The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)
Title: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release Date: March 3, 2015
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
Okay. Okay. Okay. How do I recover from this book? HOW HOW HOW? Everything - and I do mean EVERY SINGLE THING - about this book got under my skin... and then proceeded to tear me apart from the inside. I can't remember the last time I felt this STRONGLY about a book. I was under the impression that The Winner's Crime wouldn't... I don't know... hurt that much (I have no idea where the hell this thought came from either) and I was WRONG. So so so wrong. It's been one full day since I finished the book and I STILL have this urge to scream and just plain freak out because ARIN. KESTREL.

Damn, a paragraph in and I'm already not making sense. This has to be a record.

One of the many, many things that amazed me about The Winner's Crime is how Rutkoski just upped her game. How the plot coasted along, the character development, even the writing... EVERYTHING. I didn't think that she needed to (because The Winner's Curse is already a pretty damn amazing book all in its own) but she did and WOW - I didn't think it was possible, but The Winner's Crime is a much, much better book than The Winner's Curse. Rutkoski already proved in the first book that she's a master in weaving intricate plots and that she takes such great detail in developing her characters, and she went ahead and continued doing that and MORE in this sequel. You're still at the edge of your seat, tearing through the pages because you just have to know what happens next, but at the same time, her writing this time around just made you FEEL more.


My heart was in my throat from the first page to the last, my throat somehow felt scratched and raw from all the pseudoscreaming I was doing in my head, and I was just so engrossed in my reading. Every word in the book resonated within me, and I just felt every single emotion that the characters felt. Rutkoski really makes you care for her characters, her story - you're just rooting for them to survive, to soldier on... to find their happy ending.

From the first book, Arin and Kestrel have always had a complicated relationship. Master and slave, friends, lovers, and yet bitter enemies, nothing was ever going to come easy for them. There has always been a push and pull between the two, and the looming choice that one of them would ultimately have to make. Who will be forced to choose between love and loyalty to his/her people? All this time both Arin and Kestrel have been toeing the line and playing both sides, but the walls are slowly but surely closing in. Moreover, Kestrel knows that the emperor is suspicious of her actions, and the nature of her relationship with Arin... and in order to throw him off, she has to pretend that Arin doesn't matter... that Arin never mattered.

To say that Arin and Kestrel frustrated me would be a massive understatement. There were so many lies, so may instances that logic played second fiddle to the sudden burst of strong emotions, and the lack of trust made me want to tear my hair off. How could Arin believe that Kestrel never cared? Why did Kestrel have to trick Arin? Why not just tell him the truth? I understand their reasons - believe me, I DO, but I just want them to sit down and talk. TALK. (And then maybe run away.) At the same time, however, as much I would have wanted to Arin and Kestrel to just throw the towel and run away and be together somewhere, I know that these characters could never ever do that to their people. That's not who they are. They have to see this through.
And essentially... that's why I love them. 
Another thing I love about The Winner's Crime is how Rutkoski further humanized her characters. They're so muti-faceted, and complicated, for the lack of a better word. I can't quite recall any other fantasy series having such realistic characterizations! I have never seen Kestrel stronger, more capable, and the same time lonelier, and I have never seen Arin so helpless and at the same time so fiercely determined. One of my favorite parts in The Winner's Curse is where Arin tells Kestrel that he doesn't care what happens to her people as long as he could keep her safe. Why, you may ask? It's because his statement is so refreshingly honest and realistic. Arin may love Kestrel, but that doesn't mean that he's suddenly willing to overlook everything that happened to him and his people. Real life doesn't work like that. Life is again, for the lack of a better word, complicated. Arin and Kestrel were never special snowflakes nor 'the chosen ones', and I think it's this fact about them that makes them enticing to read about.

To wrap this up, if you haven't read The Winner's Crime yet, READ IT. NOW. I mean, why on earth haven't you read it yet? The ending is heartbreaking (and such a cliffhanger) and I think I would gouge my eyes out if The Winner's Kiss doesn't finish on a happy note. Why must 2016 be so far away? I just want Arin and Kestrel to be happy and okay! THEY DESERVE ETERNAL HAPPINESS!

Okay... so before I start writing a novel on why Arin and Kestrel are perfect and should be together (and end up sobbing in a corner somewhere), I should end this review. Just... please... read this series!

