Book Review: S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett

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35912128S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2017 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Star Rating: 2/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Pretty Little Liars.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.

To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ – an invitation to spend the half term weekend at the country m

anor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S.

Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying reality that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

 

Before reading this book I didn’t really know what ‘blood sports’ were so I wasn’t really expecting a book about a group of posh, aristocratic teens hunting deer, shooting pheasants and catching fish. I had to adjust my expectations a little as the term ‘blood sports’ and not knowing what it meant skewed my expectations a bit. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t know what blood sports are…

The first few chapters of the book were written in a way that included a lot of summary, which I struggled to get into. Although reference to a murder on the first page certainly caught my interest. Fortunately, it didn’t continue with lots of summary and I enjoyed the writing more when the book got going.

I liked that it was set in England, that made a nice change, and how Greer often thought in terms of films as she has watched a lot of them with her dad, so her sphere of reference fit her interests. I enjoyed Greer’s character and her narration. Other characters, however, were not given much personality. The ‘villains’ of this book were very one-dimensional, quite clichéd, and given no individual motivations. They’re rich and evil and that’s basically it.

The novel is told retrospectively, from Greer looking back on events, giving her an awareness in her narration of what is going to happen next, with the ‘hook’ (non-intentional fishing pun…) of the book always being references to a murder (right from the beginning this is mentioned). There were often suggestions that something worse was going to happen in the next chapter. This is a good way to keep a reader’s interest, but the problem is you build it up so much that it’s hard to live up to the expectation you’ve built up in the reader.

There was no romantic connection between any of the characters, yet two end up together at the end (no spoilers as to who), which feels put in just for the sake of it, to tick the romance box, rather than because there was actually any chemistry between them. It would have been better if they had just been left as friends.

The ‘twist’ that came a couple of chapters from the end was a bit farfetched to me. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t linger, but it wasn’t one of those exciting, heart-stopping twists. It was a ‘really?’, rolling my eyes kind of twist. It was too sudden, there was no set up for it, so it felt forced. The epilogue was very choppy and all over the place like it was thrown together. The twist in the epilogue did surprise me a bit more, but was kind of an obvious decision to make.

There was an incredibly clichéd therapist at the end that just made me sigh. Why do authors keep reverting to stereotypes and clichés for these characters? At least have a realistic therapist, not just some hippy caricature (yes, that is what is in this book).

One thing I did like (because I seem to have said a lot of negative things so far) is how the book explores the issue of technology, how it dominates our lives, and the idea of living without it. The contrast between the ‘Savage’ world and the absence of technology in the ‘Medieval’ world is really interesting.

Nothing really surprised me about this book. It’s pretty obvious what the ‘sinister’ stuff going on is fairly early on. I think the author could have gone darker with this, could have made it so much more suspenseful than it was. The idea had a lot of potential. Perhaps my hopeful expectations of this being an amazing book were too high, but I was left kind of disappointed and deflated.

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Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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9781595141743Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 books 1-3 set, Penguin (first published 2007)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

 

I watched the film adaptation of this before reading the book. Having seen the film a couple of times, I could remember most of it, so there weren’t really any surprises when it came to reading it. Especially as the film is pretty faithful to the book compared to a lot of adaptations. Even so, I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I picked it up. There weren’t any points where I felt bored; Mead kept my interest all the way through even though I knew the story.

I like the world Mead has created, with the two different kind of vampires – Moroi, who are alive, and the Strigoi, who are dead and more like the kind of vampires readers will be familiar with – and their half-vampire guardians, the dhampir.

Rose’s voice came through in the first person narration strongly right from the start. I had a clear picture of her character early on which showed great characterisation. Lissa was also a good character, along with Dimitri and Christian. Other characters ended up falling into stereotypes and clichés a bit too much, unfortunately.

