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Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu


ABOUT THE BOOK

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
young adult fantasy published by Putnam Books for Young Readers on 7 October 2014
first book in The Young Elites series

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.

THE RATING


THE REVIEW

This book right here is not about a hero, it's about how a villain is made and that's the essence of The Young Elites. It's everything I loved about it. Marie Lu crosses all boundaries of predictability and goes into the uncharted territory of shock and awe that many seldom cross. The Young Elites is the amalgamation of everything I've come to adore about the fantasy genre; the violence of Susan Ee's Angelfall, the sweeping world of Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass, the wickedness in V. E. Schwab's Vicious and that something that sets The Young Elites apart from every other.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever that took her left eye and marked her as a malfetto. It's not a victorious survival for she is marred for life, and on the continent of Kenettra, being a malfetto is akin to a death sentence. Stripped of respect and his reputation as a merchant, her father went to extreme lengths to make Adelina show powers not of this world, to be worth something. To be a young elite. The constant abuse of his father, the love he showered her younger sister Violetta with, and the final straw which drove her to the edge. Adelina escapes from his prison only to constantly find herself behind more and more bars.

Teren Santoro is the Lead Inquisitor, working to eliminate all malfettos and always on the lookout for the young elites. His character surprised me the most. He is one of those who despises malfettos and he's wicked to his bones. Self-righteousness drives him which is revealed through the changes in perspective. Teren's definitely someone to fear because he doesn't spare anyone who crosses him, least of all a malfetto who dared defy him. So seeing him on par with Adelina is something to behold.

Enzo Valenciano is the leader of the Dagger Society, one of the groups of young elites who hope to find more like them and plan to bring down the king and queen. There's not much we get to know about him; he's no open book and I preferred it that way because of the events that took place. There's so much mystery surrounding him and all of his scenes with Adelina were underlaid with such power and sensuality that I wanted more.

The violence in the story is so well-crafted that I could feel the delicious darkness inside Adelina and oh, what darkness it is! It churns and churns and builds up into something that's mindblowing. But the darkness is not limited to Adelina, oh no every character is dark and I supposed much of it is because of the kind of world they live in and what they have to endure on a day to day basis, I just know that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The secondary characters are well-defined especially Raffaele who I adored but it was Spider that I loathed. The next installment in the series is definitely going to be bigger and more badass and I just can't wait to delve back into the world of The Young Elites. Marie Lu decided to wrench my happiness away and now I'm not quite sure what to make of that ending. And oh, that dagger on the cover? It actually shows up in the book.

THE QUOTES

'Be true to yourself. But that's something everyone says and no one means. No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.' 
'No one ever gives me their kindness without hoping for something in exchange.'

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Thirteen Authors and YA Horror

It's Horror October and today I'm focusing on YA authors who write horror books that really terrify or are just downright creepy.

Whatever genre an author debuts with definitely impacts their image. Now, there are many things responsible for the success of any book. YA has come a long way in that a good guy facing off the bad guy isn't limited to the darker genres anymore. However, I can't help but notice that there are only a handful of young adult horror authors and that its subgenres are much more popular (re: zombies and dark fantasy). So while we definitely need more young adult horror, here's a list of thirteen authors who delved into the genre.


Before. Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood is probably the most popular book when it comes to young adult horror. And why wouldn't it be, featuring a ghost harboring murderous rage for anyone who dares enter the Victorian house that was her home back in the 1950s? The sequel titled Girl of Nightmares is almost, if not quite, as popular as its predecessor.

After. Blake then went on to write an adult mythology series titled Goddess War which mainly garnered mixed reactions and ratings despite most of Antigoddess ratings averaging four stars while, the recent release of its sequel, Mortal Gods, seems to receive more love.

What's next? A young adult fantasy series, the first of which is titled Three Dark Crowns, releasing in fall 2016. There are assassins and it takes place on a remote island and who doesn't want to read stuff like that.

Before. Writing under the alias of Mira Grant, Seanan McGuire made her debut as a young adult author with Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. A series that majority of people love which Grant describes it as 'thoughtful horror and horrific science fiction' set in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies exist.

After. In 2013, Parasite, the first book in her new Parasitology series, was released which tells the story of parasites going after the human race. I guess, letting tapeworms grow in one's stomach for immunity purposes is horrifying.

What's next? An anthology and the conclusion to her Parasitology series titled Chimera are set to release in 2015. And oh, a standalone book titled Rewind set in the same world as Newsflesh is coming out in 2016.

Before. Brenna Yovanoff is primarily a young adult paranormal fantasy writer that crosses over as paranormal fantasy horror. Her debut, The Replacement, tells the story of Mackie Doyle (who might not be human) uncovering the cause of mysterious happenings and eerie creatures roaming the underworld of the small town of Gentry.

