Book Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

(Goddess War #1)
by Kendare Blake
September 10, 2013
Tor Teen
336 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours


The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.(Goodreads Summary.)
**This is an ARC review.
Any quotes and excerpts are taken from an unfinished text and
are therefore subject to change before the final print**

Opening Line

The feathers were starting to be a nuisance.
My Take On It
Here’s the deal–I am an unapologetic classical mythology SNOB. The roots of my snobbery can be traced back to my childhood when I watched what is perhaps one of the WORST movies ever made: Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John. Never heard of it? Unless you’re my age you probably wouldn’t have, basically it was a disco-flavored roller skating movie (there you go, now you can guess the time frame) and was pretty forgettable. Anyway, Newton-John’s character was supposed to be one of the nine muses from Greek mythology, and a roller skating mortal falls for her (I told you it was BAD.)
Yes, that’s Olivia Newton-John and the Nine Muses and yes, she IS wearing leg-warmers.
But after I saw the movie and asked my mom who the Nine Muses were, she did something awesome. She went to the local book store and bought me a copy of D’aulaires’ Greek Myths. I was seven years old and I read that book cover to cover.

When I went to college I took a class in Ancient World Humanities and kicked ass because I knew all the Greek myths that were the inspiration for the classical sculpture, architecture and theatre we studied. In fact, I went on to get a degree in Art History and come back to team-teach a class on Classical Mythology through Art and Literature with the same professor who taught me that Humanities course.

The point I am trying to make is this: I LOVE classical mythology. But whenever I read a book that features a mythological storyline I tend to approach it with a fair amount of skepticism because it rarely lives up to my expectations. But on the same note I also go into it with a certain amount of hopefulness that this book will be THE ONE. The one book that totally sucks me in as a reader and does JUSTICE to those original myths and stories. Most of the time, this doesn’t happen. Usually the mythological retelling just doesn’t fly with me and falls short. There are exceptions. I haven’t read the entire series, but I think Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is very good MG fiction. My ten year old son loves that series. But as far as YA goes, I have been disappointed time and time again. Until now.

When I started Kendare Blake’s Antigoddess, I was anxious but hopeful. I really liked Anna Dressed in Blood– I liked the characters, I liked Blake’s writing and I LOVED the horror aspects. Blake can write some dark stuff guys, and I love that about her. So I was very curious about what she had in store for readers with Antigoddess. Happy to report that this book ROCKS.

So, of course what I loved most was the mythology. Blake has done what Riordan did with Percy Jackson, take those incredible myths, and the gods and goddesses that are featured in them, and put them in a modern day setting. But whereas Riordan’s works reads as very middle grade (and that’s ALL GOOD you guys, I’m a definite fan of MG lit) Blake’s spin is more mature, darker in tone, and decidedly more HIP.

In Antigoddess there are two storylines running parallel to each other: that of Athena, goddess of wisdom, the arts, and battle, and that of Cassandra, a high school girl living in upstate New York who has a knack for telling the future. Written in alternating third person pov, the first part of the book is paced a bit slow, but does slowly build up to the point where both storylines converge and then BAM! Things get very, very interesting.

Not to rehash the book’s summary, but in a nutshell, Athena and her brother Hermes, the cunning messenger god of thieves, trickery and travelers are somehow dying. And dying in the most unpleasant of ways. Athena, whose sacred bird is the owl, is sprouting feathers from the inside, Hermes is withering away to skin and bones. And Demeter, goddess of the harvest and agriculture, has been stretched into a leathery skin that is affixed to the Earth. It’s Blake’s descriptions of Athena’s affliction where her descriptive writing and flair for the dark and horrible shine the most. I promise that you will absolutely FEEL it when Athena reaches inside her mouth to pull a feather how out by it’s quill. It will give you SHIVERS.
The feathers were starting to be a nuisance. There was one in her mouth, tickling the back of her throat. She chewed at it as she walked, grabbed it with her molars and pulled it loose. Warm, copper-penny blood flooded over her tongue. There were others too, sprouting up inside of her like a strange cancer, worming their way through her innards and muscle. Before long she would be essentially a girl-shaped walking chicken, constantly plucking at herself.

Athena doesn’t know why this is happening but she does know that battle lines are being drawn and on the opposite side sits Poseidon, the powerful god of the sea and the cold and calculating Hera, queen of Olympus and Zeus’s first wife. They too are dying, and it’s up to Athena to discover why this happening before it triggers the end of the world.

Meanwhile Cassandra and her devoted boyfriend Aiden are completely oblivious to the fact that the ancient gods are lining up to do battle against each other. In fact, Cassandra has no clue that these gods even exist in reality. But as the summary says, she’s got a role to play in the upcoming war between the gods.

