Tuesday, 29 March 2016

"What We Saw" by Aaron Hartzler

What We SawWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as part of the Better Dead Than Read Bookclub - join us!

‘What We Saw’ is an incredibly powerful book. It is one of those novels that makes you really think about its message, but still manages to avoid being preachy. And it does this, while telling you an interesting story. Hartzler, you genius.

I already considered myself a feminist prior to reading this novel, but ’What We Saw’ really solidified this position for me. I even recommended to a friend who does not self-identify as a feminist to read it, because I think it points out the problems with rape culture in western society succinctly and without being flagrantly accusatory. I can’t reiterate enough – this book is a powerful story about an important and pervasive issue in modern society.

However, very rarely do such topics translate well into fictionalised pieces. I have been disappointed in the past with fictional representations of important issues, and I went into this book expecting to read a boring plot that barely guised the obvious moral of the story. I could not have been more wrong – ‘What We Saw’ has an intriguing and interesting plot with relatable characters, rather than a sermon.

Our MC, Kate, is actually an outsider to the main story line. This made a lot of sense to me – whenever these big stories happen in real life, most people will not be centrally involved. The average person is more likely to be on the fringes of the issue, trying to make sense of it all. Kate is, above all, relatable, because she makes some bad decisions but she never stops striving for the truth. She may not want to believe what is right in front of her face, but when it gets right down to it, she forces herself to acknowledge what has happened.

Kate's friends all represented alarmingly common opinions on sexual assault and rape in general. I applaud Hartzler for putting in writing the words women have heard all their life from their friends and family – things like “if she wasn’t so drunk it would never have happened”, “if you don’t want to be raped, cover your cooch”, “only bad people get raped, it doesn’t happen to good, ordinary women”, and "why would she accuse those boys of rape? She's a bitch for ruining their lives for no reason."

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not (briefly) address the romantic aspects of this novel. Kate’s relationship with Ben was beautiful and realistic and heartbreaking in so many ways. I am happy with how the story left their relationship at the end.

Overall, ‘What We Saw’ was a heartbreaking and truthful representation of rape culture in our society. The major lesson I am taking away from it is doing nothing can be just as bad as being involved. This book should be compulsory reading for all high school students. Read it and you will find out why.

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

"The Winner's Kiss" (The Winner's Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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'The Winner's Kiss' was definitely one of my must-read March books (it even made my top three March releases list)! Now, getting to the end of another brilliant series, I cannot believe it is actually over. But alas, all good things must come to an end.

I really enjoyed 'The Winner's Kiss'. It had all the suspense and strategy that I liked in 'The Winner's Curse' and absolutely adored in 'The Winner's Crime'. Maybe I just loved 'The Winner's Crime' too much, but I felt that this book was not as good. Don't get me wrong, I still loved it - hence the 4 star rating - but it seemed to be missing the twists and turns, the angst and separation of 'The Winner's Crime'. Granted, this book is set in a vastly different location, but still - I could not help but miss the political intrigue and near misses of yesteryear.

The pacing of this novel was so fast I think I may have developed a heart condition from it! We switch between Arin and Kestrel's POV so quickly that you'll be on the edge of your seat for the whole novel (but especially during the latter half). Rutkoski is an inspired writer, the kind who's writing feels like a song and a story at the same time. Even though I did not like this novel as much as the second book in the series, 'The Winner's Kiss' does not want for good writing.

There are some things I did not enjoy - so be warned, there are some mild spoilers in this paragraph! Firstly, the whole 'Kestrel-with-amnesia' thing. I hate amnesia plots. Hate, hate, hate. It is quite easily the most overdone trope in book history (big call, I know). Rutkoski is a brilliant writer, so I think she could have done something so much more interesting than this. Having said that, it did make sense in the context of the story, so I was able to somewhat forgive it. Secondly, the Emperor is barely in this novel. I understand that Kestrel and Arin are no longer in the same area as him, but they barely mention him until right at the end of the novel. He was such a bone chilling, creepy character, and I missed being scared every time he walked into a chapter.

There are also some things I adored! Kestrel and Arin continue to be a super cute couple in this novel. There are definitely some swoon-worthy scenes in this book for those of you who live for the Arin/Kestrel romance. Moreso even than Arin and Kestrel, I loved the relationship between Arin and Roshar. They showed each other true friendship in this novel and it melted my little heart. Arin and his God have an incredibly intriguing relationship throughout 'The Winner's Kiss'. Reading about their conversations was certainly an interesting take on religion that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Overall, this was a beautiful ending to a tumultuous series. Even though I had some problems with this novel, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. If you love political intrigue and war with your romance, The Winner's Trilogy is definitely for you.

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