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The Rose Society (The Young Elites, 2) by Marie Lu

23429332Potential Spoilers Ahead! Read at your own risk!

Note: This review taken from an uncorrected proof, not a final copy, but pre-order yours today! Follow the link below!

 The Rose Society 

(The Young Elites)

After accidentally using her power and mistaking Prince Enzo for Teren, causing Teren to kill Enzo, Adelina and her sister are on the run from the Daggers and the Inquisition Axis. The Daggers have also escaped the shores of Kenettra, as even their supporters are targeted and suppressed by the Inquisition. Now in the northern kingdom of Beldain, Raffaele and his companions have gone to offer their services to the new young Queen, and she has plans to use her own Elite power. . . to raise Enzo from the dead and thereby win Kenettra to her crown.

Meanwhile, Adelina and Violetta have made their way across the sea in search of more Elites, intent upon gaining support to take the crown from Queen Giulietta and to stop the mistreatment of the malfettos. They’ve been scouting the island of Merroutas for Magiano, a boy who inspires so many rumors that they cannot be sure of his real gifts. His real draw is his influence and reputation. When they finally come across Magiano, he makes them a deal in exchange for his allegiance: to steal a priceless brooch from the Night King, the most feared man in Merroutas, before Magiano himself can. Using her ruthless cunning, Adelina and Violetta are able to outsmart Magiano and the Night King, but not without making a giant mess that leaves the Night King dead, Merroutas floundering for leadership, and Adelina hallucinating severely. Still, they succeed in winning Magiano to their cause, who brings his own ally:  Sergio, a mercenary captain and another Young Elite–the Boy Who Could Control the Rain. Together they form their own society, the Rose Society, and cement their allegiance. Discovering that the Daggers and Queen Maeve plan to raise Enzo and tether him to Raffaele, Adelina and the Roses have another danger other than the Inquisition.  It’s a fight on three sides as Queen Maeve, the Beldish army, and the Daggers draw against Queen Guiletta, Teren, and the Inquisition while also beset by Adelina, Violetta, Magiano, Sergio, and the mercenaries from Merroutas. Who will survive in this epic battle for destiny?

I couldn’t put this book down! Oh, how I want to read it again and again. This was not a typical middle novel in a trilogy. It magnifies the expectation for the final book (but did you expect any less from Marie Lu?), and is simply darker than ever, amazing, and addictive. I must confess. I love Magiano. He’s become my favorite in this novel, while the other characters have become more clear. He’s just so sweet, funny, and flirtatious! Still, so as not to give to much away, I’m only going to talk about Adelina.

While the first novel explored Adelina’s innocence and vulnerability, those ties have been mostly severed, and here we follow as she threatens to thoroughly embrace Machiavellian principles in her quest for vengeance and power. In using her illusion gifts more frequently, her inner turmoil grows which manifests outwardly, leaving her powers and her sanity unstable. Her one last hope is her love and loyalties, but those are uncertain with the addition of the raised and unpredictable Enzo. Adelina becomes more and more like the White Wolf for whom she is named, transforming from a dangerous puppy into a bloodthirsty wild animal that strikes all who may be potential threats. (I just can’t help but imagine how hard it must be for Marie Lu to write such a dark heroine; the real blood, sweat, and tears it must take to sit in Adelina’s head!) This may be the first time you are so seduced by a villain . . .

Teaser for the next novel: A final secret emerges that promises to destroy all Young Elites and the world they strive to build, heal, or conquer.

