Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites

by Marie Lu

Young Elites

Expected Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin

Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Penguin’s First to Read program
Format Read In: E-ARC
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the story morning glory

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

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The Young Elites is a fast-paced YA high fantasy that both plays with a lot of recognizable fantasy standards and also often subverts them. Unlike many fantasy heroines, Adelina doesn’t start off as an uncertain main character who learns a little along the way and grows into self-confidence. While Adelina learns and grows, as all good main characters should, her character growth breaks outside the norm.

See, Adelina is a dark and tortured character from the beginning, but unlike many, she knows it. She might still have some learning to do about her powers and how they manifest and what she’s capable of, but from a personality standpoint, she knows exactly who she is. Adelina is cunning and cut-throat, and she’s not about to let anything stand in her way–which is not to say she’s completely closed off to others. While Adelina is guarded, she will sometimes let other people in. She cares deeply about her sister and that plays out in the story over and over again, but Adelina has no qualms about who she is. She’s not a nice person, and she knows it, and I kind of love her for it.

I also really thought The Young Elites was well-paced and well-plotted. It was a little confusing to be thrown into the world at first, but Lu did a good job of introducing the reader and not relying on info-dumps for the most part(though I did feel like there was a little of this at the beginning). It doesn’t take long for Adelina to learn she is a Young Elite and what she can do–the whole self-discovery part of the plot happens extremely quickly in this one, and it works. It leaves more time for scheming and blackmail and growth.

At first the world in The Young Elites seems rather simple. There’s a blood fever, and it can have side effects of oh yeah, giving children who survive it, often with physical disfigurations, special powers. I was willing to go with this premise, though I had questions. Over time, however, Lu really builds up the world around Adelina and shows that this is a complex world filled with complex characters.

There are a few other characters that The Young Elites closely follows. I’m not going to get too much into talking about them specifically, but I wanted to point out that for characters who sometimes don’t get much page time, they’re remarkably well-developed. A few of them do get some significant chunks of the text, but I was still amazed at just how real they felt and how soon.

However, those characters also lead to my only real complaint with The Young Elites. Adelina’s chapters are told in first person, but then the story sometimes cuts to another character–and sections are all done in third person. This sort of point of view device was really irritating as a reader, because every single time there was a character jump it completely jarred me out of the story, and it felt like a way around having to really differ two character’s narrative voices. I would have much preferred it all be in first person or third person, and stay limited to that narration the entire time. It felt shocking to suddenly be pulled out of a first person perspective and into a third person perspective, and then back again. While the story of The Young Elites was excellent, this style of story-telling really hindered my complete enjoyment.

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 Other than the switching between 1st person and 3rd person point of view, I thought The Young Elites was a really great high fantasy. It’s a story that’s not afraid to embrace the darkness, and I appreciate it for that. Definitely a great series opener.  4/5 cupcakes.

4cupcakes

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September 2014 Wrap-Up

September 2014 Wrap-Up

In My Life

September was a strange month. I felt I lost half of it because I ended up coming down with a cold that transitioned right into some sort of virus that was going around, and ended up basically living in my bed for two weeks, watching lots of TV I had already seen in that sort of half-awake sickly state. The half of the month I WASN’T sick were interesting. I went to a friend’s wedding, which I enjoyed, and got a lot of things accomplished, even though I’ve still been struggling when finding a new job. That’s definitely been the one thing on my mind a lot and the thing that sort of deflates my confidence sometimes. I’m trying to remember it’s not a reflection on me, though. Mostly I’m surprised September is over already. So on the whole, not sad to see it go.

HOWEVER, October is one of the only Fall months I actually like(as it is in general my least favorite season) so I am looking forward optimistically and trying to put all my September grump away.

I watched

I watched a TON of TV this month when I was sick, but nothing new, really. Just old Gilmore Girls episode because they’re my comfort blanket. I need new shows to watch though, so I am open to suggestions! I think I might try Friday Night Lights next since I know my library has the DVDs and I’ve heard good things, even though the premise doesn’t really excite me.

 

 

I listened

I’ve been a bit off my music game this month(and my reading game and life game in general, as I think I’ve established by now) so I didn’t really seek out any new music. That being said, I’ve been working on a new story WIP and I’ve listened to the playlist I made for it a lot, so there are some songs that have really stood out to me this month. Despite the slowness of these songs, the WIP is actually a pretty fast-paced adventure story, but for some reason these just seem to *fit*.

I Have Made Mistakes by The Oh Hellos

Heroes and Monsters by Penny and Sparrow

I read

I read 8 books in August, and I was SO certain I was going to read more in September. Sigh. I missed the days of January where I managed to read a book a day(how in the world did I manage that while working full-time? Now I’m looking for work and manage less. But I think a normal schedule helps me read more). However, I don’t really mind only reading 5 books this month because I at least liked every book I read.

