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The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

51j9LzJVw6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Winner’s Curse

In the conquered colony of Herran, Kestrel lives with her father, the renowned top general of the Valorian Empire, a strict man who is constantly gone fighting battles for the Emperor. Valoria had conquered Herran over ten years before and made its citizens slaves. Though Kestrel doesn’t like the slavery practice, Valorian rule has made this a fact of their society, but Kestrel has sympathies for the Herran since her nurse was one and she mothered her after her real mother died.

Since Kestrel is seventeen, she is rapidly approaching her future: whether she will join the military as her father wishes (despite not being very gifted in physical pursuits) or she must marry. When Kestrel attends a slave auction on accident, she somehow finds herself the owner of a beautiful yet defiant young man, later known as Arin. Her feeling of kinship with him grows as she finds herself drawn to his rebellious nature, and as they get closer, she discovers the price of buying him, a human being, might actually be a lot higher than she ever anticipated–an occurrence known as the winner’s curse.

20443207The Winner’s Crime

Kestrel has escaped from Herran and the rising rebellion led by Arin and his associates and made it to the Empire where she’s brokered a deal for keeping Herran as a territory allowing them to govern themselves but pay tribute to the Empire while the Emperor and his forces concentrate on nearby Dacra. In exchange, Kestrel will be the bride of the young heir to the Empire, Verex. Rather than still considering herself loyal to the Empire, Kestrel only knows she would do anything to try and save Arin’s life, since he will be among the first to be killed in retribution from the Empire. The Emperor has congratulated himself in finding a suitable bride for his son, especially since she is the daughter of his esteemed general and friend, earning the love of the military and ensuring his soft son has a wife who is capable of diplomacy and shrewd calculation. However, when Arin comes for the nuptials, everything falls apart as Arin can’t understand Kestrel’s motives and compromises her cover, and Kestrel faces the possibility of her betrayal and potential death.

51fuF8JdBjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Winner’s Kiss

After Kestrel was sent to a work camp in the north for her betrayal of the Emperor, she is believed to be married to the prince and honeymooning until her unfortunate death. Meanwhile, Arin is preparing for war against Valoria until he discovers that Kestrel, whom he thought was using him, was actually his spy and was captured. Arin secretly steals away to rescue her, bringing her back a changed woman, one whose prison and resulting drug abuse has caused a mental affliction and she must relearn everything about herself and her memories. Arin is also learning to trust and lead his people and maintain the alliance with Dacra. Will they manage to defeat the Empire and gain freedom once and for all?

This was a solid series! I very much enjoyed reading it, and did so pretty quickly. It has a lot of action and romance while also having good world building and well-rounded characters. The ending was satisfying even if I thought it could have had more meat towards the end, especially with resolving Arin/Kestrel’s relationship and the ones with Prince Verex and their Dacran allies. This was mostly clean, and suitable for at least 8th grade and above. One of the best things I appreciated was how Kestrel grew up throughout the series. First she was fairly intimidated and scared of her father’s reaction, but she slowly learns to stand up for herself and what she believes in until the severe consequences no longer matter just so she can achieve what she believes is right. It’s very much a lesson in self-advocacy and coming-of-age.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

23305614Finding Audrey

Fourteen-year-old Audrey has had a traumatic past few months. She’s left school due to a bullying incident, one that left her hospitalized and living with an anxiety disorder. She wears dark glasses, can’t leave the house except to visit her therapist, and reacts badly to everyone else except her family. In trying to get better, Audrey begins a film project where she has to view her family in their ordinary life and in so doing starts to tell her own story. Her brother Frank is a gamer, her mum is obsessed with the Daily Mail and convinced something is wrong with Frank and his computer games, her father is sweet but dragged along with her mother’s hysteria and her little brother Felix is a typical preschooler–one minute loving and delighted with the world and the next minute a demanding little dictator. When Audrey’s therapist Dr. Sarah tells Audrey she needs to make more effort in contact with others, Audrey begins to talk to Linus, her brother’s best friend, and she finds him to be a real friend who understands some of her “lizard brain” symptoms, the description she uses for her ‘flight’ response and anti-social reactions. Through her relationship with Linus and at Dr. Sarah’s direction, Audrey begins to really gain momentum in her recovery and understand how to cope with her extreme anxiety, making this an inspiring and relatable story for any tween or teen.

I listened to this book on audio and it was hilarious. Spectacular audio acting job. Audrey’s mum sounds just like a more hysterical Molly Weasley. The characters are well-drawn and real-to-life, though the romance between Linus and Audrey is a bit too predictable. This book will appeal to both teens and tweens and depicts dealing with a mental disorder with frankness and careful consideration. The one downside is we never discover the real scenario where Audrey was bullied or see her in her new future. Otherwise, readers will find this refreshing, real, and delightful.

 

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The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews today posting about The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, the first in her Lady Helen series. Click the picture or here to read!

 

 
 

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Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin

25372971Tell Me Something Real

William C. Morris Award finalist for 2017

In San Diego, California, three sisters deal with the realities of their mother’s leukemia and their double life in Tijuana, Mexico where their mother attends treatment. Instead of parents who take care of them, it is the girls who take care of their family. While visiting the clinic for her mother, Vanessa, the middle sister, meets a young man, Caleb, on remission from leukemia and they form a close bond. Caleb and his mother even come live with their family when Vanessa’s mom becomes terminal, and Vanessa feels like she has love despite the stress of her mom and their life. Vanessa also begins to really discover the strength of her dreams of playing the piano and planning for her future. However, when Caleb and his mom leave suddenly, Vanessa decides to find out what secrets they’ve uncovered, and in doing so, she and her sisters must face the worst possible betrayal and their lives change forever.

I don’t typically read books about chronic illness, since it’s something that gives me anxiety. However, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars definitely changed that for me, so now I am simply more careful about what I read. Still, I was really intrigued about this book as it really shows a different perspective of illness. Vanessa and her family are not typical. Her mother has been ill for a long time, and Vanessa and her sisters are basically running the house so their father can continue working and making the only income they have (even if his boss is horrible and not understanding of the family situation). Vanessa is still normal though and wants to live her own life. When she meets Caleb, she gets to be a little bit more normal for awhile, and their romance is sweet and real. The real test for Vanessa is when the plot twist occurs and disrupts everything. It is Vanessa who has to deal with all the fallout and who is the hardest hit by everything. It becomes more about what choices she will make because of it, and how that will then affect the rest of her family. She also discovers the value of truth and trust in a way that closely echoes real life. Vanessa becomes a tough heroine and I had a lot of sympathy for her.

This book might speak to any teen who has been deeply betrayed and is learning to trust again. The story is more for high school teens, better for juniors and seniors as it relates to a similar time in their lives when they are choosing their futures and displaying their true selves.

 

 
 

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Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken (Passenger, 2)

Once again, I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews discussing Wayfarer by Alex Bracken, the sequel to Passenger. Click the picture to follow the link or click here!

wayfarer by alexandra bracken passenger 2

 

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