February 27, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

A short time ago, the Valorians conquered the Herran empire and either killed or enslaved the Herrani civilians.  Kestrel, as the Valorian General's daughter, at 17, must choose to either marry or join the military.  Neither option entices Kestrel.  While in the city market one day she feels an unexplainable connection with a slave being auctioned off and spontaneously decides to outbid everyone with a large sum of keystones.  Kestrel's new slave, Arin, starts work as a blacksmith making horseshoes for the military horses.  Eventually becoming an escort for Kestrel and keeping her company; neither recognizes the relationship slowly growing between them.  Kestrel soon learns that Arin is the leader of a planned rebellion and, as the General's daughter, she has been set up.  She'll be forced to discover the true meaning of the Winner's Curse.

The world and the characters are so well written you can't help wanting to root for both of them.  The story line is so perfectly paced you can't help to keep reading late into the night.  And with just enough romantic tension threaded throughout you can't help to feel empty till the second book arrives. 

February 16, 2014

Lone Wolves by John Smelcer

Deneena Yazzie, Denny to most, is a 16 year old native Alaskan.  Don’t call her an Eskimo, she’s an Indian.  Her closest friend is her grandfather, who has been teaching her their native language, seldom spoken by anyone other than the dwindling elders.  She spends most of her time, other than school where she doesn’t fit in, mushing.  Eight dogs pull the wooden sled her grandfather hand-built years ago, while he follows nearby on his snowmobile.  Her grandfather encourages Denny to compete in her first dogsled competition where she takes third place, qualifying her for the longest, toughest dog sled competition known to man.  Unfortunately, Denny will have to travel the 1,100 mile trip across the Alaskan wilderness without the support of her community.  There’s so much more about the storyline I want to add but won’t to keep you all in suspense.  

Denny is a unique and inspiring character; a great role model for young girls.  Not only because she perseveres while her whole village refuses to support her, but also that she wants to learn her heritage and preserve her culture.  The author tells Denny’s story in such a way that makes you crave to learn more about Alaskan history and culture.  The best kind of book.