Ok, so if battles between the gods sounds somewhat familiar to you then it may be because one of the greatest epic poems ever written featured this theme. In the 8th century BC, Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. The Iliad told the story of the fall of the great city of Troy at the hands of the Greeks. And in that classic story, which featured the heroes Achilles and Hector; Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth; and a tragic prophetess named Cassandra who warned the Trojans to “beware Greeks bearing gifts”, the great gods and goddesses of Olympus chose sides, watching and very often interfering as the battle played out on the human stage. Antigoddess isn’t a retelling of that epic poem, but is instead a wholly original story that features many of it’s greatest figures.

And I mentioned Homer’s other poem The Odyssey, which tells the tale of Odysseus, a clever and cunning Greek who, at the hands of vengeful gods, embarks on a ten year journey home. I was thrilled to discover that many characters from this epic poem find their way into Antigoddess as well, and in some rather unexpected ways.

Had Blake simply expanded on these two classic works, which most scholars agree have had enormous impact and influence on Western literature, I would have been thrilled. But Blake takes it a step further by adding her own twists to these stories and characters and placing them in a modern setting. Athena, Hermes, Apollo and the other gods may look like modern young adults, but they also retain the characteristics that make them gods in the first place.

But what I really loved about Antigoddess was that Blake allowed her characters to become more than just gods dressed up like modern day humans. Her gods and goddesses have a surprising, or perhaps not so surprising considering they are dying, amount of humanity in them. And it’s this struggle to find balance between being a god and being a human, most notable in the characters of Athena and Apollo, that makes Antigoddess such a compelling read.

I also loved how the same concepts of free will versus destiny that Homer presents in The Iliad and The Odyssey are also examined by Blake in Antigoddess. When humans are used as playthings and throwaways for the gods, Cassandra and some of the other characters in Antigoddess refuse to take this lying down. This, along side the questions of what it means to be divine and what it means to be human, are what elevate Antigoddess to a book that is not only entertaining but thought provoking as well. It is what makes Antigoddess not just a good book, but a GREAT book.

And hey, romance fans, you’ll be pleased to know that there is plenty and on two fronts. I have to say that I love both romances, one is unexpected and fresh and I’m excited about the direction it is moving in. The other love story is well underway at the book’s start, but it’s the way it changes over the course of the book, and especially at the end, that gives it the potential to become truly epic by the end of this series. Yeah, I’m being vague but if I said more it would spoil and that would suck because I really think all you romantics out there (like ME!) are going to like what Kendare Blake’s got going on here. I have HIGH hopes, you guys. High hopes:)

And speaking of that–wow I have a TON of theories about where exactly this series is heading. The ending of Antigoddess is not a cliffhanger but there was a rather shocking event that I did not expect at all. My mind has been working overtime since I finished reading, wondering and speculating about what will happen next. You guys, I am absolutely HOOKED and the wait for the next installment in The Goddess Wars will definitely be a long one for me.

So, the bottom line is this: if you love mythology and like mythological themes and retellings in the books you read, Antigoddess is NOT to be missed. I finished this book and immediately wanted to dig out my dusty copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey for a re-read. Do you have to know those classic stories or a lot about classical mythology to enjoy Antigoddess? HECK NO. But I hope that after reading it you’ll be encouraged to pick up those amazing stories and discover them for yourself.

Antigoddess moves to my favorites of 2013 list– nice job, Kendare Blake:)

An Ember in the Ashes

20560137by Sabaa Tahir
April 28, 2015
464 pages
Source: ARC courtesy of publisher

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself. (Goodreads Summary.)

An Ember in the Ashes is, without a doubt, one of my, and I’m betting yours, most anticipated debuts of 2015. I’m pretty sure it had me at “terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world.” And I am here to tell you that this book TOTALLY lives up to that and all the other hype surrounding it. I’m not going to give a play by play of this book–why ruin it for you?– but let’s just say that I’m about 90% sure it’s going to be a hit. A BIG one.

First off its genre blending at its finest. Part fantasy, part dystopian, and part historical fantasy, there really is a little bit for everyone when it comes to this book. Plus I see it being marketed as a crossover for the adult readers too–it’s brutality and examination of numerous moral issues pretty much insures that.

Ember is told in dual narration– we meet Laia, the scholar girl (the lower, oft enslaved class) and Elias, a soon to be elite soldier in the ruling Martial Empire. Both of these characters are well formed and complex. Both grow and evolve as the book moves along–outwardly and inwardly. But there are a host of other characters that play important roles–Helene, Elias’s fellow soldier and best friend being the first in line. I absolutely adored Helene–just as much as the two main characters. In fact every character I encountered spoke to me in one way or another: from Laia’s fellow slaves to Elias’ fellow soldiers.