(So much for trying to bottle up the feels while I write!)

Rating: 5 Stars

Trouble from the Start by Rachel Hawthorne

Trouble from the Start
Title: Trouble from the Start
Author: Rachel Hawthorne
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Some boys should come with a warning label.

Meet Avery: six-foot-tall college-bound brainiac (just don't call her that to her face), and daughter of a cop—which is not helping her dating life. Currently playing third wheel to Kendall, her best friend, and Kendall's boyfriend.

Meet Fletcher: six-foot-three motorcycle-riding bad boy, who is one class shy of a diploma. He can ruin a girl's reputation just by saying hi, but one flash of his grin and they usually don't mind.

Coming from such different circles, it's no surprise that Avery and Fletcher don't cross paths until the end of senior year. But once they do, neither of them can ignore the tug they feel.

On paper, they make no sense, but sometimes you have to throw out the rule book and let your heart lead the way . . . even if it's flirting with disaster.

It was one of those days - I wanted something fun, something light, more importantly, to read. I've somehow come to the conclusion that I had no such book at home (I'm pretty sure I'm mistaken on this note, though, but I was on A MOOD that day) so I went to the nearest bookstore, browsed around, and found Trouble from the Start. Off the bat, I KNEW that it was just what I was looking for. I mean come on, a nerd and a bad boy falling in love? YES PLEASE. Also... this book is set during the summer before college. Hey, if you've been following my blog, you know how much I love summer-themed books, and that only means one thing...


So I went ahead and bought the book, rushed home, and quickly prepared to lose myself into Avery and Fletcher's world. I was expecting your age-old cliche bad boy and good girl fall in love story - sweet, entertaining, something that can make me grin uncontrollably, but at the end of day, nothing really mind-blowing. A few chapters in, however, I realized that my expectations were once again exceeded. (This is what happens when I set expectations with regards to books I'm about to read - they're always, always exceeded. There must be some kind of weird voodoo magic going on, but hey, I'm not complaining!) This is NOT your ordinary cliche love story - it has relateable and likeable characters, an interesting storyline, and most importantly, a  remarkable heroine. It still had just the right amount of fluff and lightness, but that was mixed with depth, and as a result, here we have a wonderful story!

And since we're talking about my expectations, let's just make it clear that this wasn't really your typical summer-themed book (the characters stay at home, no jetting off to some summer house)... but I'm surprisingly okay with that.

Yes, that's how much I enjoyed this book.

The story starts pretty simple enough - high school is practically over, and with graduation around the corner, so are parties. Avery decides to attend one with her friends Kendall and Jeremy, and in trying to loosen up and actually have some fun, she ends up drunk. Enter Fletcher, whose reputation is... rough, to say the least. He gets into fights, shows up in school with bruises, sleeps around... you know, the works. Fletcher takes care of Avery and takes her home, and Avery thinks that maybe, just maybe, all the rumors floating around about Fletcher are wrong. Things get even more complicated when Avery's dad announces that Fletcher is this summer's project - the (older) kid from the wrong side of the tracks who will be living with them for the next few months.

What surprised me the most about this book is how involved Avery's parents are throughout the story - this isn't something you see that much in YA. They aren't in the story for conflict or anything like that - rather, they actually care for Avery, her brother Tyler, and even Fletcher, and they love them unconditionally. They're not the central focus of the story, but they're important enough, and Hawthorne managed to effectively show that. This may seem like such a trivial aspect, but I love how realistically portrayed all the family scenes were. There were family dinners, family nights, mother-daughter conversations, father-daughter conversations... I don't know, I just can't remember the last time I read about such a well-rounded and loving family, and I really enjoyed it.

I talked about how a wonderful heroine Avery was early on, and that she really is. She's so open, so so honest, and she always, always speaks what's on her mind. She's not afraid to stand firm about the things she believes in, and she fights for what she wants - she doesn't just give up easily. This is a young woman who knows and loves who she is. I also love she handled the whole do-we-or-we-not with Fletcher - she didn't believe that she should settle for something less than she feels she deserves, and she didn't. Sure, she still had moments wherein she made the wrong decisions, but that just gave more authenticity to her character. Strong and well-developed, Avery is a character that I just loved reading about.

