Friday, May 29, 2015

Review–The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1) by Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)
by Marie Lu
Summary: 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.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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The Young Elites was awesome. I did enjoy the book quite a bit and there’s no doubt it was a well written and amazing book. At the same time, Adelina Amouteru made me want to claw my eyes out. Here is this “strong” and dark character who is full of nothing but potential, finally included in something and given the opportunity to be MORE than who she could be and she decides to be dumb and terrible, while simultaneously being badass and awesome. I wanted to slap her so many times.

Adelina’s entire issue with the world is cruelty and lack of acceptance. Her father treated her terribly, the world looked down upon her because she was malfetto, and she never belonged anywhere. In contrast, she got to watch her sister get the attention, the love, and the opportunities that would never belong to her. So when her powers made themselves known and the Dagger Society of Young Elites rescued her from her execution, I expected more from her character. Instead, she chose to keep herself separate and be untrusting of them in general.

Adelina could have come clean with the Dagger Society about the Lead Inquisitor’s blackmail and they could have come up with a plan together and she could have used that opportunity to include herself in their world. And as I’m saying this, I realize it sounds like maybe I’m mad about the end or the lives lost due to the miscommunication, but I was shouting at Adelina from day one, when Teren took her aside and threatened the life of her sister. She chose to further separate herself from the Elites and basically spy as terribly as she could so she wasn’t being super horrible to the people who took her in. What kind of decision is that? Why wouldn’t she use the opportunity to give the Elites information and be useful and therefore allow herself to be included in the plans? Maybe I just didn't think Teren would actually hurt her sister. Maybe I don't think he's as bad as he seems? I JUST DON'T KNOW.
Honestly, I’m shocked by how many reviewers put Adelina in the strong category. To me, she was weak and cowardly, using her fears and well intentioned selfishness to destroy everything. I realize that she struggled with her power, but it’s her fault no one in the Dagger society trusted her. They had good reason. I’m hoping that she’ll turn into the villain somehow, but I don’t know if I would buy that because so many of her actions are based on terrible decision making with somewhat good intentions and that’s not really ingredients for a badass villain, either. Maybe she's just growing up and I need to just wait for the other books before forming an opinion.

Aside from Adelina’s character, I really liked The Young Elites. It was an intriguing concept with a ton of dark elements and power. I will continue the story and I’m hoping that Adelina will redeem herself in some way. I wouldn’t care if she was the hero or the villian, so long as she develops a better decision making process for her life.

The Young Elites was a unique fantasy world. I liked how the people with powers were also people that were looked down upon for surviving a sickness and becoming disfigured in some way. I thought the way the society was set up left a ton of room for conflict and I could see how the tensions got to be as bad as they were. I highly recommend the book because Marie Lu certainly delivered a well written fantasy that wasn’t predictable at all. I thought it was a huge step up from her Legend series. I wish she could have made a heroine who wasn’t TSTL so often, but I know that’s a lot to ask for in YA fiction, so I am trying not to fault the series for it. And also, I'm kind of hoping that this will be story about how not everything is black and white. I think the Lead Inquisitor will redeem himself and not be the villain, and I think perhaps it will take a character like Adelina, who will dabble in darkness, in order to understand that things aren't clear and not all actions are good or evil.

Despite my issues with the book, I feel so many strong opinions and emotions about the events and the characters. I love it when books challenge me like this and make me love and hate them at the same time, so I'm eager for the sequel to see how the story will evolve.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review–The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder
by Kimberly Derting
Summary: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.

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Source: I purchased a kindle copy.


While The Body Finder was enjoyable to read, I have to admit that it didn’t leave a lasting impression. As I was sitting down to catch up on reviews, it actually slipped my mind that I read it at all and I had to go back and skim a few pages to jog my memory. That’s actually never happened to me, but forgetting about the story completely has certainly impacted my feelings about it.

Violet could find bodies of animals and people based on some sort of power that leaves her with trails. Often, she can also find the killer based on the weird trail her or she makes and the way it relates to the death trail.

Many YA books can be enjoyed as adults. I’d argue most of them can be. But there’s a few that just aren’t for adults. We expect too much, we ask too many questions, and we just can’t enjoy a book that a younger audience would. For this book, there’s virtually no depth to the story. Violet spent more time dealing with the drama of falling for a guy who was also her best friend throughout most of the story. The finding of the bodies was just an extra side plot to me and it takes Violet no time to just waltz around and eventually sniff the person out, but there was no build up, no list of suspects, and no real plan.