The focus in this novel was more on the friendship between Rose and Lissa than romantic relationships. There was romance, but it felt like friendship was put before romance which made a nice change for a young adult paranormal novel. Others I have read have been focused on a main character and a romantic interest, often with friends sidelined. So it was refreshing to see friendship explored more in this one.

The biggest weakness in Mead’s writing was the action sequences. This book wasn’t driven by action, there were only a couple of fight scenes towards the end, but these were very weak. The action was described very vaguely which meant there was no suspense and it wasn’t at all exciting. Even in a book where action isn’t the focus, if you’re going to include a fight scene it needs to be written well. In this novel, they weren’t described well at all.

I was really torn between a 3 or 4 star rating for this one, but since I’ve given books I liked a lot more than this 4 stars, I figured it had better get 3.5 stars. I did, however, very much enjoy reading it.

There’s not much indication at the end of this first book what direction the series is going to go in. With six books in total, there must be some new plot threads introduced in the next book to keep the story going. I’ll be interested to read the next one, especially as I won’t know what to expect since there isn’t a film adaptation.

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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14061957Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo   

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition, 2014 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2014)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction – but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.

 

The final book in the Grishaverse trilogy was, unfortunately, a little disappointing. While I liked the book, it didn’t pull me in, not in the same way the first two books did.

There were too many inner monologues for Alina that just felt repetitive. Her thoughts and emotions could have been written better in places. Elsewhere, the writing was good though, and I continued to enjoy the world building. I thought it was interesting how Alina was viewed as a Saint. It’s not something I’ve really seen in fantasy before, but totally makes sense for someone with ‘magic’ to be viewed that way by some people.

Bardugo is pretty mean to her characters in this book, things rarely go the ‘heroes’ way, which I liked. It showed how the characters had to keep getting back up and fight mentally to keep persevering. Though Bardugo seemed to be taking this book in a dark direction, it somehow ended up being too soft in the end, which I don’t mind, except the lead up led me to think it was going a different way. Like the author wanted to take it in a darker direction at the end, but dipped their toes in and decided to back out. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe she wanted a touch of darkness, but was always going to end it in a less dark way. The fairy tale framing does suggest there would be a happy ending of sorts.

There were some surprising twists and exciting scenes, but between those I wasn’t hooked. One of the twists also came totally out of the blue, a bit too much so. It was a bit of a stretch. But I liked how it took the last quarter of the book in a different direction to what I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t predictable. Though at times it was very simple. There weren’t any subplots or complexities outside of the main thread.

There was a lot of build up to the ‘final battle’ but then it seemed to be over very quickly. There could have been a lot more tension and emotion in the battle. If it had been developed more, it would have had more impact.

One thing I disliked is how one of the character’s deaths was dealt with. A secondary character dies in the ‘final battle’, but it’s sort of randomly mentioned afterwards in a totally detached way. Alina doesn’t even seem upset, yet she is totally distraught by deaths of other secondary characters in the trilogy. This character’s death was totally skimmed over, almost like an afterthought – ‘oh by the way and this character died in that battle’. It seemed like the character was killed off just to tick the box, since it’s unrealistic for everyone to survive. I thought that character’s death was handled badly.

This book was disappointing compared to books one and two. It just seemed to lack the spark the first two had. I did like the epilogue though, it was satisfying. I’m glad I finished the series and would pick up another of Bardugo’s books in future even though I didn’t love this book as much as the others.

Author Interview: Lynden Wade

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A Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.

LYNDEN WADE AUTHOR PHOTOLynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ her contribution to A Bit of Magic. She is working on a historical novel. She loves tea shops, book shops, period drama, castles and trees. You can find her on quillsquotesqueensquests.wordpress.com, on lyndenwadeauthor.weebly.com and on Facebook.

What inspired your retelling?

One of my favourite books as a child was ‘The Kingdom under the Sea and Other Stories’ by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, who drew delicate silhouettes that entwined the text. I particularly loved the story ‘The Reed Girl,’ but I also felt quite impatient with the Prince, who kept letting the reed girls die because he didn’t get to them fast enough to give them water. It needed a retelling!