After. Since her debut, Brenna Yovanoff has published a book every year. The Space Between, her most popular title to date, is about the daughter of a demon and a fallen angel who travels to earth and dips in her demonic powers in the process. Paper Valentine is a haunting murder mystery whereas, Fiendish is a gothic tale of Clementine who was locked in a cellar for ten years.

What's next? Again, not exactly horror, Fourteen Dreams 'is about a high-achieving girl who falls for the most imperfect boy in school through a series of mysterious dreams that change how she feels about herself, her future, and love.'

Before. Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a story about Mary and others from her village trying to in a village overrun with flesh-eating zombies.

After. In between writing a couple of anthologies and a collection of short stories, The Dead and Empty World, Carrie Ryan have co-authored a middle grade fantasy series with her husband, John Parke Davis. The Map to Everywhere is about a master thief Fin who combine forces with a crew to scour the world for the map to Everywhere.

What's next? Daughter of Deep Silence releasing on June 2nd, 2015 is a young adult romantic thriller about Frances Mace who seeks revenge from a rich family posing as her friend who died as a result of the attack on the luxury yacht they were on. There's also an untitled book releasing in 2016.

Before. Jonathan Maberry is known for horror fiction and rightly so because of his Benny Imura series. But before he wrote horror, Maberry used to write about martial arts. His departure from martial arts began with Ghost Road Blues, a highly acclaimed adult horror thriller about three criminals. 

After. His adult Joe Ledger series about a Baltimore detective began in 2009 and a year later, Maberry's Rot & Ruin was released. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that's been infested by zombies, the series follow Benny Imura as he struggles to survive. Maberry also wrote some graphic novels as well as a few anthologies and collections of short stories.

What's next? A middle grade urban fantasy series starting with The Orphan's Army releasing in June 2015 along with an untitled horror novel that will be released in 2016 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Before. Madeleine Roux debuted with a young adult series featuring zombies back in 2011. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped initially started out as experimental fiction on her blog.

After. HarperTeen published a creepy photo-illustrated series starter Asylum in 2013 that many found page-turning despite being predictable. Sanctum, the second installation of the series, isn't nearly as creepy or impactful as Asylum as fans of the series either ended up feeling underwhelmed or overwhelmed.

What's next? The conclusion to Asylum series coming in August 2015.



Before. Before he was a YA author, Ransom Riggs wrote The Sherlock Holmes Handbook in 2009. Two years after that Quirk published his novel. Set on a mysterious island, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children features strange, gifted children who are pursued by monsters from a set of spooky photographs.

After. The Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children graphic novel was released in 2013 and gave an extra edge to the overall mood of the story. Three years later, the just as peculiar but much more adventurous sequel, Hollow City, was released in January 2014.

What's next? The conclusion to Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy which doesn't have a release date yet.

Before. Bethany Griffin debuted with Handcuffs in 2008, a young adult contemporary before the publication of Masque of the Red Death. Inspired by the similarly titled work of Poe, Masque of the Red Death and its sequel are more of a dystopian steampunk with elements of gothic horror thrown in for good measure.

After. A psychological thriller of sorts, The Fall is Bethany Griffin's entry into young adult horror. Again influenced by Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, it tells the story of Madeline Usher who is trapped in a house that has a mind of it own.

What's next? An as-of-yet untitled book that will probably release in 2016.

Before. Hillary Monahan's debut, MARY: The Summoning, takes root in the urband legend of Bloody Mary. Rightfully creepy, Mary seems to lack the gore which makes many wonder where the series is headed next.

What's next? The sequel to Mary which doesn't have a release date. Also, The Awesome releasing on May 26th, 2015 under a pen name of Eva Darrows. The Awesome is a paranormal comedy featuring a sassy and smart protagonist, Maggie Cunningham.

Before. Laurie Faria Stolarz debuted with a paranormal mystery Blue is for Nightmares and then went onto to write paranormal romance series Touch.

After. Told from multiple point of views, Welcome to the Dark House is about a contest to face your scariest nightmare in order to meet the movie producer of the Nightmare Elf series but of course, things aren't as simple as they seem.

What's next? The sequel Return to the Dark House releases on July 21st, 2015.

Before. Rick Yancey debuted with adult literary fiction, A Burning in Homeland back in 2003 and then entered the YA genre a couple of years later with a fantasy series beginning with The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp.

Then. 2009 saw the release of The Monstrumologist, a horror thriller about the monstrumologist chasing gruesome monsters with the help of his assistant. The series is four books long as of now.

After. Released only last year, The 5th Wave, become hugely popular. Set in a post-apocalyptic world with aliens, the starter and its sequel are fast-paced and filled with edge-of-your-seat action.

What's next? The conclusion to The Fifth Wave's trilogy is set to release in August 2015.