For young teens who like the idea of there being something special about the main character, like the added mystery element, and essentially want a best friends become a couple type of relationship arc, The Body Finder would be a great recommendation. But for me, it just fell flat and didn’t offer me anything worthwhile. I mean, I totally FORGOT I even finished this. I would've given this 3 stars if it didn't turn out to be quite so forgettable.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Review–How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love
by Katie Cotugno
Summary: Before:
Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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How to Love was frustrating to read. It’s a book about second chance love, which I thought sounded amazing. And it might have been, had Sawyer LeGrande not been an epic waste of time. This book should have been called How to Love A Terrible Person and Ruin Your Life As A Result.

I hate to be harsh because the book had promise and wasn’t badly written. I liked the constant jumping from Before to After as we got to understand Reena and Sawyer and how things ended up that way. I kept reading, captivated, wanting to find out what happened between them. How to Love is one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, but once I figured out the full story, it was a waste of time.
The story began with Reena. She was raising her daughter on her own and out of high school. She ran into Sawyer at a gas station and realized that he was back in town for the first time since he left her. The reader had no idea what happened other than Sawyer knocked her up at some point and then left and now he’s back years later. The book switched from After (the baby) to Before frequently throughout the story, so we eventually got the entire picture. Reena’s family wasn’t very happy with the fact that she got pregnant at 16 and her relationship with Sawyer’s parents was nonexistent. She hadn’t spoken to Sawyer since he left, shortly after getting her pregnant. In the Before sections, we found out that she had always had a crush on him since she was a little kid.

I am not judgmental and I love some flawed characters. I’m always rooting for the worst kinds of villains in fiction. Not just your typically bad boy, but the ones that are actually problematic, selfish, and sometimes evil. That is NOT why I dislike Sawyer, really. I can grow to love a flawed bad boy character. I promise. But Sawyer had to the be the worst character to have as the love interest and he was so terrible to Reena. Over and over and over again! And she just kept letting it happen! I wanted to slap her the entire time!

Reena virtually never spoke up for herself. She was in a relationship with a nice, but generally uninteresting guy. She had a shaky relationship with her parents after having her child. The highlight in her life was Hannah, her daughter, but that was basically it. She took some classes at a college, but it was obvious she had gotten into a much better college and had some set goals before finding out she was pregnant. She dreamed of being a travel writer, but was instead a waitress and part time student. While I understood that things have to change when you have a kid, I was kind of irritated that she let her pregnancy stop her from doing what she wanted. No, she couldn’t go off to a 4 year college and ignore her baby, but she could have at least travelled and wrote a bit and not let her circumstances stop her from finding some sort of compromise and joy in her life. She could have at least tried to mend things with her parents by SPEAKING UP every once in awhile. You’re a mom, Reena, you’re an adult. Get the F up and do something with your life and stop letting everyone around you blame you alone for your circumstances. Rise above them and also stop treating them like your life is now ruined.

And then came Sawyer. He had so many problems and he was the kind of guy who made Reena turn into mush and stop being responsible. It was clear that he wanted back into her life and he even attempted to form a relationship with Hannah. It complicated things, especially because she cared about him. But he was terrible. In the Before, he was a drug addict. He took her to parties and scored drugs and just LEFT HER in rooms with strangers KNOWING she was uncomfortable. He flirted with other girls ALL OF THE TIME in front of her. He lied to her in order to not hurt her feelings. He wasn’t the kind of bad boy who was better around the girl he loved. He wasn’t the kind of guy who made her into a better, more well rounded person. He didn’t make her take risks that eventually opened her up in a positive way, like so many bad boys in romantic fiction. There were literally NO redeeming qualities about him. And she just let all of this happen. In the After, he was clean, he was back, and he was willing to be around for her, but there was still this general perception that he really had no responsibilities. Nothing about his past was addressed other than the fact that he wasn’t doing drugs or drinking anymore. Everyone blamed Reena for getting pregnant and even looking Sawyer’s way in the first place and it was generally perceived that it was her fault for getting involved with him. When he came back, that perception was still there as her family warned her not to mess up this time. Which was BS. Where was his slice of blame and responsibility?

Also, when Sawyer left, there was no reason for it. Honestly, he just left and I think it was to create a plot device. Later, it was the general idea that he was afraid she would go off to college and leave him. She was good, he was bad. He worried about her leaving him, she worried about him leaving her. So he left first. And then she was pregnant. And they rarely talked about anything important, or those fears could have been alleviated. Why would anyone want to be with someone who made them feel like less of a person? She never spoke up about her feelings or her wants, and he never talked about his issues. They didn’t belong together at all.