Sounds like an interesting story to base a retelling on. What was the hardest part of writing it?

Trying to make Yanek, the hero, sympathetic. He’s got to move from stupid and a bit conceited, but kind-hearted too, to acknowledgement that he doesn’t have to use his muscles to solve everything.

What other short stories have you written for the JL anthologies?  

I contributed ‘The Goose and his Girl’ to the first JL anthology, From the Stories of Old.  

How did this experience differ from writing ‘The Goose and his Girl’?

I’d already rewritten the story before putting it through the JL grinder, so it didn’t need as many rewrites!

Always handy to get a head start! Did you stick closely to the fairy tale you rewrote?

No, my story goes on from the reed girl incident. Yanek needs to meet other daughters of nature to learn his lesson.

Do you prefer a happy ending, and did that affect how you wrote your story?

The original had a happy ending – if you don’t count the two dead reed girls! I felt I had to tread a careful line when I reworked this element. If nothing happened to the girls Yanek met, then he wouldn’t notice the effect of his crash-and-burn approach to life. If they died, the reader would lose all sympathy with him. I hope I’ve got the right balance.

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There’s often a balancing act when rewriting stories. Did you find retelling a story more or less challenging than writing an original story, and how did the experience differ?

It gives you a diving board, so you can dive straight in. I don’t find the fairytale structure limiting, either – it’s pretty loose and flexible. Personally, what I found challenging here was that I love the style of classic fairy tales, and like to write something that aims to be lyrical, with characters that are quite simple – everyman and everywoman. But I had to consciously round my characters a bit more to appeal to a modern audience.

How did you combine elements from multiple fairy tales to create one story?

I needed more girls for Yanek to quest for. At first I used elements of Eastern European fairy tales to inspire me – the Firebird from Russian fairy tales, and the Griffin from Bulgaria, as I remember. Quite late on in the writing process I realised that though I’d been using characters from one geographical area, the root story is Hungarian and the Hungarian language and people are a different ethnic group from most of Eastern Europe, which is Slavic. I kept the griffin, because he seems to stretch over a fairly wide geographical space, but changed the Firebird into a Fire Toad, my own invention.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was five. My mother kept my story about the tooth fairy. I won’t be publishing it, though!

Everyone starts somewhere! So you’ve been writing for a long time. What projects are you working on now?

I have a story based on the legend of Wayland the Smith that is due to be published in another anthology at the end of this month: it’s called ‘The Web and the Wildwood’ and it will appear in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4. In between, I’m working on my third draft of a historical novel about characters from the Foundling Hospital in London in the 18th century.

A Bit of Magic will be released on 31st May.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May

Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May

Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May

M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May

**RELEASE DAY — 31 MAY**

Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June

Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June

Mae Baum hosts Allie May — 9th June

Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June

 

Cover Reveal: A Bit of Magic

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This comes to you a day late as I wrote down the wrong date! Never mind. The next release from the Just-Us League writing group is A Bit of Magic, a Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings. The anthology will be released on the 31st May. Today I bring you a reveal for the gorgeous cover, created by Louis Rakovich at Indigo Forest Designs. Each story in the anthology is accompanied by an illustration by Heidi Hayden.

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The oldest story can be made new again, changed and altered until it is reimagined and restored.

Pride interferes with happily-ever-afters: a proud princess is tested and tests the prince in return; a young thief is caught red-handed and must make amends; and a vain queen struggles to save her stepdaughter.

Finding love is not a simple task: a hero searches for the ideal magical bride; an innocent librarian is charmed by a man with a menacing secret; a queen takes a spoiled prince as her sole deckhand; and a well-intentioned princess seeks to make things right with her father.

Change causes chaos, for better or worse: a scheming cat seeks to better the lot of his daydreaming master; a cursed pirate captain is given a second chance when he finds a young stowaway; a spoiled teenager suffers the consequences of turning her best friend into a toad; and a thief and a rebel hiding secrets meet at a ball.

