Sunday, March 23, 2014

Early Review: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson

In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assasin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

~A copy was provided by Macmillan for review~

I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading this, but The Kiss of Deception was so much more intense than I'd expected it to be. Have you ever picked up a book, in the mood for a whimsical romance complete with drama, and then realized you were getting more than you bargained for? That's what reading this book felt like; the fact that there was an immense plot behind the main character, Lia, a young girl looking for a little love, was what made this book so...serious. Yet beautiful. It's been a while since I've encountered a book like this.

The first book that comes to mind when thinking of possible relatives to this novel is Warrior Princess by Allan Frewin Jones. Both were stories of princesses and fate, and both had the same fierceness to the plot and the MC. However, The Kiss of Deception had more of a romantic base to it. Speaking of romance, the assassin and the prince? They were the most unique male heros I've ever encountered. 

I had the hardest time choosing between the two characters; none of them fit into the stereotypic "arrogant prick turns loving" category that I usually choose my favorite book boyfriends from. I'm sure one of the guys fit the category more than the other, but it was just so impossibly hard to tell which. After getting a little more than halfway through the novel, I finally picked a man for Lia, but new events kept piling onto each other and by the time I finished reading I was doubting my choice. I feel like Kaden, the assassin, is more the complicated boyfriend-type I usually root for, while Rafe, the prince, is this unusual combination between nice-guy and soft-pushy guy. I'm astounded that the author managed to create two of the most unique male characters the book world has ever seen!

The world-building was breathtaking. It was incredible how we learned more about Lia and her world the further we got into the story. Each dialogue and thought increased our knowledge; it was surprisingly easy to see myself as Lia and to understand where she was coming from with all of her decisions. That doesn't mean I agree with everything she did - she gives her love away too easily - but she always had a reason. This amazing world filled with warring kingdoms and dastardly plots was only enhanced by the paradoxical innocence and maturity of the main character.

I'm not quite sure about how I feel about the ending. Almost none of the reader's questions are answered, and he's forced to wait another year to find out more. All of the characters are together once more, and many deceptions that the reader knew, but the characters didn't, are revealed. There still isn't a clear answer to who Lia chose, and while that has got my curiosity one edge, I can see why that would be a benefit in the next book. Personally, I thought the second half of the book was better than the first half, and going off of that, I'm hoping the second book, The Heart of Betrayal, will be even better than the first.

The Kiss of Deception is a consuming story about a girl trying to live her life the way she wishes, who then realizes that fate has other plans in store for her. I feel that fans of GracelingThe Arcana Chronicles, and other such fantasy novels will be the most likely to enjoy this book; it has the same gist to it. I sincerely believe that this is a well-written novel, and a great start to the author's dabblings in high fantasy.
Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Releases: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: YA, High Fantasy

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mini Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

~A copy was provided by Macmillan for review~

Surprisingly, I had little to no expectations for this book. I'd seen the cover around and fallen in love with it at first sight, but I never really knew what the novel was about, probably because I skimmed through the synopsis. It was a 'read now' on Netgalley for a while though, and I just had to get the ARC everyone was talking about. Two reviews I read stuck in my mind, one praising the book with 5 hot expressos (Jenni @ Xpresso Reads) and one not quite loving it (Giselle @ Book Nerd). As soon as I started reading, however, my mind was blown and everything around me - including my many upcoming tests - fell away.

Kestrel is everything I could want in a main character. She's beautiful, intellectual, humble, and uniquely privileged. She also doesn't exactly believe that slaves are property; she actually cares for them, some more than others. She'd also rather play the piano that fight, which is independent of many heroines featured in today's popular novels. Beauty and smarts, what more could a girl want, right?

And Arin. Don't even get me started on him. He was just perfect! He had that perfect combination of stoic unforgiving ness and thoughtful protector. In short, that boy was HOT! And it helped that even as a slave he had that certain regal bearing that Kestrel (and I!) seemed to crave.

As a fan of Disney, I can't even begin to tell you how giddy I was when certain parts of the novel began resembling Disney films. Whenever I think of The Winner's Curse, I also think of Mulan 2. There was just something about the end that resembled the movie, but unlike Mulan, the ending wasn't resolved. If I could have any book in the world at this moment, I'd want the sequel to this.

The world-building was amazing, although even after reading I'm not exactly sure if this is historical fiction, dystopia, or a combination of both. All I know for sure is that this book was beautiful and anyone who disagrees is crazy;) I'd be surprised if I find a better book than this within the year.

This is a beautiful yet complicated romance between two teens on opposite sides in both conflict and class, and I believe all fans of fantasy will enjoy the novel. And if you don't? Well, then there isn't much to say, is there? Kidding. Sort of...
Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Released March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: Romance, High Fantasy

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: Bound (The Guardians #1) by M.J. Stevens

‘No good deed ever goes unpunished, Mellea…’

Mellea Wendorn hasn’t exactly had a normal life. Misfortune seems to follow her, and her family, wherever she goes.
However, when Mellea stops to assist a mysterious young man suddenly her prior hardships seem trivial.