There is an evil villain in the form of the Commandant who is, awesomely enough, a small-framed woman (!) and there is also a supernatural element in the form of a group of mystical augers, or seers of prophecies.

The book is vividly written, its a dark, dark story, and a great example of a not so virtuous Resistance pitted against an evil kingdom. Ember also features themes of slavery and oppression; power and its inherent good AND evil side; as well as destiny and fate vs. free will.

I know some readers are a little miffed and wary about the mention of a love triangle–and I’m not going to sugarcoat it–it’s left open to the possibility. But I actually think that it falls more in the realm of the complicated “love square” as there are four definite parties which may end up romantically involved in one way or another–should this move forward as a series.

And that’s another question. I’ve seen indications online that this is a standalone and on the other side of the coin, that the author has envisioned this as a series but it will hinge, I’m guessing, on sales of this first book. Honestly I can’t see how Penguin or any other publisher could not pick this up as a series–there is just too much left unsaid, too many unresolved aspects of this story to warrant it ending here (See this? See what I’m doing here? This is me subtly begging and pleading for a sequel/ continuation of this as a series…)

Basically I loved this book. I was completely swept up it as I read, and I really think it’s one of those books that everyone will be talking about come this April when it publishes. Go ahead and pre-order your copy now.

Altered (Crewel World #2)

alteredby Gennifer Albin

October 29, 2013

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

400 pages

Source: A copy was provided for blog tour purposes


Life. Possibility. Choice.
All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.

In this thrilling sequel to Crewel, Adelice is about to learn how tangled up her past and future really are. Her parents ran to protect her, but nothing can save her from her destiny, and once she uncovers the truth, it will change everything. (Goodreads Summary.)


This review does contain SPOILERS for book #1 in the series, Crewel. 

You’ve been warned!**

My Take On It

Fans of Crewel may be in for some surprises when they begin the sequel Altered. I think it is fair to say that Crewel ended on a cliffhanger. If you recall, Adelice has learned the Guild’s dirty little secrets, and their plans to have her re-mapped. During the final scene, Adelice rips a hole in Arras between the worlds and grabbing Jost, and his brother Erik, escapes to Earth.

I remember reading this part of Crewel and being all “What. The. Heck. Just. Happened.” I was really excited that the next book would most likely take place on Earth, which by all accounts is war torn and ravaged. It felt like the next book would be even more science fiction in feel and I was super excited about this as well. It was the science fiction parts of Crewel, Spinsters weaving matter and time to create a new world, that had been the most fascinating to me.

But I will say that reading Altered in many ways was different from most second book’s in a series, because the setting has changed so dramatically. In addition to the landscape of Arras, that whole fantasy-world feel, complete with castles and courts, has been replaced by the grittier, post apocalyptic setting of Earth. In my review of Crewel (you can read that HERE) I noted that there was some big time genre blending going on. Crewel had elements of dystopian fiction combined with fantasy and science fiction elements. Well Alteredadds post apocalyptic AND alternate history to the mix. Guys, I like genre blending a lot, I even wrote a blog post about it recently (you can check that out HERE.) I know that sometimes it can be hard to pull off successfully, but I rather like how Albin has managed it in this series so far.

There are a few appearances by characters from Arras (a couple that were quite surprising) but for the most part, Altered ushers in an entirely new cast. And while I can understand how this dramatic shift might not jive with some readers, it didn’t bother me so much. In fact I was fascinated with the new characters, especially the Sunrunners, who control the solar energy on Earth, and in particular the characters of Dante and Falon.

A new villain is also presented in the form of Kinkaid, though when compared to the Guild and sleazy Cormac Patton, Kinkaid wasn’t nearly as menacing.

But the best part of Altered is that readers get more of an explanation of how the world of Arras came to be. And I’ll just say that what Adelice discovers about the Guild and Arras in Crewel is JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. The very tippiest of tips in fact. There is so much MORE going on than I expected. And as I mentioned earlier, you should also know that Altered’s storyline morphs further into an alternate history. As we learn what occurred on Earth to allow for the creation of Arras, a whole bunch of real life historical figures make an appearance. Guys, I really like alternate history books. I recently finished another (Star Cursed, The Cahill Witch Chronicles) and I think it’s pretty darn cool when a writer re-imagines how the world we know might have turned out had certain  moments in history gone down differently. I won’t give any spoilers away, but don’t be surprised when a few very famous and recognizable names from the past are mentioned.

