A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

30008834Rating: 2.5 stars

Series: Veronica Speedwell #2

A tedious undertaking would have been a more apt title. The pacing was so slow. Every 50 pages or so they’d get some minuscule clue. They had to do a lot of socializing to get these clues too. The worst part was that I didn’t care about any of the characters other than Victoria and Stoker. All of them were obnoxious and self absorbed. The mystery was too simple. The occam’s razor theory definitely applies here.

The main reason I read this was because I wanted to know more about Stoker’s past. Well none of that was revealed. Something about him was revealed but nothing that was alluded to in the first book. Stoker’s okay. I like the guy but I don’t love him. He’s too much of a pushover. He always gives into what Victoria wants.

Victoria is still just as cold as ever. It’s hard to feel a deep connection between her and Stoker because she’s emotionally detached. Every man she meets falls over themselves to get her attention. It irritates the hell out of me because she’s not that charming. It’s odd that Victoria thinks about sex often. I would think some as unfeeling and practical as her would find it to be a useless endeavor especially since she doesn’t want a committed relationship or children. For a book with sex alluded to often, there certainly wasn’t any of it to be had. All I know is this book needed something to spice it up, and sex would have been a great place to start.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

51nzmckldsl-_sy346_Rating: 3 stars

Series: Veronica Speedwell #1

Veronica wasn’t believable as a character. This is a historical mystery. Women didn’t traipse all over the world by themselves in 1877 especially for the sake of science. She was forward thinking for modern times let alone the 1870’s. She would have been ostracized by almost everyone. At first I thought she was refreshing and different, but herself righteous attitude aggravated me as the book went on. She always had to have the last word. Her blunt nature often made it seem as if she was talking down to everyone. I didn’t like her much. She was so unfeeling and logical that she may be a sociopath.

Stoker was okay but a little rough around the edges. I am interested in his back story. It’s apparent a romance will blossom between him and Veronica, but I don’t really care for them as a couple. Sometimes opposites attract but that was not the case here. They are too different.

The mystery was okay. Nothing happened for most of the book. Once Veronica’s parentage was revealed it seemed too far-fetched. The resolution to her problems was far too simplistic. As intelligent as Veronica was, she was quite dumb when it came to figuring out why people were after her. Every instinct she had about what was going on was wrong. I’m not sure if I want to read the next book or not. I want to know more about Stoker, but I’m not in the mood for more of Veronica ATM.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

28862387Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s hard for me to rate this book. On one hand I really liked it and didn’t want to put it down once I got past the 25% mark. OTOH it’s one of those books where something is always happening yet nothing is. It had to be taken as it was without looking deeper or cracks began to emerge. There weren’t gaping plot holes or anything like that. Many things were alluded to but were never explained in any depth.

The writing was beautiful. It was captivating and made the book worth reading. Many people will love this book, but I wanted more. I didn’t even realize how much more I wanted there to be until the end which is odd considering how much I liked the ending.

There wasn’t much of a plot. One event stumbled into the next without much direction. It fascinating enough that I wanted to know what would happen next. Vasya was unique. She could speak to the gods of old but did not fear them. Many had moved onto Christianity, and unknownst to them was causing chaos in the world. Vasya tried to right things, but there was little she could do alone.

The characters aside from Vasya had no depth. Determining who was good and bad was easy. Several characters were included just to move the plot forward. In hindsight some had no purpose at all. Vasya wasn’t close to anyone which is part of the reason why none of the characters were fleshed out. I felt like I knew the characters but only a certain side of them.

What bothered me more than anything was the lack of answers. Obviously Vasya was special, but what was she capable of? It was insinuated by many that she had powers, but other than speaking to animals and old gods, I’m not sure what they were. The purpose of the necklace was vague. The mythology was explained on a need to know basis, which surprisingly little was imperative to know for the story to unfold.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

20443235Rating: 4.5 stars

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3

With every book this trilogy improved greatly. This book was just about perfect. I really can’t think of anything wrong with it or anything I wish had been done differently. This book had it all: good character development, lots of action, bravery, characters with morals, and mature romance that did not dominate the plot. Women were not depicted as weak or incapable. I loved seeing the women on equal ground with men, and best of all the men didn’t have a problem with it.