My feelings about the book are directly related to Sawyer. The fact that he’s supposed to be the main squeeze just made me lose all respect for Reena and not enjoy the way things panned out as a result. A better story would have been her finally finding someone who treated her right that she also could fall for and for her family to support her. It seems as though other readers liked Sawyer and rated the book highly because they didn’t have the same problems that I did. My advice is to decide for yourself. How to Love is a quick read and it’s certainly worth reading. It was written pretty well and dealt with a lot of issues. If you don’t hate Sawyer, I’m sure it would be quite enjoyable.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Guest Post: Fairy Tales and Disney Classics by Elizabeth Eckhart


From Old Days to Live Action: Disney’s Classics Set to Become New Again

by Elizabeth Eckhart  

People have been enjoying fairy tales for a very long time. While some fade away as years pass, some stories have stayed with us for centuries. The ones that have truly captured our hearts are still being told and retold for each generation. Some have been taken from books and made into Disney movies, and some of those beloved movies have been remade again, making these timeless tales even more relatable for modern audiences and for audiences of all ages.   
The Little Mermaid is a very well-known tale in America because of the famous Disney movie of the same title. The original story was written in 1836 by Hans Christian Andersen, and while it shares a lot in common with the Disney version, it is much more tragic and startlingly dark for a fairy tale. In this story, the mermaid gives up her tongue in exchange for human legs, as well as a human soul and a chance at winning the prince's love. She knows if he marries another, she will die. Even though they become close, the prince falls in love with someone else. The mermaid has a chance to kill him to save herself, but she refuses and casts herself into the sea. The story does redeem the mermaid in the end by giving her the chance to obtain a soul and go to Heaven, but she never truly gets that happy ending. Disney gives this tale a much more cheerful spin by having the prince fall in love with her. A remake is in the works that will take the story back to its roots. This live-action film will be directed by Sofia Coppola. The remake is believed to stay truer to the original story, keeping in line with Coppola’s irreverent and often dark style of filmmaking. No word out yet about really anything aside from the fact that it’s in development.   
Cinderella is one of the oldest fairy tales around and has variations on the same basic theme in dozens of cultures around the world. The Brothers Grimm wrote one well-known version in the 1800s, and it is much more gruesome than its Disney counterpart. One of the most memorable details of the story is the punishment given to the evil stepsisters in the end, whose eyes are pecked out by doves during Cinderella’s wedding. Of course, Disney’s version had all of these questionable parts removed to make it more appropriate for children. In 2015, it was retold once again as a live-action romance film, bringing the classic story to a contemporary audience. Many details are borrowed from the Disney film, but this new version of Cinderella gives much more depth to the character of Cinderella and is almost like a grown-up (but still kid-friendly) retelling of the beloved tale. Audiences seemed to approve of this remake and came out in droves.  
Sleeping Beauty is another story by the Brothers Grimm, originally called Briar Rose, and the tale would not be considered appropriate for children now. In the original, the prince sleeps with the princess while she is sleeping and she gives birth to twins. This problematic message is completely scrubbed from the Disney version, which instead has Princess Aurora wake up from her deep sleep with a chaste kiss. The story was remade but with a twist, instead focusing on the villain in Maleficent, which is just now hitting movie channels. Of course the remake took plenty of liberties filling in the blanks with Maleficent's life and made what was promoted as a dark and sinister film into a much more subdued, family friendly film.   
Pinocchio is another example of a classic tale that was sanitized by Disney. The original tale by Carlo Collodi was published in 1883 and ended in Pinocchio’s execution for his misdeeds. The Disney version portrayed Pinocchio as a misguided but overall well-meaning puppet that just wanted to be a real boy. Disney just announced at the beginning of April the beloved wooden puppet will come to life once again in a live-action remake and will presumably put a more modern twist on Disney’s version of the tale.   Many are unaware of this, but the Disney film Mulan was based on the life of a real female warrior, Hua Mulan, and the famous poem written about her, The Ballad of Hua Mulan. Many of the events in the film really happened, like Hua Mulan taking her elderly father’s place in battle and becoming a war hero. Still, there are differences between the two; in reality, she did not fall in love with a general, and Disney intentionally omits Mulan’s suicide from their version of events. A new live action film telling the story may provide audiences with a more realistic rendition of the tale.   
Beauty and the Beast is a beloved Disney film, but it is also based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la BĂȘte by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which was originally released in 1756. Surprisingly, there are very few differences between this film and the original story. The live action remake starring Emma Watson is currently in pre-production, and is expected to be released in 2017. The love for these tales never truly fades, and parents to share the magic of their favorite tales with their own children. While the original Disney films and even the books they came from are still beloved all over the world, the remakes of these classic stories bring them to fans in a modern way, updating them for a new audience. The heart of the story remains the same, uniting us all, young and old, in our love for fairy tales.  