So what about this ‘love triangle of doom’ romance that had so many people cringing after they read Crewel? Well, it is still present. BUT. Adelice has changed quite a bit from the first book. No longer this curious and frightened girl, Adelice has not only recognized the power she holds as a creweler, she has embraced it. And Adelice isn’t the only character to have developed and changed. Nothing is as simple as it was in Crewel, including Adelice and Jost’s romance. Ditto for the flirty attraction between she and Erik. No spoilers from me but I will say that I jumped ship in this story. I started out wanting Adelice with one guy and by book’s end, felt quite differently about the situation. I feel like one of the two brothers is the better match for Adelice. But of course that doesn’t mean it is going to play out that way in book #3. Or that I won’t change my mind again.  Seems I’m sort of fickle with this particular three way romance:)

I really could go on and on but for now I think I’ll stop here because elaborating even more might give too much away. I’ll just say that even though Altered has a very different vibe to it than Crewel, it worked for me. I am very excited to see what happens in the final book in this trilogy–because honestly, I think anything could happen at this point. Albin has plotted this book out in a very interesting fashion.

Be sure to stop by all the participating blogs 

along the Altered Tour:

Altered Blog Tour Schedule

Monday 10/21

Jenna Does Books

Tuesday 10/22

Bunbury in the Stacks

Wednesday 10/23

Live to Read

Thursday 10/24

Alice Marvels

Friday 10/25

Book YA Review

Monday 10/28

The Book Addict’s Guide

Tuesday 10/29

The Flyleaf Review

Wednesday 10/30


Thursday 10/31

Belle of the Literati

Friday 11/1

Gone with the Words

Gennifer Albin is part of the October/November Fierce Reads Tour with Ann Aguirre, Leigh Bardugo, and Jessica Brody. Get all the tour info:

Find out more about the #JoinTheAgenda project:

The Cypress Project is a prequel short story written by Gennifer Albin, being excerpted exclusively on Wattpad. Start reading now and be sure to check back on the following dates to read more of the story:

  • Monday, October 14: Part 1
  • Wednesday, October 16: Part 2
  • Friday, October 18: Part 3
  • Monday, October 21: Part 4
  • Wednesday, October 23: Part 5
  • Friday, October 25Part 6
  • Monday, October 28Part 7

Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

13514612All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
September 3, 2013
360 pages
Source: purchased


What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Important note: This review was very difficult to write. While it remains spoiler-free, keep in mind, I’ve left out important details about the plot and characterization to spare you.

My Take On It

Cristin Terrill’s debut is an exhilarating ride, but make no mistake, it serves to provoke feeling and thinking, just as much as it serves to entertain. All Our Yesterdays is a story of ambition gone wrong. It is a story involving the collapse of democracy, but more than this, it is a story about sacrifice and the resolve to change the past in order to save the future. It’s a story about the complications of time travel, and the focus isn’t necessarily on how the world is affected by it, but rather, how a select few, the ones involved in the chaos, react to it. It is a tale of love, loss, friendship, and the test of morality.

Terrill excels at characters. Told from dual narratives, alternating between the past and present, protagonists Em and Marina couldn’t be any more different. At present, Em goes back in time to prevent the destruction of the future, to prevent the time machine from being created, but her main goal is to save Marina from the emotional damage caused by The One Responsible. Four years ago, a tragedy in Marina’s best friend’s life, changes the direction of the future and will ultimately, alter the past – unless Em can be there to stop it. Worlds collide in this fast-paced sci-fi thriller, and only one girl, one outcome, can win.

No one ever said saving the world would be easy, much less attainable on your own. Em has help from her boyfriend and former cellmate, Finn. Finn has charisma while Em is the no non-sense type. Em thinks with her brain, and after the torment of the last four years, being held prisoner for reasons beyond her control, you wouldn’t blame her if you could. But the brilliant thing about Em, is that she has a heart too, though she’d rather you not know it. Saving the world means getting her hands dirty, and in some cases, dipped in blood. Can Em ignore her sense of mortality for the greater good? Or will she have to find another way, to save the innocent girl, Marina? Lucky for her, Em has Finn to help her through her darkest hour. Finn, who is optimistic and makes a dire situation feel less ominous, is the perfect love interest for Em. Finn’s wit and gentle nature lift Em when circumstances are bleak. They’re supportive of one another, and I swear, their romance is worth swooning over – especially because they started out by hating each other. Their relationship develops so earnestly; it’s touching and tragic all at once, and yet, you root for their love just as much as you root for their near impossible and suicidal mission.

On the other side, we have Marina, a teenager discovering love for the first time. She’s rich, selfish, and a little naïve, but she lives to protect the guy of her dreams. She’s fallen for her neighbor and childhood best friend, James. A prodigy of science, James isn’t looking at Marina the way she looks at him. Instead, he’s looking to change the world. After an unfortunate event changes his attitude about life and death, James looks to science for salvation. But he can’t begin his life’s work without keeping Marina close by. His vision to perfect the future by changing the past raises questions about mortality and ethics, but there’s a lot more to James than I’m letting on. Terrill’s characters are complex, and the relationships between them even more so; but I wouldn’t dare rob you the experience of getting to know them. Be prepared to become emotionally invested – in both the good, the bad, and the gray.