5 star Reads:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

4 star Reads:

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

3 Star Reads:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

2 star Reads:

 

1 star & DNF Reads:

 

blogging life

My Favorite Review:

I’m pretty proud of my review for Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.

Most Popular Review:

Surprisingly, my review for White Cat by Holly Black.

 

Favorites

Favorite Book

I read two 5-star books this month and loved them both, but if I had to pick between them, it would be Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

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Favorite Quote

“I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”

-From the ARC of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Such a small quote, but I remember feeling that way(and still do sometimes), and the idea of having to “reintroduce myself to the universe again” really resonated with me.

 

fav pictures

Okay, so not really a favorite picture because it’s not a picture of anything I did or accomplished in September, but this made me squeal when I read it in Landline because I too love Amy Sherman-Palladino(creator of Gilmore Girls). I think I like this reference more than I’m currently liking the book(which is to not say I don’t like the book, but I’m reading it right now and I definitely like it less than Rainbow Rowell’s other books).

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Probably my friend’s wedding. Big displays of romantic love aren’t typically my thing, but this wedding was sweet & it was nice to see a friend so happy, plus I got to catch up with some other friends.

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Top Ten Books That Were Difficult to Read{Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten Books That Were Difficult to Read{Top Ten Tuesday}

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which features (you guessed it!) top ten lists on a given topic each week. This week’s topic is. . . .Top Ten Books that were difficult for me to read–anyway we want to interpret that. 

1. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I’m not sure why If I Stay hit me in such an emotional place, but it did. It’s not that unusual for me to leek out a tear or two during a sad book, but I’ve rarely ever cried while reading, really–until I read If I Stay. Something about the way Forman wrote about grief and loss just wrecked me and it took me a good hour to recover after I read it.

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Another book that was difficult because of grief, but this one hit me much harder. There was something really special in A Monster Calls. The book deals with a 16-year-old boy whose mother had cancer–and I remember being a 16-year-old girl whose mother had cancer. There are many, many books that deal with grief and loss, but none of them ever seemed as right to me as this one. It was like it got into all the parts of my head that made me insecure during that time, all the thoughts that made me feel terrible and like a horrible human being. It was a cathartic read and felt healing.

3. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

This one wasn’t difficult for me to read on a personal level, but some of the things the characters go through is just awful. Talley really brought their struggles to life and made me feel for them. It was tough to look at people treating others so badly and knowing how true to life it was.

4. Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Tornadoes scare me to death, and this book is all about a girl whose family dies in a tornado. It was well done, but made me feel very uneasy and it was hard for me to finish reading. I’m glad I did, though.

5. The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

Another book that was difficult because of the subject matter and not anything personal. This book deals with sexual abuse in churches and it was a tough, tough read. That being said, I think this book has been really underrated since it’s release and I do recommend picking it up if hard-hitting books are your thing.

6. Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Things I Can’t Forget was an. . . interesting book for me. The main character was insufferable most of the time, but at the same time, there was something about the book and her situation that really took me back to my 17-year-old self, for a variety of reasons. I had some very similar experiences to the main character at the end of high school and beginning of college, and I remember feeling similar doubts and fears and at time, self-loathing. This book really got to me on such a basic level that I knew I would never be able to review it in the traditional sense(though a discussion has been sitting in my drafts for over a month now). This isn’t a book I think most people would find difficult to read, but because of some very specific things, it was for me.

 

 

 

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A DNF Round-up{5}

A DNF Round-up{5}

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I don’t DNF very often, but when I do, I don’t typically review those books here, mainly because I don’t have enough to say. However, I’ve decided to start doing short DNF reflections when I have a couple of DNFs. I think DNF review/reflections can be valuable, because what causes me to DNF something might actually make someone else pick the same book up!

1. Feral by Holly Schindler

Feral

source: Advanced reader’s copy granted by publisher through Edelweiss
Where I stopped: 20%

Summary:

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Why I DNF-ed:

I had been so excited for Feral. I mean, that summary? That opening line? I thought I was in for a fast-paced thriller. The first two chapters were intense and brutal, but the following story didn’t compel me. At 20%, I felt the real story hadn’t started yet. That thrilling idea just. . . stopped. I didn’t expect it to start immediately, of course, but at almost a quarter through I would have expected more. And the few scraps of excitement were strange. The fixation on the feral cats was obviously leading somewhere, but it didn’t feel like anywhere fast. For a supposed thriller, I was rather bored.

 2. Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsay Lane

Evidence of Things Not Seen

Source: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where I stopped: at 20% through

 Summary:

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Particles explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities.

