Archive | April 2016

Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3

the winner's kiss -marie rutkoskiSome kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?


3.5 Drink Me Potions

I honestly may have expected too much from this book. The Winner’s Kiss is the dramatic conclusion of the Winner’s Trilogy, filled with battles and Kestrel’s cunning wit to outsmart her homeland’s emperor and entire kingdom. Including her father, the general.

It picks up right where the previous book left off, thank goodness. What with all the incessant misunderstandings in the previous novel, I was starting to think that nothing could ever get rid of that underlying frustration I get whenever Arin and Kestrel are near each other.

So with abated breath, the story continues with Kestrel hauled off to the Middle of Nowhere as a prisoner of war. Shocker. Her father betrayed her.

I have always loved Rutkoski for her ability to still weave a great story without the unnecessary drama of a love triangle. Yes, the amount of misunderstandings was overwhelming but in a different way. However, the obstacle that keeps our two favourite people apart this time was unexpected and kind of brilliant in its own rights. I had wished that, as the title states, Kestrel better get that darn kiss she so deserves, and Rutkoski doesn’t disappoint in that either. I won’t ruin any of the romantic nuisances of it, but I think it can be satisfactory even for the harshest critics out there. It satisfied me, after all, and I most definitely criticized this.

Along with the much awaited reunion and final understanding between them, the story also spiked up in action. With allies from another kingdom come to help, they may actually stand a chance against the forces of Valoria. I wouldn’t say the book lacked in any suspense, but at times, it just felt a little slow to me when the army’s moving from this place to that while assessing the dangers from all fronts. Sure, that’s Kestrel’s thing, but it didn’t help pick up the pace any more.

What could have possibly added to this bit of slowness was the way Rutkoski writes. I do enjoy the way she can poetically describe a scene. It’s not all that colloquial or conversational. It’s great. To an extent. This kind of writing also makes me feel, as the reader, a little more detached emotionally from everything that’s going on. We move from what Kestrel’s feeling, and then to Arin, and back. All in a couple of sentences. My heart just wasn’t as invested into it as I could have been, I suppose. This may just be something up with me though.

All in all, this conclusion was satisfactory, in particular the ending. It ended off with a twist right up Kestrel’s alley and I was left hooting for joy at the way it all was splendidly handled.

Overall Recommendation:
Written in the beautifully poetic prose that’s come to be expected by Rutkoski, The Winner’s Kiss somewhat lives up to its name and provides a resounding conclusion both in battle and in love for our protagonists Kestrel and Arin. I wanted to love it more, but the occasional slowness to the plot and emotional detachment made it hard. Overall, the story provides everything that Rutkoski promised: retribution for the Herrani and an epic adventure that Kestrel and Arin lead us through.


Author Spotlight: Meg Cabot

So I’m pretty sure you know who Meg Cabot is, right? Like, I grew up on her books so she’s pretty important in my pages. Aha.

But, in case her name still doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure you indirectly know her. I will now commence in giving you prompts to jolt your memories.

Exhibit A)

Her 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series was made into an old TV show in the ’90s known as – well – Missing.

Exhibit B)

Disney has crafted her standalone novel Avalon High into a movie starring Britt Robertson (like, who doesn’t adore that girl-next-door kinda face?)

And lastly, if I have to come to Exhibit C for you to understand the vastness of her great works, I’m starting to think you don’t love YA as much as you think you do 😉

Exhibit C)

Meg Cabot started the very popular series The Princess Diaries, which as you guessed it (hopefully), has become a movie series as well starring none other than Anne Hathaway.

Now, I’m hoping this jogged your distant and vague memory of who she is because none of the above series/books are why I’m starring this Author Spotlight for her. Growing up, I adored her Mediator series about a girl, with the most hilarious sarcastic humor, who could see ghosts. And her job was, well, to mediate for them onto the afterlife.

No? Not jogging your memory because this series wasn’t made into a TV show/movie? Well, here’s the blurb for book 1.

shadowland -meg cabot

There’s a hot guy in Susannah Simon’s bedroom. Too bad he’s a ghost.