I particularly loved that the concept of reputations had so much to do with the book's plot. And no, it wasn't just a one big plot device -  it was actually meticulously explored. Hawthorne did so carefully and thoroughly - she let us see what happens when a person's reputation is tainted; and alternatively, she also made us privy to how a person can actually fabricate his or her own reputation. I don't think I've yet to read a YA book that candidly discusses reputations and how everyone places so much regard on them, and I'm definitely impressed at how Hawthorne tackled it.

While I did love this book, one thing that didn't really impress me that much was the dual POVs (I have a feeling that I'm in the minority here though...). I usually like dual POVs as I feel that they bring much more to the table, but for don't think that was the case this time around. Don't get me wrong - I liked Fletcher, and did think that his character was wonderfully developed. It's just that I would have preferred to read more about Avery's thoughts, feelings, and perceptions - it's probably because I felt like I really connected with Avery, and I don't know, I guess I just wanted more of her.

All in all, this was a pretty good book that I'll most probably read again sometime soon. I'm ecstatic that I got so much more that what I expected with Trouble from the Start, and I can't wait to read more books from Hawthorne!

Rating: 4 Stars

[Out and About] #LeighBardugoinPH

Out and About is a feature here in Defiantly Deviant where I post about upcoming book signings and the like, and where I recap bookish events I went to!

The day didn't really start out the best of ways (for me, at least!), I woke up late - evidently breaking my streak of showing up to these events on time, and pretty much shooting down my plans of arriving at the venue early enough to catch up with my fellow bloggers. Don't worry, guys, thanks to Uber (I swear this post isn't sponsored or anything like that), I ended up only around 15 minutes late. I missed out on Leigh's big entrance, but thankfully, I managed to catch the bulk of her (meaty) answers to everyone's wonderful questions!

So, without further ado, here are my favorite tidbits from Leigh's Q&A:
  • If Leigh really, really had to choose an amplifier (but she doesn't want to since she loves animals!), she'd choose the firebird.
  • When asked which author she would like to collaborate with, Leigh revealed that she would like to write with Laini Taylor (but then again, they might end up killing each other since they have different writing processes...) She'd also love to write with JK Rowling, but then she'd probably just go 'You write - I'll just watch you.'
  • Leight has a horror story coming out in the book 'Slasher Girls and Monster Boys', which releases in August. She also has another story coming out in Stephanie Perkins' new anthology called Summer Days, Summer Nights which will be released next year.
  • Leigh reckons that everything she'd ever write will have a fantastical element. She enjoys writing stories that our set in our world but have a magical element, and she sees herself writing more stories like this in the future.
  • Leigh rarely cuts scenes since she has a general outline of the books. She does end up writing more scenes while revising though!
  • Leigh is a huge Games of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fan!
  • Most of the fantasy novels Leigh read while growing up were set during the medieval era, but she wanted to do a little something different. Russia felt like the right fit for her books. Meanwhile, Leigh chose the 1800s in general because she wanted to explore the tension between the rise of modern technology and magic.
  • Six of Crows has five POVs, a heist, a prison break, romance - it's essentially six kids trying to pull off a suicide mission. While Shadow and Bone is your 'chosen one' story (girl has powers, ends up leading a revolution), Six of Crows is story about the 'not chosen ones'. They do not have grand destinies, they're not kings, queens, princes or princesses. They're not looking to start a revolution - they just want to survive.
  • Louisse of The Soul Sisters asked Leigh make a haiku on the spot about Six of Crows. Here's what she came up with (not quite 5-7-5 but it was still pretty awesome!):
    Six deadly outcasts
    One impossible heist - yeah!
    You should order it now!
  • Leigh might write a book about Sturmhond in the future. She believes that there's a much bigger story that exists for this character. She has always known his story and who he'll end up with.
  • On what inspired her to write the Grisha world, it's basically the realization that our fear of darkness never quite goes away, and the question "What if darkness was a place?"
  • When asked about the character of Darkling, Leigh always felt that the most dangerous people in our lives don't necessarily show they're evil right away. They're beautiful, brooding, charismatic, and incredibly manipulative.
  • Leigh believes that a character can be a love interest, and the antagonist at the same time.
  • Leigh is not a fan of ship wars because of how mean people can be to each other because of them. One thing she appreciates about Filipino readers is that they seem to be #teamBook, and that they're just enthusiastic about the story.
  • Leigh doesn't set out to write love interests - she writes characters. They all have their own agendas and their journey to go on. She believes that if a character is simply a hero, a villain, or a love interest, they get really boring really fast.
  • We might get a novella about Alina's origins!
  • Leigh didn't pull a Tolkien - instead, she created language to suit the moment of the world.
  • I asked Leigh how her life changed after the success of the Grisha trilogy, and talks about how she now has her dream job. Her life is completely different since becoming a published author, and she owes it all to the readers who spread the word about her books.