Alongside the phenomenal character development, the plot is written with great finesse. There’s urgency in the way it is written; it’ll get your heart pumping and feet kicking. You’ll turn page after page without wanting to stop until you reach the very end. What makes this story even more noteworthy is the way the science is written. The time travel is accessible, but at the same time, it isn’t overly simple. There are paradoxes and loop holes, and the only way to appreciate this novel is to experience it yourself.

Needless to say, the plot, the characters, and the pacing are written with great care, and the THOUGHTFUL and EXPLOSIVE ending adds to the brilliance of this novel. The only complaint I have, if small, comes from the world-building. I would’ve loved to see descriptions of the current state of the world in place of the telling, but this is easily fixable. If Terrill remains true to the strengths of this novel and enriches the world with detail and definition, there’s absolutely no way the sequel and series conclusion will disappoint. As a thoroughly impressive debut, I expect Cristin Terrill’s writing career to have a bright and lasting future. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here!

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

16069030The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
March 4, 2014
Farrar, Straus, Giroux
355 pages
Source: An ARC was provided courtesy of the publisher.
Thank you FSG / Macmillan:)


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. (Goodreads Summary.)

**This is an ARC Review.
Any quotes or excerpts are taken from an unfinished text
and may change before the final print**
My Take On It

I have struggled with how to write this review. It’s no secret that I often struggle to express my thoughts and feelings about the books that I really, really love.  So, I tried out some of my usual review methods.  I thought about just writing a traditional review. I thought about doing a top 10 list. I thought about writing a letter to the author. But none of these were working for me. What I really want to do  is just tell you what I love about the book. What parts of this book affected me the most–which parts brought out all the emotions, all the feels. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book, most are wonderfully detailed, extremely well written reviews, and honestly, I don’t feel like I can top them in any way. I like reviews that examine, analyze and critique more than those that are simply broadcasting how much the reader enjoyed the book.

But in this case, all I want to do is broadcast. I want to shout to all of those who haven’t yet read the book that it’s just amazing and that they should run, not walk, to their nearest bookstore and buy it today. I want to add my voice to all those readers who have read the book and loved it. I want to gush and fangirl about Kestrel’s awesomeness and Arin’s swooniness. So, you’ll forgive me if that’s what I do. Forgive me if I just spend the remainder of this “review”  telling you, in a most unprofessional and choppy way, what I love about this book and why it works for me as a reader. Call it a love letter to The Winner’s Curse.

I love Kestrel because she’s an unconventional heroine. She’s not kick ass she’s not the most skilled fighter, but it’s not for lack of courage or force of will. And what she lacks in brawn she makes up for in brains, in cleverness. Kestrel’s mind is a beautiful thing. She’s the type of girl that would kick anyone’s ass in a game of chess (or Bite and Sting). And yet even with these attributes, I also sympathize with her because she lives in a society that is militant and kind of unforgiving, a society that places more importance on honor and on winning battles and less on the things that make life good, like art and music. And for someone like Kestrel–someone who lives for music–this is especially hard for me to read.

I sympathize with Kestrel because she is forced to choose between marrying or joining the military- and neither prospect is what she wants. I love Kestrel because she doesn’t conform to society’s standards and she doesn’t fit in with the other girls her age and although it should bother her–it really doesn’t. I love Kestrel because even though she buys a slave at an auction, you forgive her and you root for her and you want her to find happiness.

What I love about Arin is that while you sympathize with his situation–the fact that he is on the losing side of a tragic war and the end result is that he has lost the most basic of all human rights–freedom–you still can’t help but feel like he’s kind of an asshole (and I mean this is in a GOOD way.)  I love Arin because he’s defiant and he’s willful and he’s not going to take this hand he’s been dealt lying down. I love Arin because he’s clever and he’s observant and he’s noble and he’s strong and he harbors a dark secret–a secret that is going to rip Kestrel and the Valorian’s world apart.

I love Arin because, like Kestrel, he is full of contradictions. I love them together because even though it seems they couldn’t be from more different worlds–in reality they have more in common than anyone could imagine. I love that they both feel chained–one literally and one figuratively–and that they both long for one thing: freedom. Freedom to live their lives as they wish. I love Kestrel and Arin because even though they come to recognize this about each other–they both know that the loyalties and allegiances they have to their families and their country means that there is no way for one to have that freedom without stealing it from the other.