Suze is a mediator – a liaison between the living and the dead. In other words, she sees dead people. And they won’t leave her alone until she helps them resolve their unfinished business with the living.

But Jesse, the hot ghost haunting her bedroom, doesn’t seem to need her help. Which is a relief, because Suze has just moved to sunny California and plans to start fresh, with trips to the mall instead of the cemetery, and surfing instead of spectral visitations.

But the very first day at her new school, Suze realizes it’s not that easy. There’s a ghost with revenge on her mind… and Suze happens to be in the way.

As it is, Cabot’s Mediator series ended with the 6th novel, Twilight, back in 2005. To my utter amazement, drum roll please, a book 7 has been published this year that continues several years after the events of Twilight (which were satisfactory, don’t get me wrong – if Cabot had left me in a bind of a cliffhanger all these years, I would’ve stalked her down). And hence, for all you fans who loved Susannah Simon’s crazy ghost antics and her beloved ghost Jesse, I am pointing you all to Meg’s latest and probably, actually her last book in the Mediator series. (You’re welcome).


You can take the boy out of the darkness.
But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?
If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

If at the end of this blog and you still haven’t an iota of who the heck Meg Cabot is and her books, I do not judge you (much). The following link is to her Goodreads page and her website where you can browse through the multitude of books that she’s written in the last decades and learn more about her.



Now, if you really need a recommendation for where to start among all these books, as a girl who grew up on all her books, may I suggest the Mediator series? (totally not a biased suggestion here).

Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2

the winner's crime -marie rutkoski

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. 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… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.


2.5 Drink Me Potions

Kestrel’s adventures continue with The Winner’s Crime. Unfortunately, this one didn’t sit as well with me.

As you might come to expect of our dear protagonist, Kestrel’s cunning and oh so very smart. Where we left off from the previous novel, she’s in a dire predicament and her love, Arin, has no idea of what she’s done for him and his people’s sakes. Oh how I wanted to tear down a building in my frustration at that.

Here they were. Just about to really figure out that they loved each other, or that they could believe in each others’ feelings, but things tore them apart and now there are just HEAPS of misunderstanding.

This whole NOVEL is based on misunderstandings galore . From one encounter to the next, it’s like realizing the potential and strength of their love for one another is just on the tip of one of their tongues but SOMETHING, oh my goodness there’s always something, keeps them from confessing it or explaining their noble actions.

I won’t say that The Winner’s Crime suffers from Middle Book Syndrome. It doesn’t. There’s plenty of under-the-table kind of suspense building as kingdoms teeter on the brink of war. Alliances are made and broken. Where Kestrel and Arin stand as their worlds are about to fall apart may determine the outcome of their survival and their love’s survival.

But none of that CLOSURE happens in here. It’s like, so near the end, and I thought, YES, they’ve finally come to their senses about each other , only to have that dream dashed on the rocks. Kestrel’s got things up her sleeves that only her brain can really truly understand, but Arin, in his hurt, may ruin them all. So the kind of action and suspense in this middle book isn’t all-out fighting like its predecessor, yet it was still fascinating to see the heart of Valoria and the dark plots being hatched there.

I will end with this. The Winner’s Kiss better have a TON of making up between Aren and Kestrel. ‘Cause I’ve just about HAD it with their endless misunderstandings. I guess it’s one way of keeping up the romantic suspense without adding in a love triangle. I will, grumbling aside, acknowledge my thanks to Rutkoski for that fact.

Overall Recommendation:
The Winner’s Crime began where the previous book left off with our favourite cunning Kestrel trying to manipulate things from the heart of Valoria. However, she’s playing a dangerous game and the suspense racks up as we see how the dominoes may tumble from her actions. Meanwhile, the romantic suspense is just about killing me as Arin is bitter and has no idea of what Kestrel’s done for him. Where there seems to be moments and chances for reconciliation between the two, it never quite reaches that point in this book, thereby dashing away a higher rating and making me wanna hit my head against a brick wall. I will say you gotta read this (or at least skim this) as there’s essential plot twists here, but otherwise, I would save my breath for the final conclusion.