Before. Nova Ren Suma's debut and sophomore novels, Dani Noir and Imaginary Girls, are mystery YA with surreal and creepy elements thrown in for good measure.

After. Released in 2013, 17 & Gone is Suma's most creepy novel to date where a teen receives visions of missing girls. The boundaries of mental perception are tested in this psychological horror.

What's next? The Walls Around Us, which follows the stories of a living and a dead girl, is a haunting novel featuring magical realism and is set to release on March 24th, 2015 and an untitled book releasing in 2016.

Before. Before writing books about serial killers and such, Barry Lyga used to write contemporary YA. Boy Toy is one of his highly acclaimed coming-of-age novel about Josh Mendel. His venture into the middle grade genre with Archvillain proved successful for the most part.

After. Mostly renowned for I Hunt Killers, Lyga's Jasper Dent series follows Jazz, the son of a serial killer who's finally been jailed. Can Jazz follow in his notorious father's footsteps? The series conclusion, Blood of My Blood was released recently.

What's next? Co-authoring with Peter Facinelli (Carlisle from Twilight, anyone?) and Rob DeFranco, Barry Lyga's After the Red Rain has already started gathering hype despite its release date of August 2015. Set in the future, the cli-fi dystopia follows the life of a boy named Rose.


Have you read any of these? What are your favorites? Looking forward to any creepy, scary titles by any of the thirteen?

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A Fortnight of Horror


fortnight of Horror October begins today! For the next two weeks, Asti and Leanne of Oh, the Books! and all the participants will be blogging about horror-related topics. Leanne hosted the event last year and it was all sorts of spooky fun.

The Thing About Horror

What has changed since the last time the event took place?

I am still not into horror but so excited to celebrate it because apart from ghosts, apparitions and weird scary noises, I'm all for it. Okay, I'm mostly for it. It's just that I can't handle watching a horror movie or TV show. I tried to, as a kid, and I still get creeped out if I start thinking about some of the stuff that I watched (which isn't even that horrifying and mostly embarrassing).

What's the most Halloweeny thing about me? Well, the fact that I went from Sana to Sanatorium on Twitter for it. Ha. Nevertheless, as soon as fall arrives all I want to do is curl up in a blanket with tea and just read really disturbing books.

Read to Be Unsettled

Let's face it. I haven't read a purely young adult horror book since the last R. L. Stine book I read as a teenager. I just keep thinking that I will get around to at least one but I never do and it's sad. So it's mostly the subgenres that I end up reading like psychological horror or paranormal horror.

So in regards to that, I started reading The Young Elites by Marie Lu which is pretty disturbing and dark. After that, I plan to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater which isn't horror but it has dark elements and fist-slamming Ronan, so there. I also might read Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini because witches.


Horror: The Subgenres

Last year, I could only manage a couple of posts on Horror October and let's not just get into that more than this. However, since I already talked about horror in YA back then, I would be focusing more on its subgenres this year. A post about books that give you the creeps, another about authors who write YA horror, yet another on how the trend of island settings in YA have changed over time and maybe a couple of book reviews. And oh, a discussion about the subgenres of YA horror seeing how they are vastly more popular than the genre itself.

Do you tend to read creepy, spooky or horror books in fall? Read a good horror YA lately? Let me know!

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Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch


ABOUT THE BOOK

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
young adult fantasy published by Balzer + Bray on 14 October 2014
first book in Snow Like Ashes trilogy

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

THE RATING


THE REVIEW

Lately, I've become more and more wary of series starters owing to the fact that many of them have left me feeling underwhelmed. But then I came across Snow Like Ashes, a highly immersive fantasy which left me feeling exhilarated from the get-go. I love winter and here was my chance to read an amazing book about Winterians trying to get their kingdom back. Snow Like Ashes is a well-paced high fantasy with an impossible quest where the main character is a chakram-wielding kickass soldier and the setting is mind-blowing levels of awesome.

Snow Like Ashes begins in the Rania Plains with Meira as one of the eight refugees who managed to escape the wrath King Angra of Spring unleashed on Winter sixteen years ago. He also broke their conduit in half and stole it. Every kingdom has a conduit containing magic to aid themselves and since Winter's magic was wiped out the moment its conduit broke, everything since then has been done in an effort to get it back from the clutches of Angra. Winter is nothing without its conduit and Mather, who's to be the king of Winter, just might be useless to Winter unless he marries and bears a female child since theirs is a matriarchal kingdom. Girl power, yo.

The setting of Snow Like Ashes is elaborate which is why the pretty map comes in handy. The four Season kingdoms of Primoria perpetually cycle through their own seasons. Whereas, the four Rhythm kingdoms cycle through each of the the four seasons throughout the year. Moreover, wherever the people originate from affects their appearance, for instance, Winterians have pale skin, white hair and blue eyes. All of this calls for an engaging world-building and Raasch delivers. I quite enjoyed how the culture of each kingdom varies and how they deal with their differences, petty or otherwise.

