” by Kiera Cass, and it completely changed my opinion of this character.

Aspen is an amazing guy. Sure, I don’t agree with certain things he did in “The Elite” that could have potentially put America in danger, but he had an amazing heart and he cared deeply for America, and I admired that. He is a really good dynamic character, and  I love what he brings to the table in this series. He, quite surprisingly, turned out to be one of my favorite characters in Kiera’s books. I definitely recommend his novella, “The Guard.”

Overall, “The Elite” by Kiera Cass is a fantastic read.

Young Adult Book Quotes

cress by marissa meyer

Quotes from “Cress” by Marissa Meyer.

—-

“Captain?”
“Yeah?”
“Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?”
He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. “No. I’m pretty sure it was Cinder.”– Cress and Thorne

—-

“All right, Miss Cryptic. What’s the new plan, then?”
Glancing around the room, Cinder tipped up her chin. “It starts with kidnapping the groom.”
Iko’s hand shot into the air.
“Yes, Iko?”
“That is the best idea ever. Count me in.”– Cinder and Iko

—–

“He leaned forward to inspect her closer. “Is that all hair?”

… Sudden, overwhelming panic clawed up Cress’s throat. With a squeak, she ducked out of view of the camera and scrambled beneath the desk. Her back struck the wall with a thud that rattled her teeth. She crouched there, skin burning hot and pulse thundering as she took in the room before her— the room that he was now seeing too, with the rumpled bedcovers and the mustached man on all the screens telling her to grab her imaginary partner and swing them around.

“Wha—where’d she go?” Thorne’s voice came to her through the screen.

“Honestly, Thorne.” A girl. Linh Cinder? “Do you ever think before you speak?”

“What? What did I say?”

” ‘Is that all hair?’ “

“Did you see it? It was like a cross between a magpie nest and ball of yarn after it’s been mauled by a cheetah.”

A beat. Then, “A cheetah?”

“It was the first big cat that came to mind.”– Thorne, Cinder, and Cress

—-

“Captain,” she murmured. “I think I’m in love with you.”
An eyebrow shot up. She counted six beats of his heart before, suddenly, he laughed.
“Don’t tell me it took you two whole days to realize that. I must be losing my touch.”– Thorne and Cress

—-

“If you honestly believe that,” said Thorne, stowing the gun again, “then you really don’t recognize true value when you see it.”– Thorne and Cress

—-

“The other girl, Iko, cupped her chin with both hands. “This is so much better than a net drama.”– Iko

the winner's curse marie rutkoski

Quotes from “The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski.

—-

“Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”– Kestrel

—-

“Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not.”– Arin and Kestrel

—-

“You might not think of me as your friend,” Kestrel told Arin, “but I think of you as mine.”– Kestrel and Arin

—-

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”– ??

—-

“She reminded herself bitterly that this was what curiosity had bought her: fifty keystones for a singer who refused to sing, a friend who wasn’t her friend, some one who was hers and yet would never be hers.”– Kestrel

the one kiera cass

Quotes from “The One” by Kiera Cass

—-

“The best people all have some kind of scar.”– America

—-

“Leave it to you to find beauty in something others would say ruins a day.”– Maxon and America

—-

“Bravery hides in amazing places.”–???

—-

“It doesn’t really matter how you feel about your character; it just matters what you do with it.”– America

—-

“Celeste walked up, as strong as I’d ever seen her, and whispered something into Maxon’s ear.

When she was done, he smiled. “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

“Good.” She left, closing the door behind her, and I stood to take whatever was coming.

“What was that about?” I asked, nodding toward the door.

“Oh, Celeste was making it clear that if I hurt you, she’d make me cry,” he said with a smile.

I laughed. “I’ve been on the receiving end of those nails, so be careful there.”

“Yes, ma’am.”– America, Maxon, and Celeste

—-

“Do you need me to break her leg? I could make it happen.” She chuckled to herself. “I’m kidding.”– Celeste

—-

“When you love someone, you sacrifice.”– America

—-

“They should be proud of everything you’ve endured. If my parents had any idea how low I’ve sunk . . . I don’t know what they’d say. If Maxon’s parents knew, I’m sure they’d have kicked me out by now. I’m not fit for this.” She breathed out, struggling to confess.