Read an excerpt found at JustJared!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Fantasy

 

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The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Book 3) by Michelle Hodkin 

15768409 The Retribution of Mara Dyer – A bonechilling, grisly, and satisfyingly engrossing read. 

After being set up by her ex-boyfriend Jude and Dr. Kells, Mara and her friends Jamie and Stella are official patients of Horizons inpatient treatment center and trapped in a secret underground bunker where they’re being held captive, drugged, and experimented on against their will. As for Noah, Mara doesn’t know what happened to him, but Dr. Kells says he’s died. Unable to believe this and practically catatonic without the grief, Mara is surprised when she wakes up from her drug-induced state to discover Jude has freed her and sent her on a mission to find Noah. After killing Dr. Kells in a battle for her life and her sanity, Mara, along with Jamie and Stella must escape the island, though she is still drugged, sick, and covered in blood. After making it back to Miami, they use Jamie’s power of influence to fool their families, only Mara’s brother Daniel isn’t there, and he has the genetics book, the one that explains what they are and perhaps might lead them to Noah. They follow Daniel to New York where he seems to be visiting colleges. As all secrets are revealed about Mara’s ancestry and the mysterious Lukumi, Mara comes to accept the truths of friendship, love, and sacrifice, especially when Noah is caught between life and death; however, she comes to realize the hardest part is accepting yourself and having the courage to make the toughest choice.

In this third and final volume of the Mara Dyer trilogy, Michelle Hodkin brings us full circle to discover the secret of the kids with powers, how Mara and Noah came to be, just why they’re drawn to each other, and how captivatingly she weaves the final threads of Mara’s story together. I am just amazed at her quality of language and imagery. The romance was delightful and fans won’t be disappointed with this resolution. Without Noah for much of the book though, Jamie steps in. He is hilarious, and brings us some relief from the intensity of the action. I loved this series. It’s dark but lovely. Like a blooming nightshade flower. May not want to read this at night, alone, and in a storm though.

Note: Violence, language, sexual situations.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Horror, YA Mystery/Thriller

 

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The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

15750874 The Glass Arrow

Fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA will quickly be sucked into this stand-alone tale.

Once Aya was living in the Frontier with her unconventional family, including two young children she was charged with protecting, trying to make ends meet, but she has been captured and now lives in a slave pen, awaiting some man to make a purchase for her at market. In her society, a potential future of our own, all women are property: sold, abused, used for children, and killed or pushed aside when considered useless. Children are means to an end, and religion and prayer is banned. Also, any girl who is a virgin and gives up her virginity before being sold (even if the man buying her asks her to do it) is punished to live as a Virulent, the lowest caste of society that is visibly marked and usually ripe with disease. Aya tries to do anything to avoid being sold. She starts fights, gets sick, tries to escape, and usually she is punished by being unsuitable for market and sent to live in solitary confinement. In her brief exile, she makes a friend or two: Brax, a wolf puppy she saved, who keeps her warm at night, and a Driver boy, whom she calls Kiran, who is mute but eventually companionable. Then, she runs out of chances.  Finally up for sale, Aya (her slave name is Clover) tries to be as repulsive as possible, which backfires. The mayor of Glasscaster buys her for his son, and Aya is slave to a young boy. Thinking she has lost all chance of escape, she is unexpectedly saved when Kiran pretends to be the mayor’s brother and helps her back into the Frontier. Aya’s only thought is to find her family, but a series of surprises leave her questioning her familial ties, her beliefs, and her future.

The Glass Arrow has been called a modern YA retelling of The Handmaid’s Tale and Aya has been drawing parallels to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. (Actually, I thought it was going to be more like THG and Katniss than it was, so I was very pleasantly surprised by this.) However, it is not for the sheltered reader. It is designed to open eyes. To make the reader think about women, their vulnerabilities, the patriarchal society and how it can degrade into this view, which is very similar to some countries in the world. It is an emotionally difficult read (not inappropriate by any means), but will make you uncomfortable and expose you, if you weren’t already aware, to ideas about sexism and potential abuse of females.

Now the good parts! Aya herself is a strong character, inviting the Katniss comparison, and does much to shelter those around her, like the children, from the brutality of their world. Kiran is the best possible sort of boy, and Aya comes to realize this, discovering that she demonized most men in retaliation to the stereotypical treatment of her (and females in general). Kiran changes her mind, and Aya learns that despite society’s view, she and he can love honestly, honorably, and truly appreciate each other. Brax is both comfort and comic relief from the horrible situation, and the ending is satisfying, though I won’t spoil it here. Take a chance to read something that isn’t just a happy story, for it’s in these that you learn the most about yourself, how you think, and how you might need to change…

*Note: Middle grade readers may not be emotionally ready to read/discuss amount of sexual connotation and possibility of sexual abuse in this book.

