Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

winner's-crime
Published March 3, 2015 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WINNER’S CURSE.

Following your heart can be a crime

A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?

Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world…and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner’s Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Rating: ★★★★★

I would like to say this book had too much romance, but then I’d be a hypocrite because I enjoyed everything between Kestrel and Arin so, so much. Even if many moments threatened to shatter my heart. And if you thought the schemes and trickery in The Winner’s Curse had been intense, the entire plot of this sequel will blow your mind to Mars.

At the end of the first book, we weren’t really left with an antagonist as Valoria was generally seen as this huge impending force of doom, Kestrel’s father was still someone she loved and his actions had (mostly) good intentions, Irex had been outsmarted by Kestrel (then died), and Cheat wound up dead. But fear not because you will soon meet the emperor of Valoria, a conniving prick and all-time pain in the ass. His despicable nature, in my opinion, can definitely hold a torch up to the King of Adarlan from the Throne of Glass series. Continue reading “Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski”

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell
Published: 10 September 2013
St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 438 pages
Source: Library

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A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family, and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

 

Rating: ★★★★½

Finishing Fangirl was like stepping out of a vibrant and incredible reality into a much duller one. Throughout the book, I felt like I was living Cath’s life and not reading at all! The only times where I did felt like I was reading written work were the parts with extracts from Cath & Wren’s fanfiction or the Simon Snow novels. Somehow, Rowell has the ability to create a heartwarming and incredible story without needing any extravagant plot twists or adrenaline-filled action.

I found this novel an utterly relatable read because I, myself, am a fangirl too (I don’t write fanfic like Cath does though). It made me wonder whether – or when – I would outgrow the fandoms that mean so much to me right now. Honestly, it’s a scary prospect because like Cath, I have a few fandoms that I invest a lot of time in and being a fangirl is one of the things I know how to do best. Basically, I found Fangirl utterly thought-provoking and I think anyone who is invested in any fandom would understand too.

Due to the complete realism of Fangirl, I actually found it hard to rate it because it felt like rating reality. And really, how can you rate real life and living in general? Because that was exactly what this novel was like – living. The characters were all so vibrant and palpable; sometimes it seemed as if I could simply step into the novel and start a conversation with them!

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was its imperfect characters. Not a single person in the story was physically faultless and although it was a little odd for me not to picture Levi, Cath and everyone else as flawless angels at first, I loved it anyway because it made them so real. That probably contributed a major part to the thin veil between the book and reality.

As for the romance, it was stunningly endearing. Forget great romantic gestures; Levi and Cath were all the little details that added up to one amazing first love affair. Their relationship didn’t feel like a love story, it was more like something that could actually happen to you or anyone you know. That, however, did not make it any less romantic than other epic tales of love. In fact, it made it more so!

Fangirl was not simply a romantic story, it contained so much more. I loved how Cath grew and learned with every little event during her freshman year in college despite not wanting anything to change. Her struggle with growing up and moving on is something everyone have faced, is facing, or will face one day and Rowell beautifully showed that sometimes, we just need to let go and carry on (no pun intended).

Overall, Fangirl was a refreshing and unique read, different from any other contemporary novel I’ve read. Simply but poignantly written, it is a wonderful story that can touch the hearts of many different kinds of people because it emphasizes on feelings and experiences most of us have in common. Therefore, I would recommend this enchanting novel to anyone and everyone and really look forward to reading more of Rainbow Rowell’s books!

Adelena

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales
Published: 17 September 2013
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Hardcover, 276 pages
Source: Library

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All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ’ing.

But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

An irresistible novel about hope, heartbreak and the power of music to bring people together.

Rating: ★★★★

Unlike many reviews I’ve seen of This Song Will Save Your Life, I’m not going to wax poetry about how relatable a character Elise was. Instead of empathizing with her, I felt more sympathy and pity towards her. That might be due to the fact that I don’t usually mix well with books dealing with the topic of bullying. I’m one of those people who are pretty unaffected by whatever others say about me so it’s harder for me to see eye to eye with someone who cares a lot about how others think.

However, the difference between Elise and other protagonists that had been bullied was that she could still think logically. It relieved me greatly that Elise was a smart girl and knew when she was being dramatic and/or stupid.

Although This Song Will Save Your Life revolved a lot around music, I can’t say I knew many of the songs mentioned. Generally, most people would find my taste in music bad and I’m pretty sure Elise would’ve agreed (she didn’t seem like the sort who would love Taylor Swift, Fifth Harmony, The Wanted & all the other pop artists I listen to). Despite not knowing much of the music, I could still feel the suitability of each mentioned song with its respective scenes simply by the title or the lyrical quotes.

As for the characters, they all seemed quite vibrant on the surface but lacked a certain realistic quality and depth, apart from Elise and her family. Vicky and Elise’s friendship did not have enough development so it seemed as if they became best friends just out of the blue. Admittedly, I always thought Char was not the permanent & lasting sort of guy but whether or not I was right would not be mentioned for the sake of preventing spoilers. It is also worth mentioning that the romance was not a humongous part of the story.

This Song Will Save Your Life was not as spectacular as I had wished it would be but it was still a thoroughly emotional and lovely read. Actually, for the first time ever, I cried out of pity for a character. I usually bawl over books when I put myself in whatever horrid situation the character is in but with Elise, just thinking about anyone else feeling the way she did made me want to die from sorrow.

I might even have been in denial that life could be so unfair and cruel. But that could be due to the fact that I’ve never been bullied or never really noticed had I ever been bullied.

All in all, This Song Will Save Your Life was an intense but quick read with sprinkles of hilarity and dollops of meaningful life lessons. Any fan of contemporary YA fiction would most likely gobble this one up!

Adelena