I leaned forward, putting my hands on hers. “I think this change of heart would prove otherwise, Celeste.”– Celeste and America

—-

“I’m just realizing, Mer, that no matter what happens . . . there will always be a string tying you to me. I’ll never not worry about you. I’ll never not care about what you do. You’ll always be something to me.”– Aspen and America

—-

“Live your life. Be happy as you can be, let go of the things that don’t matter, and fight.”– Mr. Singer

—-

“I love you beyond paint, beyond melodies, beyond words. And I hope you will always feel that, even when I’m not around to tell you so.”– Mr. Singer

Take Me On by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #4): Massive Spoilers Ahead!

Beware of this post! Tons of spoilers ahead for this book as well as “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You.”

take me on katie mcgarry

“Take Me On” by Katie McGarry

2 1/2-3 out of 5 stars. It’s well written, I just really didn’t like it.

This is a difficult book for me to review because of how much I love Katie McGarry. She has a gift with the written word, and she knows just what to say to tug at my heartstrings. I love how she creates such vivid characters, and as a reader I find myself so torn up when one of the characters gets hurt or when I find out something about their past; Katie writes these broken people who endear themselves to you, and they make you want to scream and cheer when something bad or good happens. Her books are rough and real, and they paint a spectacular image of how broken you can be and still rise from the ashes.

Did I lose you during my fairly long speech about how much I adore Katie as an author? I hope not because I want to explain now why this book review is hard for me to write.

I love Katie McGarry (obviously), but I didn’t like her book, “Take Me On.” I don’t know quite why, but I was confused after I read this story. I still am a little bit, but a long discussion with my sister helped resolve it some, but now I am confused as why Katie did SO MUCH in this one book. Please, allow me to explain.

I love drama, not so much in real life, but in books and movies, it can be quite entertaining. My problem in this book? There was TOO MUCH drama, and it drew away from the characters. I never felt like I got a good feel for who they were; I didn’t have any down time with them because they were thrown into one bad situation after another. This is what I like to call too much situational drama and not enough character development. These characters had infinite potential, but that was cut short because they were always dealing with a new problem. When they did have good character growth, I never got a chance to see it, Katie just had to tell me that they were changing because there wasn’t “time” to show it to her readers. I know that was not Katie McGarry’s intention (she is too good of a writer for that), but there wasn’t enough room for us too see all of that if she was to get the book under six hundred pages. That is what made me really sad after I finished “Take Me On”; I always look forward to seeing Katie’s characters grow and change, and she totally delivered that in “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You,” but mot in this book. I personally saw more character growth in “Red At Night,” which was a hundred page novella, than I did in the four hundred or more pages of “Take Me On.” Again I am going to say, “Take Me On” had infinite potential, but the execution wasn’t the best.

To validate my points above, I am just going to list out all of the things that are in this book. My problem with them is that there were too many for one book, and I personally thought that the quantity of  issues drew away from the characters, especially West. Case and point (these are not in chronological order):

1.West got kicked out of his school for fighting,

2. His dad in turn kicks him out of the house, so he has to live in his car,

3. He gets into a skirmish with some shady characters trying to protect  Haley (the main girl), who he hasn’t really met yet,

4. Haley uses her fighting experience to help him, which gets her into major trouble,

5. West in turn decides to defend her (again) when she gets cornered at school, and is then set up to fight her crazy ex-boyfriend in three months,

6. His sister nearly died in a car crash and she’s been in the hospital for a long time,

7. He ends up finding out he is an illegitimate child,

8. West gets a job for the first time in his life,

9.  He starts up at a new school,

10. Haley’s family lost their home, and now they live with her crazy uncle,

11. She chose her boyfriend over her family, which she now knows was a huge mistake ,

12. She gave up her love of fighting after she and Matthew (her crazy boyfriend) had a fight that turn into a hitting match,

13. And she has to train West so Matthew doesn’t beat him in the ring,

14. And she still has to work, go to school, and be home by curfew or else her family will get kicked out of their temporary home.

Haley’s list of issues makes sense; there are a lot them, but they make a lot of sense. Basically her dad got laid off, they lost their house, they stayed in the homeless shelters but then had to leave, and now she and her family are stuck with her uncle, who is very, very evil. It was kind of like dominos, one thing leading up to the next until there was nothing left to knock over. It’s a lot, but in the fictional realm, it was totally believable. West, however, is a different story.