P.S. Found it noted on Kristen Simmon’s website that she is working on a book called Metaltown for 2016. Unknown whether this is a sequel (though doubtful) or unrelated. Go there for more articles and bonus stories from The Glass Arrow!

 
 

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Author Spotlight: Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron is a new favorite author!

11733187  The Dark Unwinding

In mid-nineteenth century England, seventeen-year-old Katharine Tulman is orphaned and dependent upon her Aunt Alice for her livelihood. Katharine commonly serves as Aunt Alice’s bookkeeper, but realistically she is her servant as she is expected to do anything Aunt Alice asks of her, with the expectation that one day she will do the same to Teddy, her young cousin, when he comes into his inheritance. However, Aunt Alice is concerned that Teddy’s inheritance is dwindling, being mismanaged by his uncle, and Katharine is sent to have him committed to an asylum. When she arrives at Stranwyne, Katharine is not at all welcomed, finding a drafty, decaying house with only a few close-mouthed occupants, a housekeeper Mrs. Jefferies, her stubborn nephew Lane Moreau, and mute boy Davy with his pet rabbit, who are stubbornly against her seeing her uncle. Still, upon meeting Uncle Tully, as he is known, Katharine discovers there are no shortage of secrets at Stranwyne. Uncle Tully is prone to fits and his own particular way of doing things, but scientifically speaking, he is a genius. He creates “toys” or metal inventions that are motorized animals, people, and other interesting contraptions. In addition to a wide variety of machineworks on the estate, there are also two villages, made up of rescued citizens from England’s workhouses, people whom Uncle Tully is keeping from a harsh lifestyle and who are working toward being self-sufficient making pottery, among other things. Despite these new revelations, Katharine has no personal choice in the matter, it’s either she expose her uncle for mismanagement of the estate or her own future will be on the streets. However, she is able to agree to a month-long trial, as proposed by her uncle’s solicitor, Mr. Babcock. As the time passes, Katharine becomes more and more attached to her uncle and the life at Stranwyne, discovering hidden secrets about her own past and her family while she’s there, until she even comes to believe she might be a little bit mad…

17320980 A Spark Unseen (The Dark Unwinding, 2)

In this sequel, Katharine and Uncle Tully are in a lot of danger. Both the British and the French governments want Uncle Tully’s inventions and the man himself so that they can further their technological warfare, especially since both are currently engaged in the Crimean War. After masked men break into Stranwyne, Katharine, Mary and Mr. Babcock are forced to come up with a plan since defending Stranwyne from potential murderers would be nigh impossible. With the pressure from a British authority, they decide to fake Uncle Tully’s death and tell none of the staff, hightailing it to a family estate in Paris, all the while hiding a drugged Uncle Tully first in a trunk and then in a specially made space of hidden rooms in the city townhouse. In Paris, Katharine has only herself, Mary Brown, her trustworthy and forthright ladies’ maid, and Mr. Babcock, her solicitor. Katharine must also pretend to be the real heiress she is, despite rampant rumours in society of her relationship with a servant, and behave responsibly, which is very hard while hiding Uncle Tully and looking for Lane, whom the British government says is dead after he went to France as a spy to find Ben Aldridge, the man who killed Davy and wanted to steal Uncle Tully’s invention. Luckily or unluckily, an old acquaintance of Katharine’s lives next door and introduces her to the family and friends at a dinner party. There, Katharine meets the ever complimenting Mr. Marchand who comes to chaperone her about the town. Still there are a number of mysteries about the place that remind her of the ever-present danger: a man on the street who watches her house at all hours, her French housekeeper who sells unknown packages at her down, the artist that lived and went missing next door, the probably dead Lane, and the still at large Ben Aldridge as well as the threat of Napoleon III’s and the British military, or any houseguest really, finding Uncle Tully still alive. Can Katharine keep her uncle and his inventions safe, find Lane, and finally get the life she wants back at Stranwyne, or is she in so far over her head that she’s in danger of losing it entirely…