More female characters should be like Kestrel. In my experience maturity is a rare trait especially in YA. She stood up for what she believed in no matter what the cost, and I love her all the more for it. Kestrel is the kind of person people should aspire to be. Physical strength and battle skills were not her strong suit. She often relied on her intelligence. Most of the time she saved herself. She did not expect men to save her or fix all of her problems. In spite of everything she had been through she wasn’t filled with hate.

Arin is just about the perfect guy. He would do anything for the woman he loved including allowing her to make her own decisions even when he didn’t agree with them. Although kind and gentle, he would kill without regret when necessary. He was incredibly strong yet vulnerable. Revenge wasn’t the driving force behind his actions. It did factor into his decisions, but mainly the goal was to get back what rightly belonged to the Herrani.

Many of the side characters were in this, and their fates were explained. At times it was hard to tell if they were on Arin and Kestrel’s side or not. I’m amazed at how good this was. It’s YA. I expected it to be awful or cheesy, and it wasn’t. I would love YA if it were all written like this.

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

20443207Rating: 4 stars

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2

I liked this book so much better than The Winner’s Curse. Kestrel and Arin are still the main characters, but they spent most of their time apart since they were on opposite sides of the war. Kestrel was stuck in the palace after the deal she struck with the emperor at the end of the last book. Arin was grappling with his new position in the empire. He struggled to help his people since although they weren’t being killed by Valorians they were still controlled by them.

I loved learning more about the cultures and politics. This was no Game of Thrones by any means, but it was entertaining. Some things were predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The plot was much better this time around since it focused more on politics and treachery than romance although romance was an important part of it.

Kestrel and Arin both had hard choices to make. They wanted to do what was best for each other while trying to make the empire a better place for the people in it. Colluding to reach the same goal wasn’t possible since it put them both in danger. Kestrel had to feign indifference where Arin was concerned. If he knew where her true loyalities lie, everything she had worked for would have fallen apart.

I thought this was going to have a love triangle since Kestrel was in love with one guy while engaged to another. It didn’t have that vibe at all. The engagement was nothing more than a political arrangement. Kestrel’s feelings for Arin were strong. I didn’t necessarily agree with the way she handled things with him, but I understand why she did it. Her heart was in the right place. Arin’s feelings for her were conflicted since he couldn’t determine if she was being honest or not.

Kestrel didn’t always make the best decisions. She didn’t have enough political experience to excel at subterfuge. I admired her for doing what she believed was right even when the costs were high. Kestrel is one of the most selfless character ever, but almost no one understood her. My heart broke for her at the end of this book. After what happened, I desperately want the next one.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

16069030Rating: 3 stars

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Most fantasy novels have magic or some type of supernatural creatures, so it was slightly disappointing to discover the only thing making it fantasy was the setting and cultures. It had a historical feel since the world lacked technology. The Valorians were similar to Ancient Romans since they never stopped trying to expand their empire. They believed themselves to be superior to other races, so they enslaved them when possible.

Kestrel was a Valorian, born to the general. There were high expectations for her since the general was one of the most respected citizens in the country. Women were required to either get married or join the military. Her father wanted her to follow in his footsteps and be a warrior, but she didn’t have the desire nor the physical skill. Kestrel didn’t have a deep desire to be married either.

The area Kestrel lived in had been Herrani territory. All of the Herrani people were slaves. They were not happy about their situation and were scheming to get their freedom and territory back. Kestrel didn’t view the Herrani people in the negative way most Valorians did. OTOH she didn’t truly understand their plight either.

Kestrel unexpectedly bought a slave named Arin. It was something she had never done before. They spent time together since he was often her escort. Kestrel and Arin slowly developed a relationship. They were essentially friends with deeper feelings neither of them were willing to admit. Their relationship was complicated. It was unacceptable for Valorians and Herrani to have any kind of personal relationship. They had other issues impeding the possibility of a relationship, but I can’t get into any of that without spoiling some major events.

I liked this, but it wasn’t anything special. The book was told from Kestrel and Arin’s POV, which made it easier to understand their feelings about what was going on in their society and for each other. There was much more to this than romance. Politics were involved, but it wasn’t dense or boring to read about. Not much was going on until the last third or so of the book. Then things took a drastic turn, and Kestrel and Arin were going to have to decide where their loyalties really lie. There was a cliffhanger at the end, and it is going to take the series in different direction. It did have potential, so I’ll read the next one.