Why I DNF-ed:

I will say that out of all the books I’ve DNF-ed semi-recently, I thought Evidence of Things Not Seen was the strongest written. The main mystery is told by various townspeople, each with a different point of view. I thought the point of view was done really well from a writing standpoint, but the frequent switching didn’t work for me as a reader. I was having trouble connecting to the events of this town and the people telling the stories of their realities. I appreciate what the book was trying to do, but it wasn’t keeping my interest and it was pretty forgettable. I put this one aside with the intention of maybe picking it back up later, but when a week or two had passed I realized I had no desire and also didn’t remember a single thing about it.

3. Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive

 

Source: I received an electronic advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
DNF-ed at: 20%

Summary:

 Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Why I DNF-ed:

I loved Demetrios’ debut, Something Real, and I love genie books, so I thought for sure this one was bound to be a home run. Sadly, it was not. The writing was very off-putting to me–it was highly detailed, which is great, but it focused on details about all the wrong things. The world-building was in-depth, but it became at the expense of and before characterization. I love a fully realized world, but if I don’t care about the characters, then I simply don’t care about the universe they inhabit. Nothing had really happened in the first 20% except one perhaps important conversation and just loads of back story. I also saw inklings of possible romance and wasn’t a fan of how it was playing out, but mainly the thing that really caused me to put this down was the info-dump of world-building right at the beginning with nothing about the characters.

4. Salt & Storm

Salt & Storm

 

Source: I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by the publisher. This in no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
DNF-ed at: 13%

Summary:

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder–and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Why I DNF-ed:

As you can see from the books above, it’s very rare for me to DNF a book before 20%. I try to give most books the first quarter to see if I’ll enjoy the story. There are a few I’ve put down within the first few pages(and for those, I don’t put them in these wrap-ups because most of the time they’re just not for me), but for the most part, I stick with the 20% guideline. I couldn’t make it there for Salt & Storm. The writing in this book is nice and lush, but other than pretty prose, I wasn’t engaged with the story. I just didn’t care. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that apathetic about the book. The main character thinks something bad is going to happen to her and my only reaction is “huh.” I don’t really have a reason to care for the characters and while I understand the main character’s situations, I felt she hadn’t really been characterized at all.

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Book Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Book Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place

by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place

Expected Publication Date: September 26, 2014
Length:304 pages pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion.
Standalone
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the story morning glory

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

howwasit

Falling into Place is a very ambitious book, and I’m not sure it lives up to that ambition. It tries very hard to be deep and in the vein of books such as If I Stay, but rushes through issues so quickly that nothing gets time to settle or to germinate in the brain. It’s a book that wants to make me think, but doesn’t actually give me the push to do so–instead, it just leads the reader to the edge.

Which is not to say that Falling into Place is without merit. The writing is stark in a very beautiful way, and the pacing was spot on. Even when I wasn’t really buying into Falling into Place, I could not put it down. Zhang pulls the technical aspects of the book off in an admirable way, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for her next book.

The characters start out as stereotypes: the once good-girl who had a downward spiral, the gaggle of mean girls, the quiet, kind guy who’s in love with the mean girl leader for reasons–but eventually, they deepen as their lives intersect with Liz’s. The narration of Falling into Place skips around in the timeline, so the reader sees Liz right before the car crash as well as months leading up to it. As she interacts with her classmates, they become more fleshed out too. Their initial characters might be steeped in stereotypes, but I began to care for them after awhile.

That being said, Falling into Place makes the effects we have on people too easy. The point seems to be that our actions have consequences–which is an important part of the book and done well–but everything is too clear-cut cause-and-effect. Real people are more complicated and complex than that. At one point, Liz sits in an pep rally and looks around and decides she’s responsible for so many wrecked lives. While Liz was awful to people at times, it’s much too simple to say that character X is not going to college directly because of Liz. If it was only one character it would be easy to let it go, but it happens to most of the major characters in the book. It’s all X causing Y, without R, S, B, D factored into the equation.

Falling into Place is narrated by an unseen narrator who can see all and is a big surprise for most of the novel. In some ways, it reminded me of Death in The Book Thief–a narrator partially removed from the situation, able to give insight, and has more wisdom than those currently waiting to see if Liz will recover from her crash or not. Unfortunately, the narration didn’t really work for me once it was revealed. It felt like an easy way to be able to gain some distance from the events without actually being necessary.

Despite the faults I found in Falling into Place, I did like the book. It felt a bit rushed, which didn’t give my emotions time to really be explored or settled, but the story itself was engaging. It’s a bit different and interesting, and I think Zhang’s future books really have the potential to be fantastic. This one, however, felt pretty forgettable in the end.

Tryif

If I StayTease

 

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Falling into Place was a quick read with great writing and a promising premise, but the execution left a little to be desired. My main disappointment was with the rushed events which left me feeling unaffected emotionally considering the emotionally fraught situation of the plot. 3/5 cupcakes. 

3cupcakes

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