I simply loved this series! I thought the characters were quirky and captivating, the setting intriguing, the steampunkness not overdone but very original. Ingenious. The mystery element was tantalizing and well thought out. The first one finds readers who love a mysterious house with many secrets, and the second, takes them to a new mystery house and adds royal intrigues of Napoleon III and a swashbuckling adventure. By far the thing I was most impressed with in this series was how every time I thought things were getting too impossible for our main character to come out victoriously, she did, with credible believability. Time and again Sharon Cameron wowed me with that, and I find myself missing  the characters long after reading. For a historical fiction, steampunk, romance, mystery mashup, this is a jewel of a read.

23399192 Rook

In a post-apocalyptic Europe where life has seemingly moved backwards as technology is viewed as taboo or artifacts (a Nintendo controller, anyone?), Sophia Bellamy’s family is on the edge of bankruptcy. Though they are Commonwealth, her father has promised her in marriage to the wealthy René Hasard son of a merchant family, native to the Sunken City and therefore an enemy. In what once was Paris, the Sunken City is under the thumb of Premier Allemande and his Protector, the maniacal LeBlanc, who have started a new revolution. Any who oppose are thrown into prison and murdered, except for those whom the Red Rook makes disappear, signified by a red-tipped feather and empty cells. To some the Red Rook is a savior, to others, a criminal deserving of death, and LeBlanc intends to find him, a trail that leads him right to the Bellamy estate where his cousin, René, is celebrating his engagement with wild abandon, charm, and frivolity. Sophia, on the other hand, is continuing to secretly thwart the revolution, until she discovers René is not what he appears, and the danger to herself, her family, and her people can only mount higher before this fast-paced adventure is over.

So, the premise of this novel is very interesting, as it comes off with a historical fiction and science fiction backdrop that is reversed from what we would usually think. The society has embraced (or been forced) into a mostly pre-technology existence, with what little technology they have being historically unusable or hoarded by the government. The problem here is that it just was not explained well enough. Getting an understanding of what this world looked like was next to impossible. For once, it needed more description, but for an already fairly long YA book, maybe they thought it couldn’t be longer. I think the editing for this book was subpar. Sharon Cameron had a fantastic idea, but needed a bit more help fleshing it out to bring it fully alive for the reader, which should have been noticed by the editor(s). The story, though hard to place with setting and backstory, even of the characters, quickly escalates and pulls the reader in, making the problems almost forgettable. Many characters are somewhat flat. However, René with all of his secrets, charisma, and spunk making him a sort of pirate/spy playing the gentleman dandy is sure to delight.

I will surely be reading any future works from this talented author, and I hope you discover something to love about her books too!

 

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Half Bad & Half Wild by Sally Green

An unconventional treatment of witches, not to mention having a main character who seems mentally ill, that gives off an unmistakeably British sense of character, emotion, and humor.

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220px-Half_Bad_book_cover Half Bad

Born into a family of White Witches with his famously murderous Black Witch father hanging over his head and a predominantly oppressive White Witch society, Nathan is alienated and outcast, a lower piece of humanity as designated by his blood. As the only product of Half Black – Half White that there is in the world (called Half Code), Nathan is tarred and feathered as “half bad”. His stepfather was murdered, his mother was put to death for giving birth to him, his older half-sister hates him, and other White Witches are warned to stay away from him, but instead most of them abuse him. There are very few people in Nathan’s life who genuinely love him – his younger half-sister and half-brother and his grandmother. As Nathan gets older, the Council of White Witches gets more and more concerned about Nathan, submitting him to trial after trial until they can prove he is one or the other – White or Black Witch. As they get more and more frustrated at Nathan’s omission to label himself, they take him into custody, giving him over to a stoic tutor Celia who, at their order, keeps him in a cage and beats him regularly. They also want Nathan because he could be a great asset, the key to finding and killing his infamous father Marcus. As Nathan nears 17, the age when witches are given three gifts and must take their family’s blood to come into their full heritage of powers, the pressure increases for Nathan. But no one, except perhaps his sweet love Annalise, understands that Nathan doesn’t want to kill like his father. He just wants to escape, but with the freedom to be himself, even if he doesn’t know quite what that means yet.