 I loved West when I read “Crash Into You.” Sure, he was a jerk, but you could tell he loved his sister Rachel and the rest of his family; he was just jacked-up like  the rest of his siblings. I could tell, while reading “Crash Into You,” that he had everything in him that was necessary for a great male lead. He was actually shaping up to be the kind of male character that would steal my heart away completely, like Kaleb from “Timepiece” or Thorne from “Cress.” Cheeky and smart, characters who’ve been through a lot and it’s jaded them, but they still have good hearts underneath it all. Obviously I was looking forward to seeing West after “Crash Into You,” but looking back on “Take Me On,” I feel like I had a better understanding of him in “Crash Into You” than I did in his own book. Again, it was because I never felt like I saw him; I wanted to but there were too many other things going on, and I didn’t the chance to connect with the character. To me that was heartbreaking because I was really looking forward to getting to know who West was, and how he was going to grow as a person.

I was constantly told that West had accomplished all of these things like, he was getting better grades, he loved his job and was good at it, but I never saw him study and he never stayed at work for long while I read his scenes. How did he have time to sleep in his car, find a shower somewhere, study, go to school, work, and then meet Haley to train? That is what frustrated me so much, and I wish that the situational drama had been less so I could have seen West do and accomplish all these things. Katie has always had a good amount of drama in her books, but she balanced it really well with calm or emotionally revealing moments between the characters so you got to know them. Here are some examples from the previous two books.

“Dare You To” endearing moments:

1. When Ryan gave Beth the ribbon,

2. When Ryan gave Beth the bottle of rain,

3. When Ryan taught Beth to swim,

4. And the moment when they are talking in the old barn.

Those are just a few moments between the two of them that broke my heart but also mended. There are so many other good scenes in “Dare You To” between both these characters and their friends/family that really make them come alive as people, and I loved that!

“Crash Into You” endearing moments that won me over forever and always:

1. The moment when Isaiah and Rachel are in the bar hiding,

2. When Isaiah steps in between Eric and Rachel at her school when Eric threatens her,

3. When Isaiah shows Rachel his favorite thinking place that only his friend, Abby, knows about,

4. After Rachel gets in her accident and West builds her a pulley device so she can work on her Mustang,

5. And when Rachel strikes up a friendship with Abby.

Like “Dare You To” there are so many other great moments that make you care for these characters, but these were the ones that came to mind. Sadly, I don’t feel that “Take Me On” had any really good moments that endeared the story to me. West did have good character growth by the end of the book, but I never really got to see it happen. And with Haley, I just didn’t care because I couldn’t connect with her. She was a flat-liner for me, unlike Beth and Rachel.

I hope you can see where I’m coming from. I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t have the magic for me that the other two did. I still love Katie McGarry, but this was a miss for me.

ahhh

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)

the winner's curse marie rutkoski

“The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski

5 out of 5 stars.

Music is seventeen-year-old Kestrel’s Achilles’ heel. It is her comfort, and if someone ever asked where her heart lay, she would probably say it dwells in keys of her piano. It is a strength, a talent, but it is also a curse in some ways, too. Kestrel never thought of it that way until after one fateful day in the market when she found out just how bad her weakness for music was. Kestrel could never have prepared herself for what was to come because of her choice that day, how a purchase of a slave could change her life, her world, forever.

The young man’s eyes had glittered that afternoon with something very familiar to Kestrel: rebellion. She had purchased him mostly because the slaver claimed he could sing, but also because of that look in his eyes, and she wondered if she’d found someone with the same fire burning in them that burned within herself. Kestrel, however, finds herself to instantly regret the purchase when he refuses to sing for her, kindred spirit or not. What was she thinking, buying a slave for so much money just because the slaver said he could sing? But there is more to this slave boy than meets the eye, more than Kestrel could have ever imagined. As the world around her begins to crumble, Kestrel wonders if this slave could be her savior, or if he will be the death of her.

“The Winner’s Curse” is a really hard book for me to review because I honestly don’t know how to put into words what I felt while reading it. Where do I start? Should I begin this post with how much I loved it, how beautifully and intricately woven the plot is, or how the characters grow on you the more time you spend with them, just like an actual person would? I just don’t have the right words to describe this book; anything I say in the written word won’t do this story justice, and that bums me out. A lot. *Sighs*

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Despite not knowing exactly what to say, I am still going to write a review for this book.