Follow these characters on their journeys as eleven magical tales are turned on their heads and seen from new perspectives.

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A Bit of Magic is the fifth anthology published by the Just-Us League and is available to preorder now from Amazon.

The A Bit of Magic blog tour continues through May and June with interviews with the authors. On 27th May I’ll be interviewing Lynden Wade, author of the short story ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.

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Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May

Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May

Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May

M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May

**RELEASE DAY — 31 MAY**

Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June

Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June

Mae Baum hosts Allie May — 9th June

Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read

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Some of these are books I disliked but am glad I read because I learnt something from them. As much as we can learn what makes a great book, as a writer you can learn what not to do from what you don’t like about books you’ve read.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – I disliked this book but it’s one of those books you have to read so you know what it’s all about, so you’re not just making blind judgements.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth – I enjoyed the first two books in this series but the third book just wasn’t great. I didn’t hate it. There were some things I liked about it, and I’m glad I finished reading the series and saw the story to the end, but the book was a disappointment.

Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert – I hated this classic but at least I can say I read it! I found it very dull and would have given up if I hadn’t needed to read it for my degree.

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Changeling by Philippa Gregory – I’m glad I read this one because it made me realise that even a really successful author can write books that are just plain bad. Philippa Gregory is a very well known author, and I’ve heard good things about her books, so I was pretty shocked at how bad Changeling was.

Matched by Ally Condie – I read this when I was first getting into YA sci-fi, and I guess it made me realise that even in a genre you love there are books that you hate.

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick – This book taught me how quickly and badly a series can go downhill. This book was so bad compared to the first two in the series. I didn’t end up reading the fourth and final book.

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Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – I didn’t enjoy this book, it just wasn’t for me. But at least I then knew the book is not at all like the Jack Black film, because that was something I had wondered about!

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – So I didn’t hate or dislike this book, though I’m not really sure I can say I ‘liked’ it. It was a very strange book. I’m glad I read it though because I think it’s very well written.

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole – I’m glad I read this book, as it was the beginning of the Gothic genre, but I didn’t really like it all that much.

I fell short at nine this week. I couldn’t find a tenth book I disliked but am glad I read. Any other books I disliked I’m not glad I read at all! Are there any books you disliked but are glad you read?

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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y648A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2011 by HarperVoyager (first published 1996)

Pages: 806

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Kings and queens, Knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones.

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond.

The Game of Thrones. You win, or you die.

Book one of A Song of Ice and Fire begins the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age.

 

This book has been sat on my shelf for many years, and finally I’ve read it. It was probably the great length that put me off before now. I stopped reading humungous fantasy novels, but I’m back into them now. For contextualisation, this is my first time reading the book and I haven’t watched any of the TV series either.

I don’t know what it was about this book, but I just wanted to keep reading. That’s something hard to achieve for a book so long. It really held my attention and I didn’t want to put it down. That’s something I’d expect from a fast-paced novel, not an almighty tome. I often feel bogged down in long books, even the best ones. I get restless and distracted. I didn’t get that feeling with A Game of Thrones.

The novel is told from many characters’ perspectives and alternates between them. This is partly what helped keep the book moving. Some people wouldn’t like the constant switching between characters and locations, but I think it worked for this book. It meant the momentum kept going. All of the perspectives were important as well. I didn’t feel like any of them were a waste of time as each one provided a different insight into the story. It was interesting to see how different characters’ viewed events, and how all those plot threads fit together.

The world building in this is really strong. I was totally immersed in the world. This is also helped by Martin’s brilliant writing. He gets the balance just right. There’s enough description for me to visualise the scene like I’m watching a film, but not too much description as is often the case in fantasy novels.