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20814989 Half Wild

At the conclusion of the last book, Nathan was in a bad predicament. To save Annalise from death at the hands of Mercury, his great-aunt, he must retrieve the Fairborn (his family knife) from the Hunters, the police force of the Council of White Witches, and then he will be under contract to Mercury for a year, for whatever services she might require, probably killing his father. However, escaping from the Hunters with Gabriel, his new friend, and Rose, Mercury’s assistant, has gotten Rose killed, Gabriel missing, and Nathan severely wounded, though he was visited by his father Marcus and given his three gifts. Just as he was returning to Mercury, the Hunters attack and Mercury wants Marcus’s head or heart or Annalise will shortly die.

Now, with a short time to save Annalise, Nathan still has to find Gabriel and elude the Hunters, all the while struggling with managing his new Gift, which seems to be very similar to his father’s as he becomes some sort of animal, and his new status as an official Black Witch. He must trust new allies in Van and Nesbitt, other Black Witches, to help him find and kill Mercury to save Annalise with a promise that he will join a new alliance of all types of witches to bring down the Council of White Witches. But they want Nathan’s help for a specific reason, so he can bring Marcus into the alliance. With the prophecy that Nathan will kill Marcus hanging over his head, Nathan is understandably conflicted. Their new relationship brings about a better understanding of his father’s past, Nathan’s difficult powers, and his own conflict of identity. While Nathan might have been very much a feared underdog before, he’s coming into his own now, and he struggles with believing he is worthy of love and friendship after having been abused for so long. Be prepared for a surprising ending…

This is such a disturbing, almost unbalanced series as it follows Nathan’s traumatic upbringing and coming-of-age and yet it gives great contrast between love and hate, acceptance and prejudice, and actions versus attitudes. While the narrative seems to struggle as Nathan’s voice is hard to fully embrace, especially when he is an animal, the story itself is unforgettable and horrifying. I don’t know how someone could be unsympathetic to Nathan and the cruelty he experiences. He is not a victim, however, and despite his horrid circumstances, he overcomes them and is still this person who is capable of both great harm and great good. In this, I find, is the comparison between Nathan and Harry Potter, as Harry too had to struggle with his motives and consequences of his actions. Also, this is a rather unforgiving treatment of witches and their conflict, and that makes it both intriguing and disappointing as there are only two sides–White being “good” and yet terribly prejudiced and Machiavellian, and Black being “bad” and typically murderous or prone to causing harm. As we see in the second book, however, this is only the case in Great Britain as other regions do not have the same war of Black vs. White. Instead, they keep to themselves mostly. One of my favorite characters in this series is Gabriel. I just love Gabriel. Let’s see if I can reason it out by talking about the others. While I am on the fence about Annalise still, Nathan both horrifies me and gets my sympathy, Nesbitt is too crass and possibly stupid though dangerous, and Van is too strong and unapproachable (though awe-inspiring). Gabriel is the most open, caring, loyal friend who is also so true to his nature as a Black Witch. He sort of brings out the best in everyone. Maybe that’s why he’s my favorite. I will say, that while this series got a lot of publicity within the last two years, I don’t think it’s quite as good as everyone was gushing about. I am most compelled to read book 3, Half Lost, assumed to be coming out in 2016, especially to see what a fantastic job Sally Green does with developing Nathan’s journey and identity.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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