I love that Marie Rutkoski has created this amazing world that feels inspired by ancient Greece and Rome, yet wholly original at the same time. I love that even though battle scenes and action scenes usually bore me stiff, I never felt bored in the slightest while reading this book. I love that the romance is of the forbidden love variety–and I love that it’s full of both small, subtle moments as well as big, grand gestures. I love that all the characters are so well crafted and developed–from main character to secondary, to the character that only gets half a page of screen time. Most of all I love that Rutkoski is able to connect all of these aspects together so seamlessly–I love that fantastic world building never comes at the expense of well developed characters. I love that the political intrigue and machinations written into the book don’t overpower the romance between Kestrel and Arin. I love how perfectly balanced The Winner’s Curse is in every way.

I love the unwavering loyalty and love between Kestrel and her father and her friends. I love that Arin does everything he does in memory of his lost family and friends. I love the sacrifices that both she and Arin make to keep their people safe. But I also love the lengths that Kestrel and Arin will go to to keep each other safe. I love that even though I know that this couple deserves to be together and deserves to find happiness for themselves and their people, I honestly don’t know if this can happen. I love that this series is set up to become epic and sweeping and completely unforgettable. I love that even though it’s the romance that most readers will talk about (including me) it’s the larger issues, the examination of the human condition, the examination of the ideas of freedom and forgiveness, that most people will unconsciously think about and THAT is what will ultimately make this book one that stands the test of time.

And you know I love the writing:

      “I hear you’re going to the ball tonight.”
      Kestrel glanced in the mirror to see Arin standing behind her. Then she focused on her own shadowed eyes. “You’re not allowed in here,” Kestrel said. She didn’t look again at him, but sensed him waiting, too– waiting for the will to send him away.
      She sighed and continued to braid. 
      He said, “It’s not a  good idea for you to attend the ball.”
      “I hardly think you’re in a position to advise me on what I should or shouldn’t do.” She glanced back at his reflection. His face frayed her already sheer nerves. The braid slipped from her fingers and unraveled. “What?” she snapped. “Does this amuse you?”
      The corner of his mouth  lifted, and Arin looked like himself, like the person she had grown to know since summer’s end. ” ‘Amuse’ isn’t the right word.”
      Heavy locks fell forward to curtain her face. “Lirah usually does my hair,” she muttered. She heard Arin inhale as if to speak, but he didn’t. 
      Then, quietly, he said, “I could do it.”
      “I could braid your hair.”
      Kestrel’s pulse bit at her throat. She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything he had crossed the room and swept her hair into his hands. His fingers began to move. 
        It was strange that the room was so silent. It seemed that there should have been some   kind of sound when a fingertip grazed her neck. Or when he drew back a lock taut and pinned it in place. When he let a ribbon-thin braid fall forward so it tapped her cheek. Every gesture of his was as resonate as music, and Kestrel didn’t quite believe that she couldn’t hear any notes, high or low. She let out a slow breath. 
       His hands stilled. “Did I hurt you?”
        Pins disappeared from the dressing table at a rapid rate. Kestrel watched small braids lose themselves inside larger ones, dip in and under and out of an increasingly intricate design. She felt a gentle tug. A twist. A shiver of air.
       Although Arin wasn’t touching her, he was touching no living part of her, it felt as if a fine net had been cast over Kestrel, one that hazed and shimmered against her skin.
       “There,” he said.
Kestrel watched her reflection lift a hand to her head. She couldn’t think of what to say. Arin had drawn back, hands in his pockets. But his eyes held hers in the mirror, and his face had softened, like when she had played the piano for him. She said, “How…?”

        He smiled. “How did a blacksmith pick up such an unexpected skill?” 
       “Well, yes.”
       “My older sister used to make me do this when I was little.”
        Kestrel almost asked where Arin’s sister was now, then imagined the worst. She saw Arin watch her imagine it, and saw from his expression that the worst was true. Yet his smile didn’t fade. “I hated it, of course,” he said. “The way she ordered me around. The way I let her. But now…it’s a nice memory.”

In closing all I can say is WOW. What a book. What a story. What an incredibly engaging, entertaining, heart breaking yet hopeful story. There is a reason this book has been hyped the way it has–and in this case it’s totally deserving. I read a recent review that said you need to go get this book because there is a very good chance that it’s going to be the next big “it” book. The one that everyone is talking about (if they aren’t already.) The one that will be the next to get snatched up by Hollywood. The one that makes all the “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. And you want to get in on this now, get in on the ground floor so to speak so that you too can add your voice to the conversation. I think that reviewer is right. But to be honest, you just need to read this book to experience it. If you are looking for a book that will make you think; that will make you swoon; that will make you laugh and might make you cry; if you are looking for a book that you can dive into and get lost in–look no further. The Winner’s Curse is all of those things and more. Read it.