His name is Leo. He is a Successor, a child of the Guardians of Selestia.

He is royalty.
He is handsome.
And he wants Mellea completely to himself.

Unable to escape the Guardian's laws, Mellea must learn the ways of the royals. She is convinced her life can’t get much worse. But when a timeworn Guardian enemy arises from the shadows, Mellea must make a choice that will change her destiny forever.

~A copy was provided by Xpresso Reads for review~

This novel was a very...interesting read, and not the type of book I usually go for. The only reason I requested this book was because of the "royalty" concept, and as a huge fan of Disney and princes, I just couldn't stop myself. While even in the beginning my hopes weren't high, it was pretty much what I expected: vague, and without a properly-built setting. The romance was kind of cute and honestly probably the only reason I read this book until the end. Thankfully, the novel was a quick read, and it managed to keep my interest enough for me to keep going back.

The MC, Mellea, was a slightly annoying character; she grated on my nerves. A lot. In the first half of the book she was blindly argumentative, believing everything her father ever told her about the Guardians. Then when she meets Leo for the first time, she can't seem to do anything but nag and inform him of how much of a monster he is (despite the fact that the only time he becomes a monster is when Mellea calls him that). I have no idea how Leo could stand her, let alone want to be united with her. Of course he had his problems too, but they were more of the teenage boy issues you'd expect in a rich guy.

Lucky for me, naggy Mellea was present only in the first part of the book. Towards the end, it was all clingy Melle...which it turns out is ever worse. At this part:

"I squeal a little and tuck closer behind Leo,"

I think I snorted. How does a girl who goes around shouting at Guardians who have the power to kill her suddenly hide behind them? I'd have been more impressed if she used that as a move on Leo:/ I know I usually prefer MCs who aren't totally independent and still have a need for a little bit of romance, but Mellea was just pathetic. I have to say at this point I kind of missed her courage and nagging. It doesn't help that she's the only one of three "brides" who didn't get to learn combat. My reaction was even worse when I read this:

"Leo shouts, 'Arin, do not be so graphic around Mellea! She is not ready to hear that kind of talk.'" I can't even--. So now Mellea is so fragile that she can't even hear about death? I mean, come on! At this point I had almost no patience for the girl. I'd be lying if I said I could stand her. I suppose it turns out that independence really does look good on a girl. However, her weaknesses aren't the only reason I didn't enjoy reading the novel from her perspective. I'd have been completely fine with her fear of death if she had always been like that, but earlier in the novel, when the Lady Guardian died - a sweet, beautiful lady who gave her great advice how to make the best of her situation - the only thought Mellea could come up with was:

"There was still so much more I hoped to learn from her."

I believe that was exactly where my dislike of Mellea first started getting into the extremes. What kind of person thinks that after someone dies? I'd expect compassion at the death of an enemy, let alone a kind queen. And anyways, how does a person go from this unloving-unloved character to being a scaredy-cat? It just seems like a lot of personality changes, making the MC a character I just couldn't connect with.

So like I mentioned, the romance was what kept me reading. For example, Leo and Mellea's first meeting was adorable. There was that whole "I hate you but I'm mesmerized by you" thing going on, and some of the barbs exchanged just cracked me up. Here's my favorite scene with Mr. Guardian Successor:

"'What is your name?' Leo unexpectedly asks.
'Mellea Wendorn,' I say. I have no idea why I felt a need to throw in my last name. In fact I should have used a fake name. Geez I'm a moron.
Leo mumbles, 'That is a very strange name. I do not really care for it.'"

Though scenes like this were my favorite part of the book, after reading I felt like this wasn't my usual age group of books. I have a feeling that the novel is aimed more at people in middle school, though maybe that's just me. The lack of world-building and the not-so-intricate plot only glued that idea into my head even more strongly. I don't mean to be rude, but I feel like this is the type of book that I'd end up writing if I ever tried, a book with a tiny plot that's shoved aside in favor of the romance (of course, any book of mine would be a thousand times worse). Nevertheless, I got the same feeling after reading the book that I did when I first saw the cover of Bound: that it just wasn't that great.

Bound is an interesting novel that will fulfill any young reader's desire for a cute romance, but the lack of plot development and the presence of a double-personality main character encouraged me to turn away. As a side note though, while I had, in fact, planned not to read the next book in the series, that nice little cliffhanger at the end is making me doubt my decision >.<
Title: Bound
Author: M.J. Stevens
Released: January 21, 2014
Publisher: M.J. Stevens
Genre: Fantasy, Romance