Follow Elizabeth Eckhart on Twitter @elizeckhart 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review–End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days #3) by Susan Ee


End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days #3)

by Susan Ee
Summary: End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy.
After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.
When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

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Source: I preordered a Kindle copy


The conclusion to the series was awesome and epic! The entire time I was reading, I kept thinking there weren’t enough pages for all of the things that needed to happen. Somehow, though, there were just enough. The story surprised me multiple times.

Penryn and Raffe made such an amazing team, but their loyalties to their own kind often got in the way. They were on opposites sides of the battle, but yet they had a common goal to bring down Uriel because he was manipulating everything and making it seem to the angels as if the apocalypse was really happening, which changes the game and the rules for those angels. In reality, it was an apocalypse of his own making with illusions and experiments designed to fool both humans and angels alike.

I can’t give too much of the story away because I liked not knowing what would happen, how the various pieces of the plot and the characters would come together, and what would happen to Penryn and Raffe.

I HIGHLY recommend the series. The final book was epic and awesome and full of emotions. It was jam packed with adventure, danger, and sticky situations for Penryn and other characters. I absolutely love the series. It got better with each book. This series is so freaking good. Just read it.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ReReading A Favorite Series

I'm not much of a rereader. The only time I really do it is for a series to refresh my memory and get ready for the next book to release. Which is a shame because in my favorite series, it seems like the last books are the best.

I decided to reread the Shatter Me series after being in such a major book slump. I liked the books I was reading, but it was hard to get into anything. I suddenly had the urge to re experience the Shatter Me series and I'm so glad I did!!! 

I love the writing and the way the books manipulate my emotions and change how I feel about the characters. Watching Juliette evolve and see the world and the people in it through different eyes was amazing. Ignite Me was incredible to reread. While I've reread the books as each new book has released, I've never picked up Ignite Me again and I think reading that was the best part of the experience overall. It was great to revisit the story.

What about you? Do you reread books? 

Have you read this series? 

Sometimes I feel like being in the mood for something is the most awesome way to read. Don't read what you're not in the mood for and don't skip over a good reread just because your TBR shelf is large and growing exponentially. I'm feeling a tad bit of a book hangover, but I also feel refreshed and ready to enjoy a new story!! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review–The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman
by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Summary: On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America--and into another realm.
One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written, The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother's life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more.
Let the quest begin. . . .

Source: I’ve owned the paperback for over a decade and finally picked it up.

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The Talisman is exactly what I would expect a fantasy novel written by Stephen King to be like, which is a good thing. He modernized the fantasy genre quite a bit, but in a different way than most authors do. Most people take the stuff of fantasy novels and place them in a modern world, like that of the urban fantasy genre. But King (and Straub) didn’t really do that. Instead, the fantasy world is somewhat of a parallel universe and Jack has the ability to shift back and forth into it. But like the fantasy novels of old, the main character was young, hopeful, and had a long journey ahead of him before he could relax. The stuff of nightmares plagued him, played on his psyche, and motivated him to keep moving. He encountered villains along the way, but he also encountered friends, even among the strange creatures of the Territories.

I loved the plot and I was engrossed in the story for the majority of the novel. I enjoyed watching Jack grow and also seeing how he coped with the obstacles put in his path. Perhaps my favorite part of the novel was meeting Wolf. I felt like I got a lot more information about the Territories from Wolf and how they related to the regular world. I liked his fierce loyalty. It seems as if many reviewers disliked Wolf’s character and simplemindedness, but that was one of the highlights of the story to me.

My only issue with the book is also not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t understand why King’s novels are always so similar. I felt like there was a little bit of everything peppered into this story from his other novels that I’ve read, which was a shame considering I haven’t read very many. At the same time, those familiar characteristics or moments were great because I enjoy so many of the human aspects of his book, seeing how people grow, and discovering how their relationships with others is impacted.

I wouldn’t necessarily call The Talisman the best fantasy or the most magical story ever written, even by King or Straub. But it was highly captivating and awesome. I enjoyed reading it. The daunting length didn’t really get to me because I was so engrossed in the book. I recommend reading it, especially if you’re into fantasy types of plots and not so much horror, but have always wanted to check out King and Straub. They are some of the best horror writers of our time, but horror isn’t really a genre for everyone. The Talisman allows readers to get why King is a such a compelling author without stepping into an uncomfortable genre. Although, as a fan of horror novels, I still highly recommend picking some of his normal books up!