Book Review: World After (Penryn and the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee +GIVEAWAY:)

12983100World After (Penryn and the End of Days, #2)
by Susan Ee
November 19, 2013
Skyscape Publishing
442 pages
Source: E-ARC provided Courtesy of Skyscape Publishing, thank you!


In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

*This is an ARC Review.*
**This review DOES contain spoilers for the first book in the series
Angelfall, but there are no spoilers for World After.**

Opening Line

Everyone thinks I’m dead.

My Take On It

It was earlier this year that I finally read Susan Ee’s Angelfall. I had been hesitant because I wasn’t always the biggest fan of angel themed books. I had a couple of not so great experiences with a few and they unfortunately turned me off for a while. But really I just needed to try out the right angel books–and Ee’s Angelfall definitely falls into that category. I remember getting sucked into that story immediately after starting it and, like most everyone else who has read it, anxiously looking forward to the long awaited sequel, World After. I was thrilled to have the chance to read an early copy–and the wait was totally worth it.

Here are the top ten things that rock about World After:

1. Bad-ass main character

I really liked Penryn inAngelfall–I liked how brave and resourceful she was, I liked how loyal she was, I liked that she still had a vulnerability to her as well. But in all her travels with Raffe in that first book, it felt to me like Penryn was more sidekick material than hero material. I mean, yeah, she could totally kick some ass thanks to the self defense classes her mom insisted she take prior to the apocalypse– but it still felt like Raffe was well above her in terms of bad-assery. Well guys, in World After Penryn morphs into a complete kick ass heroine. She trains (more on that in a bit). She battles. She leads. I loved watching Penryn evolve into this type of character.

But even with this metamorphosis, Penryn retains a lot of vulnerability. This is most evident in the interactions with her sister Paige. Penryn is torn in her feelings about Paige and what she has become. She feels guilty that she could not protect her and yet she is horrified by her at the same time. These different side to Penryn’s character help to flesh her out and make her more realistic. It’s a great balance to her kick-ass persona.

2. Continued awesome world building

The world building in Angelfall and World After is amazing. The Apocalypse has come and gone and what’s left of earth is a dark, dark place. Like Angelfall, there is a lot of disturbing imagery–camps of dislocated people barely surviving and always at the mercy of angels who swoop in and capture them.  As far as post apocalyptic back drops go I think Susan Ee totally nails it in this series.

Another thing I love about these books–and what I have come to love about angel books in general–is the angel mythology that is incorporated. The angels are all familair -Raphael Uriel, Gabriel–and the story of how the angels came to earth and mixed with human women, producing the Nephilim, is also reiterated. I really find all of this to be fascinating, and now that I have started reading more angel themed books it is really interesting to see how authors take this mythology and weave it into their own stories. I really like the fact that in this series the angels are essentially the bad guys.They are dangerous ad corrupt and feel very ambivalent to human kind in general. Humans are little more than pets and playthings and all of this aids in setting the dark and desperate tone of the book.

3. Penryn’s family: a.k.a the crazy mom and the monstrous little sister

So here is the thing: whereas Angelfall focused on Penryn and Raffe and their growing trust, friendship,  and attachment to each other, World After is much more focused on Penryn’s growth and her connection to her family. While we only get a handful of scenes with Penryn’s crazy/ scary/ creepy mom and even less of sweet, helpless Paige in AngelfallWorld After puts this fragile and dysfunctional family unit in the forefront. I really liked that we got to know Penryn’s mom more–her character has always fascinated me. You are never quite sure what to make of her–is she totally certifiable or should Penryn and the rest be listening to her a little more closely?

And while Paige’s story is a really sad one, watching the dynamic between she and Penryn—especially after what she went through at the hands of the angels in Angelfall– was awesome.  Penryn faces a lot of internal struggles trying to come to terms with what Paige has become and it was definitely one of my favorite parts of World After.

4. Weasley-esque twins

You know who else I love in this book? Tweedle Dee and and Tweedle Dum. I don’t even think we learn their real names: it’s just Dee and Dum. They are great purveyors of comic relief in what is a very, very dark post apocalyptic tale. In fact, they remind me so much of two other famous literary twins: Fred and George Weasley. Am I the only one who feels this way? Did anyone else who read Angelfall orWorld After  internally compare Dee and Dum to those two ginger-headed boys??

5.  More horror

I talked a little about Paige already and in World After we learn all the details about her and the other children’s abduction by the angels. Let me tell you, Paige’s story is as horrible as it is heartbreaking. And who could forget those monstrous test tube half scorpion/half angel creatures that suck humans dry (ewww…) Well they are back in World After and they are just as frightening. As with Paige and the stolen kids, we get more insight into why the angels and demons are playing mad scientist and what their ultimate goal is.

