Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

winners curse

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Kestrel refuses to join the military like her father wants her to.  They live on an island conquered by the Valorian army and her father is a general, but Kestel wants to continue playing her music not killing people.   She also doesn’t want to get married, which is her other option in Valerian society.  When in the markets with her best friend one day, Kestrel finds herself at the slave market and then against her better judgment she buys a young man.  Arin is an unusual slave, a gifted blacksmith, he also has a connection to music though he tries to hide it.  The two of them slowly begin to fall in love with one another, though both of their societies forbid it.  But the world is about to twist and turn around them, bringing their love into question, their motives into doubt, and placing their very lives at risk. 

Rutkoski has created a world tinged with magic but not overflowing with it.  While her book has the feel of a light romance, it has much more depth than that.  It is a book that explores questions about slavery, about what victors in a war should be able to take and own, about protection and when that becomes a sort of slavery or jail.  There is romance, definitely, but it is a romance built on unequal footing and even lies. 

This is a society in a precarious state, delicately balanced and written so that  the reader is very aware not only of how uncertain things are but also of the forces at work to destroy that balance.  Rutkoski does a great job of creating a world where the enslaved people had recently lived in the homes where they now work as servants.  The tug and pull of this and their connection to the land is a vital part of the book and makes the world unique and riveting.

The two main characters each have chapters of the book from their points of view.  Kestrel struggles against the constraints of her warrior upbringing, a society that is strict and formal but also bloodthirsty.  Arin has lost everything and much of the story is the reader trying to figure out what and who Arin once was.  Their relationship mirrors the world they are caught in.  It is rebellious, as delicate as blown glass, and yet with a core of strength. 

A stunning cover will have teens finding themselves thrown headlong into a world of corruption, war and slavery but also one of romance and beauty.  Powerful and magnificent, there are no easy answers between these covers but the questions are certainly worthy of exploration. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Review: Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai

hannahs night

Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai

When Hannah woke up one day, she was surprised to find that it was still night.  She tried to wake up her older sister, but she would not wake up.  So Hannah headed downstairs with Shiro the cat.  She checked on her parents and they were asleep too.  Hannah gave Shiro some milk, ate some cherries right from the refrigerator, and no one scolded her.  When Hannah returned to her bedroom, she checked again on her sister.  Then she borrowed her sister’s doll, her music box, and her art supplies and played with them on her bed.  As dawn arrives, Hannah gets sleepy again and falls back asleep.

Sakai has created a beautiful little book filled with the glow of the moon and the delight of the night.  What is done best here is the lack of drama or danger.  Instead it is a story of small mischiefs and safety.  The stealing out of bed itself is enough to drive the story forward and keeps the book moving yet doesn’t make it scary or frightening at all.  The matter-of-fact tone of the writing also adds to the peaceful feel of the book.

Sakai’s art is rich and textured.  Layered and filled with the blues of night, the images have a radiant delicacy.  The combination of rough edges and the detail of sleepy eyelashes create a book that is beautiful to look at as well as a pleasure to share aloud.

A nighttime story, this is one bedtime story that may not keep little wanderers in bed but is worth sharing all the same.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins and Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I hope you find interesting:

Read books to your little one that reflect a diverse world.


Aaron Starmer and Laurel Snyder Interview Each Other About Loneliness, Magic, and The Outsiders | Nerdy Book Club

Can books unite children across the world? | Children’s books #kidlit

Jean Craighead George’s Children Complete Her Final Novel #kidlit

A Picture-Book Like No Other | Brain Pickings #kidlit

‘Pippi Longstocking’ Author Astrid Lindgren Gets a Spot on Sweden’s 20 Krona Note – GalleyCat #kidlit

Rush Limbaugh selection in children’s book competition causes a stir – CNN #kidlit

(via Fascinating Illustrations Blend People, Animals, and Objects Together - My Modern Metropolis)


E-book Settlement Refunds Released to Consumers #ebooks


Fisking How “Libraries Are Failing America” | Agnostic, Maybe

How US libraries are becoming community problem solvers | Local Leaders Network | Guardian Professional #libraries

I hang out at libraries, even when I’m not looking for a book | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST #libraries

Joint statement from the presidents of AILA, APALA, BCALA, CALA, REFORMA and ALA #libraries

New Top 10 Reasons Why Libraries are still Important – Stephen’s Lighthouse New #libraries

St. Paul Public Library: Sharing More Than Books – YouTube #libraries

Central Library San Diego: Art Gallery


MetaPhone: The Sensitivity of Telephone Metadata « Web Policy #privacy

People Battle to Regain Online Privacy #privacy


American Libraries Learn To Read Teenagers : The Protojournalist : NPR #libraries

Another Reason The Hunger Games Is Awesome: Katniss Is Taller Than Peeta – … AMEN says the tall girl

A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction | BOOK RIOT #yalit

Is Divergent Sci-Fi’s First Successful Bisexual Allegory? #yalit #glbtq

A message from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare | Children’s books #yalit

Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? – Julianne Ross – The Atlantic #yalit

Stacked: Challenging the Expectation of YA Characters as "Role Models" for Girls #yalit

Tanya Byrne’s top 10 black characters in children’s books | Children’s books #kidlit #yalit

This Spring’s Hottest Teen Books #yalit

YA Outer Space Adventures to Read While Waiting for the Next Tin Star | BOOK RIOT #yalit