 Okay, I think that the wisest place to start this post is with Marie Rutkoski’s world. Can I just say how gorgeous it is before I write anything else? It’s gorgeous, and I LOVED it! Kestrel doesn’t belong to our world; hers is make-believe, but it feels so real the way Marie wrote it that it seemed more like a beautifully written history book! I felt like I was being drawn into the story, and Kestrel’s world really came alive. One of  the reasons that I think made it came alive for me was that Marie’s world is modeled after the Roman-Greco period in history, which just so happens to be my favorite. I love the Roman and Grecian influences that are in “The Winner’s Curse” because they added so much depth and weight to the story, and it made for a more believable story. I feel that Marie did a great job of drawing from these two magnificent civilizations while still making Kestrel’s world her own. I think that is one of the (many) reasons that made this such a stunning read for me.

Besides Marie Rutkoski’s beautiful world building, I loved how cunning and intelligent her characters were. They were shrewd, and calculating and I liked that because you didn’t know exactly what they were thinking, or completely understand their intentions. They held their cards close to their chests, and the author waited until precisely the right moment to have them lay one down; one card was revealed at a time, and it made for a slowly building that eventually blew my mind! I mean, my brain was making the connections and putting things together, so not everything was a surprise, but it was kind of fun to read into actions and to understand what a character was doing without being told. It was clever of the author because it made me even more invested in the book and its characters.

I feel that there is a character in this book for everyone to choose from, and I personally became a fan of Ronan, one of Kestrel’s friends. (Yeah, I know, I tend to go for the sweet friend who’s always been there for the main female character. I guess I’m predictable, but I prefer to call it faithful and dependable). Ronan was an intelligent character, with a good wit that made me smile whenever he was around, and he cared deeply for Kestrel even though she didn’t care for him that way in return. Unrequited love just so happens to be one of the many afflictions ninety percent of the characters I like end up experiencing, so it’s no surprise that I fell for him. Let me warn you now, though, if I ever REALLY like a character and you want them to either be alive at the end of a book, or end up with your other favorite character, run far, far away! I’ve accepted this fact in life, but sometimes it still hurts (except for the very few, but very precious times that my OPTs have ended up together. They are rare but sweet!). Ronan is one of those times, but you know what, I am just looking forward to seeing more of him in this series even if all he will ever be is a friend to Kestrel. I can live with that. All of the characters in this story, though, are all really well developed; there are no pointless or meaningless characters in this book because they all serve some kind of purpose, and there’s also no filler in this book, which is new and refreshing.

What I really want to explain now is what made me realize that I liked “The Winner’s Curse.” For most of the it I wasn’t thinking about what I liked or disliked about this book, I was just absorbed in the story and experiencing each moment alongside the characters. The moment that I realized just how much I loved this book, I had been reading the last fifty or sixty pages, and it was a scene between Kestrel and Arin. Before that moment I hadn’t thought about my likes or dislikes, whether I wanted them together or not, or if I even liked them as individuals. I hadn’t thought about any of those things until after they were in the kitchen, and they had this really beautiful moment together. This scene with them doesn’t last long at all, but afterwards I noticed that I had been holding my breath in anticipation. I don’t know what I was waiting for, but I had been waiting for something.

“The Winner’s Curse” is the first book to do that to me. Sure, I’ve screamed at  books/book characters before, I’ve held my breath in dread or fear, and even in excitement, but this is the first book that made me sit, literally, on the edge of my seat, waiting for something, anything to happen. After the moment passed I was kinda like,

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That was the moment when I figured out that I loved “The Winner’s Curse.” I guess the best way to describe it is that this story, its characters, and its world, they all snuck up on me. I was just going along with the story when suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was like, “Wow, I really love this book!” After I had finished it, I went to discuss the book with my sister and all I could say was, “Uhhhhh,”, and, “It just snuck up on me!” I sounded like an idiot and I probably looked like one too because I just kept repeating myself over and over again, blinking in shock.

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I looked like a fool, but it was totally worth it!

“The Winner’s Curse” was a stunning read. I feel that it and “The One” by Kiera Cass are, so far, my epic reads of 2014. I love a lot of books, but only a few have the potential to be eternally epic stories. What Marie and Kiera have in common, and why I love their books so much, is that their societies, worlds, plots, and characters are all beautifully thought out, intricate, flawed, and real despite being fictional; they stay with you even after you’ve walked away. You can tell that they’ve put their hearts and souls into their books, and that in turn makes you invest more in the stories they write. That is how I differentiate a good book from an epic one. They make me speechless in a really good way kind of way.

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Bravo, Marie Rutkoski!!