Ee definitely amps up the horror in this installment but if you handled some of the ickier parts of Angelfall then you should be fine with World After. Personally, I love it. Bring on that stuff of nightmares.

6. Angel swords and imaginative training scenes

Remember when I mentioned that Penryn undergoes training as she evolves fully into the kick-ass heroine? Well her training isn’t the conventional kind that we usually read about in fantasy. There is no hunky mentor or sage instructor showing her the ropes–instead Penryn is taught sword play in a very creative and surprising way. I’m not going to detail it here, I think it would spoil the fun, but suffice to say it was super cool to read.

And then there is the sword itself. Well, I have to say I don’t think I have been so fond of an inanimate object since Aladdin’s magic carpet. You know, this guy:


In Angelfall, Raffe’s beloved sword rejects him when Belial steals his feathered wings, replacing them with his creepy, leathery bat wings. At book’s end, Penryn takes Raffe’s sword with her. In World After it becomes clear that the sword, while not alive exactly, has feelings. In fact, Penryn and the sword begin to form an odd yet kind of sweet and endearing bond. In addition, the sword has a few other tricks up her sleeve. Again, I don’t want to spoil but I will say that the sword allows the reader insight into Raffe’s mind in a rather unusual way. I loved this aspect of World After— it was unexpected and surprising and very creative. It’s these small details that really show what a fabulous storyteller Susan Ee is.

7. Awesome reunion

So, who is noticeably missing thus far in this top ten list??? Yep, a certain angel heartthrob that we all know and love. In Angelfall, Penyn is stung and paralyzed by a scorpion monster and Raffe assumes she is dead. He returns her to her mom and the rebels then flies off–angry and heartbroken. When we start World After we know that a reunion is imminent. What you may not know–and I don’t think I’m divulging too much info here by telling you–is that this reunion does not happen right away. In fact, it takes a very long timebefore Penryn and Raffe come face to face.  I think most of the reviews I have read express the same feelings I had about the lengthy period of time readers have to endure before getting to see that reunion. To put it mildly…it sucks. Not the reunion– that was great. But the fact that it took forever to get there.  That’s the downside, and really my only gripe with this book. The upside is that when these two do finally get together it’s well worth it.

What is very clear is that this romance, this connection between these two people, is not going to be easy. There are a mountain of things standing between them and both Penryn and Raffe are going to have to fight hard to be together. In fact, at this point, after two books, I really can’t tell you with any certainty that they will end up together. The obstacles keeping them apart seem pretty insurmountable. But I am going to cross my fingers that Susan Ee in all her wisdom and genius plotting does indeed have a happy ending planned for out for our two main characters. We shall see!

8. Revelations and unexpected sympathies

One of the great things about World After is the revelations that surface. We learn why the angel apocalypse happened. We learn what Uriel and some of the other angels have planned on earth and who they are in league with. And really that is just the tip of the iceberg. It was great to watch everything start to unfold–it made me appreciate Susan Ee’s master plan to suck all of us readers even further into this story.

Another thing that took me by surprise? That certain characters, and groups of characters that I despised in Angelfall have all of sudden become sympathetic characters in World After. Now you know I am not going to say who I’m talking about but just know going in that you too might have a change of heart once you read World After. Any time an author can cause me to completely reevaluate how I feel about about a character(s) I consider that to be a pretty cool thing.

9. Unpredictability

It kind of goes without saying that this series is rather unpredictable. I never saw Paige turning into what she turned into. I never thought I would see certain characters I loathed somehow become redeemable. And as I said earlier, I honestly have no idea whether Penryn and Raffe are going to find their own happy ending. There is a lot to be said for being unpredictable. Yes, it keeps the reader coming back for more–but it also keeps a story from growing stale and feeling rehashed and recycled. I read a lot of YA–and I have read a lot of post apocalyptic/ urban fantasy stories–for me to be able to read one that surprises me- well it’s kind of a big deal.

Which leads us to…

10. A post apocalyptic/urban fantasy series you can get behind

It’s no secret that contemporary is my favorite genre in YA. It wasn’t always that way. I started out loving paranormal and dystopian/ post apocalyptic YA more than anything. And then after reading a ton of mediocre books that fall into that latter category–books that were essentially just minor variations on the exact same theme–I burnt out. When I find a post apocalyptic book that stands out, one that pushes boundaries, one that is appealing to both the adult and the YA market,  then that is something I get excited about. So, my advice to anyone out there who has yet to start this series because they are burned out on post apocalyptic books like I was is that I hope you will reconsider. It’s tough to come up with something original in an over saturated market, but Susan Ee has done just that.