Friday, 26 September 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Book Summary : "Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197."

The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.

Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.

Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


My Thoughts : My thoughts are conflicted for The Jewels.

The book started off really well, and no doubt, resembled a few other dystopians I have recently read. The story itself is brilliantly crafted…or would have been if it weren't for the insta-love running all the fun.

The protagonist,Violet Lasting is special breed of girl, raised and groomed to be a surrogate, to bear the offspring for rich women in the heart of the city—the Jewel, who are incapable of giving birth. In her world, girls like Violet are defined by the very same number they score in Augury Test. At the auction, Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, and thrown into a lavish world of balls and dresses and wealth. She soon discovers the truth that lurked beneath the glittering facade of The Jewel, where surrogates like her are treated like dogs, cradled with gifts if they comply, punished if they disobey.

The world building is more like a cocktail of high fantasy punched with dystopian. The city is divided into rings (which reminds me of The Midnight Thief). The outer most is the Farm (Obviously, the farmlands), next to it was Marsh (where our MC hails from), then the Smoke (the factories), the Bank (business district) and innermost in the Jewel (where the nobles live). There are facilities for training the surrogates. Each of surrogates possess unique Auguries—a kind of magic that wasn't explained well—such as growing a bud into a flower, changing colors etc etc.

I must say the politics was done well—one reason that kept me at the edge of my seat. The backstabbing, the cruelty, how a royal could stoop low to even have a surrogate killed.

Violet Lasting, is not a bad protagonist either, but in places her narration was flat—monotonous. She is mostly compliant and given her situation—being groomed for years to be submissive—I understand that, played her part of a damsel in distress. However, she undergoes a character development, but not until very late in the book.

What ruined this book for me, as I've said before, is the insta-love. The love interest, Ash, appears in the second half of the book, and the moment he enters, Violet falls in love at first sight, thinks about kissing him later the same night, which quickly escalated into confessions on true love and kissing in their third meeting.

All that aside, this book has potential and a likable read. The story ended with an evil cliffhanger, left me with wanting more and I’ll continue the series as to how events will turn in the next installment.




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Friday, 19 September 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski


Book Summary : 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.

My Rating : 5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : It was probably the most beautifully written book I've read in this year. Lyrical. Poetic. A sweeping, original story set in a high fantasy world inspired by Greco-Roman world, and without any unnecessary interference of magic.

Kestrel, the only daughter of Valorian general, impulsively buys a slave up for auction, and pays an intrinsic value. But Arin has his own plans. Kestrel soon learns that the price she paid for a slave is much steeper than she ever could have imagined.

Arin was defying for a slave. He didn't even behave like one, and his proximity to Kestrel could be unbelievable and bothersome to many, but it was something impressing as well. He was devoted to his cause, but without hurting Kestrel, adding so much depth and understanding to his character. His strength wasn't only physical, but in his determination to persevere for his enslaved country and for his love as well. Arin’s character was meant to be bold, blatant by how he spoke, but at the same time, it wasn't hard for me to see what Kestrel saw in him.

And for Kestrel, her character development was fantastic. I was impressed to see how selfish, and flawed she were, yet how selflessly she made decisions when time came. She was strong, but the strength wasn't necessarily physical. It was her intelligence. And this is the type of heroine that is much more interesting to read than sword-wielding ones.

I immediately was rooting for Kestrel and Arin as a couple. Their relationship wasn't your typical romance, it was a slow-burning complex love that thrived on power play, both manipulation and trust. I didn't found then swooning over each other, but I certainly felt a strange passion igniting between them, a bond that gradually grew stronger with each encounter.

The world building was artfully captured in words--the Valorian culture, the banquets and balls, the society that lived on gossip, where fascinating costumes were complemented with jeweled daggers.

For fans who like romance as a sub-plot in a fantasy-lite, this is you your perfect read. It will squeeze you heart and poke your lungs with intimate pleasure of reading until you will feel the desperate need for air.





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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman


Book Summary : Where Emmeline lives, you cannot love and you cannot leave...

The Council's rules are strict, but they're for the good of the settlement in which Emmeline lives. Everyone knows there is nothing but danger the other side of the Wall, and the community must prepare for the freezing winterkill that comes every year.

But Emmeline struggles to be obedient under the Council's suffocating embrace - especially when she discovers that a Council leader intends to snatch her hand in marriage.

Then Emmeline begins to hear the call of the trees beyond the Wall...