Meira is fabulous. Grown up as an orphan who was saved by Sir, general William of Winter, during their getaway in the wake of Winter's plight, she's never even step foot in her kingdom. Yet the need to save it before Angra manages to wipe off the map of Primoria runs deep in her bones. Her relationships with the secondary characters are complex and well-developed, especially with Sir who's always a criticism away which hardly ever fazes her. Hello, new favorite female character.

Mather is a brooding but sensible and brave character which makes sense as he does have a lot of responsibility, being a king and all. However, it's hard for anyone to actually know his thoughts as he's a master of the perpetual blank facial expression. Theron, on the other hand, is the charming, misunderstood and artistic character who Meira quickly bonds with. Honestly, I can't choose between these two!

Snow Like Ashes is everything a good fantasy should have. The villain who doesn't sound like a villain, but will make you shudder anyway because he's oh-so-harsh and has absolutely no remorse whatsoever. There are moments which overwhelm you, moments which make you laugh and moments that just plainly make you gape in wonder. Snow Like Ashes is an exceptional start to a trilogy that every young adult fantasy lover would appreciate and adore for years to come.

THE QUOTES

'Sometimes placing our belief in something bigger than ourselves helps us to get to a point where we can be enough on our own, magic or no magic.'

'And snow is everywhere, always, so much that the grass beneath it is white from lack of sun. An entire kingdom wrapped in an orb of eternal winter.'

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Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas


ABOUT THE BOOK

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
young adult fantasy published by Bloomsbury Childrens on 27 August 2013
second book in the Throne of Glass series

Celaena Sardothien, royal assassin, is the King of Adarlan's deadliest weapon. She must win her freedom through his enemies' blood - but she cannot bear to kill for the crown. And every death Celaena fakes, every lie she tells, put those she loves at risk.

Torn between her two protectors - a captain and a prince - and battling a dark force far greater than the king, Celaena must decide what she will fight for: her liberty, her heart or the fate of a kingdom...

THE RATING


THE REVIEW

For a series that's going to be half a dozen books long, realistically, one doesn't expect the second book to rock one's socks off. But Crown of Midnight does it so well that you don't even know it has happened until after it has. I love Throne of Glass but I love, love Crown of Midnight. There's a deeper exploration of everything that happens in Throne of Glass and some things that happened even before the events of Throne of Glass. There's shock and awe and everything is so flawless and emotionally overwhelming and ah. You know a book is a definite favorite when you love it more after a reread.

In the first half of Crown of Midnight, Celaena Sardothien is the King's Champion which Dorian and Chaol wanted her to be but not in the bringing-cut-off-heads-dangling-from-her-fingers way. But of course, it's Celaena so nothing ever is like it seems because the person behind Celaena Sardothein is Sarah J. Maas. Celaena is closer to Nehemia more than ever but there are things they are not telling each other and everything is painful when the first half is over.

In the second half of the book, Celaena is so much more fierce and deadly and you don't want to mess with that. I'm so much in awe of her I can't even. She's so broken and it shows that she's had enough of everything and every one like that Ironteeth Witch, Baba Yellowlegs. Also, the scene where Celaena goes exploring the catacombs is one for the ages, so chilling. But then nothing can come close to outshining Celaena. Obsessed much, self?

Chaol is having a hard time keeping his feelings for Celaena under a tight leash and then they waltz together that one time, my heart just can't take it. There's also the birthday scene sigh. I ship 'em so hard. Chaol is such a loyal and brave character which clearly shows in the book. He does so much for Celaena and grows so much that it's as much heartbreaking as it's breathtaking.

Meanwhile, Dorian is having issues of his own and though we get to know the reason, I still didn't like how his relationship with Celaena and Chaol changed in the beginning. Yet it was okay because by the end of the book, they kind of concile in a way. However, I have to say that I'm immensely intrigued by the change in him and just how did what happened happen.

Crown of Midnight is a fabulous sequel and the reason why I love the series as much as I do. It's one hell of a ride. Her friendship with Nehemia is so much more strong in Crown of Midnight. I love them both fiercely and why did that had to happen because my heart hurt. The secondary characters are fleshed out and real and I wanted to punch some of them so hard like Archer Finn. Also, the King of Adarlan is something out of a nightmare. I'm basically left desperate for more awesome by Sarah J. Maas.

THE QUOTES

'But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.' 
'What does that mean?' he demanded.
She smiled sadly. 'You'll figure it out. And when you do...' She shook her head, knowing she shouldn't say it, but doing it anyway. 'When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn't have made any difference to me. It's never made any difference to me when it came to you. I'd still pick you. I'll always pick you.'