After the Q&A, we lined up to get our books signed. I usually avoid lining up until the very last minute (hey - books are heavy!), so I took the time to say hi, chat a little with everyone, and take tons of photos. We all haven't seen each other in give or take three months, and for people who usually see each other at least once a month, that's a pretty long time! Basically, add up everyone's excitement to meet Leigh plus everyone's joy in reuniting, and suffice to say that the whole event was A WHOLE LOT OF FUN. Here are some photos:

(Photos are taken from Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs, Kai of Amaterasu Reads, Hazel of Stay Bookish, and Jesselle of The Lifelong Bookworm)

When my turn to meet Leigh finally came up, (as usual) I got a little shy and tongue-tied. (I'm standing in front of a famous author!!!) Leigh is so incredibly nice, and she immediately put me at ease. She's just so warm and friendly, and she really took the time to talk to everyone! We talked a little about my name (Lyra is also the name of the protagonist of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials), and she encouraged me to read more fantasy. (I definitely will, Leigh!) All in all, meeting Leigh is such a beautiful experience that I will never forget. Thank you so much to National Bookstore for bringing Leigh to the Philippines!

Before I wrap up this post, here's Leigh's message to her Filipino readers:

[Blog Tour: Author Interview] Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Today, I have Danielle L. Jensen (author of Stolen Songbird aka the book that made me fall in love with the fantasy genre) on the blog and I am dying of excitement. I am so pumped. (So so so so pumped that I'm actually using the word PUMPED.) And add in the fact that I am halfway through Hidden Huntress (which has been nothing short of spectacular so far!!!) and yeah... I'm just so happy to have had the chance to ask Danielle a few questions! (So many exclamation points, Lyra...)

So, without further delay, go ahead and check out the inteview!

(Oh - and if you haven't checked out The Malediction Trilogy yet... What are you waiting for???)

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy, #2)
 Title: Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Goodreads  |  AmazonBarnes & Noble
Danielle's Twitter | Danielle's Official Site

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

1.)    Please describe Hidden Huntress in five words.
Dark, heart breaking, romantic, political, and magical.
2.)    What can fans expect from Hidden Huntress? (Please don't say a cliffhanger...)
Hidden Huntress is darker, broodier novel than Stolen Songbird, and the pacing is quite different. I think those readers who were interested in the world outside of Trollus will get a lot of that, and readers who enjoyed the intrigue of Stolen Songbird will really enjoy the chapters from Tristan’s point of view. As far as romance goes, well… I’m going to play coy on that.
I think the ending will satisfy readers while leaving them full of anticipation for the next book. But I’m a bit biased    
3.)    How have things been different for you since the release and success of Stolen Songbird?
I felt a lot more pressure when I was writing Hidden Huntress, because I really didn’t want to disappoint readers who felt so passionately about Stolen Songbird. I think that when readers really enjoy your first book, their expectations of you increase exponentially, and that was quite intimidating for me.
4.)    One of the aspects I liked the most about Stolen Songbird is how Cécile was portrayed - she was strong and capable, but she also had her moments of weakness. She had depth. What else will can we expect from Cécile in Hidden Huntress?
In Stolen Songbird, Cécile had to be strong and capable in the face of things that scared her. In Hidden Huntress, she has to be strong and capable in the face of extreme frustration, and she really struggles with that. It was one thing for her to be brave when the path she wanted to take was clear, but not knowing what to do undercuts her strengths. I went after her weaknesses in this book, and readers will see her emotionally stumble a lot more than they did in the first installment. But she’s still her tenacious self, so don’t despair!
5.)    Last, but definitely not the least, here's a fun question: let's say you had the chance to invite over someone you personally don't know for dinner. Who would that person be, and why?
I would invite Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), because he seems both delightful and hilarious. However, I saw a description of what he eats in a day, and it included a lot of cod. I hate cod, so we’d have to find a compromise.