My Rating : 3 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : "They are isolated....but not alone..."

Winterkill is basically a rip-off of the movie “The Village.”

Let me tell you the resemblances.

Both, the book and the movie, were set in a walled village/town in middle of nowhere, surrounded by deep forest where mysterious creature roams; the beings are called here “malmaci” and in The Village they were called "Those We Don't Speak Of."

Aside from the similarities with the movie, the Setting is vague. A very little history behind how the village came to existence is given. Two types of groups were told to survive from the old-world; the people who speak French and those who speak English, which led me to question, what happened to other democracies? How the Old World Kingdom (world as we know it now), met its end?

Sadly no explanation.

Speaking of the Characters, Emmeline, our protagonist is a Strained who bears the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination. She is also a cripple, pushed on an axe at a very young age by the villagers and broke her leg. Although, given her situation, I found her frail traits quite believable, but at times her reticence to speak up and wussy nature annoyed me. I liked her eagerness for knowledge and curiosity to discover the mystery outside village walls. Which ultimately led to her family history and secrets she never thought could exist.

Adding further to the list of similarities with The Village, a triangle between the MC, Kane—the boy she had a crush on and the village leader is introduced in the book.

However, the Romance between Em and Kane were sweet and well-developed. Kane was understanding and gorgeous and despite he lied to Em, given the reason behind it, he was easily forgivable. Gabriel, the mysterious young village most women swoon over, suddenly began showing interest in Em for no apparent reason. I have to admit I was misled by his sincerity and his impression of love. That loving someone doesn't mean the person you love will love you back. I liked the way Gabriel’s character was crafted, layer by layer, complex and psychotic.

For the Writing, had it been any other story I would've called the writing choppy (though not as choppy as Half Bad), but considering the MC is illiterate, and so are most of the people in the town, her voice felt absolutely suitable for her persona, somehow reminded me of Willo from After the Snow.

As final verdict, I’d say: Readers, give this book a chance. If not anything, I found it engaging. Though I already guessed the big reveal from a half book away, I kept reading and honestly one or two twist near the end I didn't see coming. Trust me, despite its flaws and holes, Winterkill is truly not a terrible book by any means.



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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Blog Tour : The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco


Book Summary : A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge", based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

My Rating : 3.5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : “I am where dead children go.”

For a book that stars with such line, it is sure as hell creepy, if not creepier like The Ring or Shutter, as the blurb promised us. Nonetheless, the book was dark and enjoyable. There were violence, gory and gritty enough for a YA standards.

The book starts with Okiku, a soul floating in dreamless trance, constantly watching over lives and other spirits like her. She sees a man carrying a weight of the girl he murdered, unaware of her decaying existence on his shoulders. But Okiku notices how her thin bony arms clasped about his neck and her legs balanced against his back, silently acknowledging presence of another nonentity just like her.

She also notices Tarquin a.k.a Tark from afar, a tortured young man. She senses having something malevolent in him and developed likeness, which at first was bit difficult for me to accept, however, I slowly grown to like their bond for was a bit slower to become likable but, once everything he went through is known, you can't help but feel for him. Both were characters I could easily sympathize with.

The Writing: Where some lines boasted their own beauty, gorgeous even, as a whole the writing felt inconsistent. Maybe because the sudden switching between first person narratives to third person narratives.

“You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.”

Also,

The tattooed boy is still sleeping on the cot, unmoving. His feet are
shackled, and his face is worn. Neither the girl nor the Smiling Man
crushkillcrushkillKILLKILL
sees the small blanket of black that rises around his form, though
in the small trickle of light it seems larger somehow, like it gains its
strength from places such as these.


And,

Something else blocks his vision.
The Smiling Man finds himself looking at a
woman
on the ceiling. The glow of candlelight catches only her face,
her long hair hanging down, and her bright black eyes. She is only
inches away, and she
gurgles.
It is the Smiling Man’s turn to scream, and the brief light is
suddenly extinguished.


Overall, The Girl from The Well, inspired by Japanese folktale Banchō Sarayashiki,
is a haunting and atmospheric novel. Recommended for the fans of a good ghost story.


About The Author :
Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Her work, The Girl from the Well, is a YA psychological horror novel due out in Fall 2014, pitched as "Dexter" meets "The Grudge". She is represented by Nicole LaBombard and Rebecca Podos of the Helen Rees Agency.

You can visit her on her website.

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