This series probably isn’t for everyone. It’s not the fun adventure most other fantasy books I’ve read are. There’s violence, gore, executions, sex and incest. I’m not too keen on strong violence. Fortunately there wasn’t too much in this book, for my tolerance levels. Besides, my enjoyment of the story easily outweighs my dislike of any violent scenes.

Having finished the first book, I am totally invested in the characters and want to read the rest of the series. I can see why this book, and the TV adaptation, has garnered so many fans. The story pulls you in, and it doesn’t let go the whole way through.

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Books with my Favourite Colour on the Cover

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Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

This week’s topic is books with your favourite colour on the cover or in the title. My favourite colour tends to vary a bit from year to year, at the moment I’m partial to purple so that’s what I’ve chosen for my list. This was a fun topic to research. Without further ado, here are some resplendent purple covers for you to enjoy…

1) Shadow and Bone Leigh Bardugo

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2) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

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3) The Collector by John Fowles

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4) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

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5) Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

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6) Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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7) The Female Man by Joanne Russ 

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8) Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

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9) Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

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10) Ringer by Lauren Oliver

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April Wrap Up

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April was a slow month for me. I only finished reading two books. I’ve been spending time practicing my driving as I have my test next week (eek!) so haven’t been reading or blogging as much this month.

The month started out well – I finished reading a book I loved! The Young Elites by Marie Lu really gripped me. I kep12394068t turning the pages and couldn’t believe it when I finished it. I wanted more. I have the second and third books in the trilogy on my shelf and I don’t think it will be long before I read them.

While on holiday I got a copy of A Street Cat Named Bob. I love cats and I saw the film a few months ago, and remember it being a really interesting and moving story. It was good reading the book as there was obviously stuff the film left out.

y648So, the other reason I haven’t done many reviews this month is that I’ve been reading the tome that is A Game of Thrones. I’m about 2/3 of the way through now. It feels like I’ve been reading this book for ages, though it’s only been a few months. I’m loving it so far. Review will be coming when I finish it, which may be another couple of weeks at the rate I’m reading at the moment!

Hopefully May will be a better month for both reading and blogging!

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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20821111The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2014 by Penguin (first published 2014)

Pages: 335

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

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.

 

The Young Elites is the first novel by Marie Lu I have read. I’d heard a lot of good things about her books so I had high hopes. What I loved about it is that it’s much darker than other YA fantasy I have read, and it isn’t about black and white good versus evil. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who to root for because there didn’t seem to be ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, there were positives and negatives about both ‘sides’. This made the story so much more interesting. I do like a good vs. evil story, but it was nice to read something that blurred the lines for a change. The actions and ideals of many characters was questionable, so none of them really seemed ‘good’, which was far more realistic than having two opposing ends of the spectrum in conflict.

The main character, Adelina, is by no means a ‘hero’. She has a troubled past and is filled with darkness. She feeds off fear and is driven by power and ambition. The novel follows her perspective closely, so I felt I really understood all her feelings and motivations. She’s a really interesting main character and her internal conflict is written very well.

Unfortunately, most of the other characters were neglected. This novel is very short for fantasy, which I didn’t mind, except I think it perhaps needed to be a little longer to give more time to developing other characters. While Adelina’s characterisation is brilliant, very few other characters were given enough attention and development by Lu. Teren, Raffaele and Violetta were depicted well; I felt I knew their characters well enough. However Lucent, Dante, Gemma and Michel were very vaguely sketched. By the end I didn’t know them at all. No time was given to them at all so they were just like shadows in the background rather than proper characters. Even Enzo was a little too mysterious. Most of the characters just weren’t fleshed out enough.

The plot was good and the storytelling kept me engaged. Lu had me hooked and I wanted to keep reading. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the story managed to surprise me. Its unpredictability made it gripping.

I can’t wait to see where the next two books head, and I hope the series continues to surprise me. The first book ended far from how I would have expected (in a good twist kind of way), and I’m excited to see how Adelina’s character develops (and hopefully there will be more development for other characters in the next one…).