BOOK REVIEW: The Young Elites Trilogy by Marie Lu

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– John Acton

5 Stars

I started Young Elites expecting a usual no-nonsense Young Adult novel—apparently I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended up finishing the entire trilogy in a span of two and a half days.

Finally, something different.

This review covers the entire trilogy so heads-up: Heavy spoilers ahead.

For the first time, the star is not a hero—but an antihero. Adelina stands out among today’s crop of YA heroines because she is exactly what they are not. We’ve seen it a hundred times: A seemingly ordinary girl who eventually becomes the key to the world’s survival or something like that. It’s a tale as told as time, and frankly I’ve grown tired of it. Young Elites is none of that. This is a story of the rise and fall of a villain—and her eventual redemption. In this series, I saw a mirror of our reality: how nations are born, how they are conquered… how one dictator falls only to be replaced by another. It showed problems our society faces constantly each day: How hate begets hate, how it becomes a cycle that gets nurtured until it peaks. It’s dark, it’s mature, and amidst all the powers and monsters: there is truth.

Young Elites started with Adelina as a weak little girl, not knowing her place in the world and how to use her power. I journeyed with her through her torments until she found the first group of people that accepted her. I saw how she fell in love and how she got betrayed over and over. I watched how the bitterness of life slowly took its toll on her. I knew what was happening: How the darkness in her slowly brewed, cultivated by her sufferings and the people who hurt her. I stood witness as her power heightened and slowly corrupted her—how her ambitions and cruelty grew stronger each page. I knew she was no hero—yet I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. Because I knew her story. Nobody here was pure. Each character had darkness in them—even sweet Violetta. In a way, I rooted for the villain. I think that’s what the author wanted. Because in reality, we all have darkness in us. We all want to succeed, to become powerful, to be on top. Adelina was our personal darkness personified.

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Honestly, I think the series could’ve stopped at book two and succeeded. I thought that final sentence at the end of Rose Society was perfect on its own. The beginning of Midnight Star felt a little out of place. I found myself doubting the author, “Where is she going with this?” The first two books were so strong and I didn’t want to be disappointed with a weak conclusion. The third book started off weak, yes, but the final chapters were what saved it. That part where Adelina was bargaining for her sister’s life and was contemplating what she has, would, and could become was beautifully written. My heart broke as she pictured her future with Magiano—a future that she’ll never have. It felt like it was also being wrenched away from me. I wanted them to have more time—I wanted them to have a life. The voice in me wanted her to stay. Who cares about Violetta? She’s had an easy life! It was as if I’ve become the dark whispers in Adelina’s delusions. I wanted her to be selfish. I wanted ­her, not Violetta. But then as she wrestled with her thoughts, so did I. She was right. And it was devastating because I knew it was the right choice—the only choice. Still, my heart broke for Magiano. I finished the book with a little hatred for Violetta. Why did she get everything Adelina worked so hard for?Her life has always been easy—and in the end Adelina’s life work was just handed to her on a silver platter. It’s not fair! But then again, life is never fair. I guess, like Magiano, I’ll just have to live with what we are dealt with.

Would I recommend this? Yes. It’s a breath of fresh air among redundant girl-saves-the-world plots in today’s bookshelves. If you liked Mistborn and Graceling then I think you’ll like this. If you’ve read this and liked it, then try those titles I mentioned.

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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4 Stars

I liked this book, a lot… but I had some problems with it that kept me from giving it five stars.

Uprooted is a coming-of-age dark fairytale. I think that’s the best way to describe it. It’s about a young girl, Agnieszka, who gets “uprooted” from her humble village by a century-old wizard they call the Dragon, and is brought to his tower. She learns that she has inherent magical powers and is then trained to become a witch. The plot itself is very simple. The good guys must bond together to defeat the darkness (which is embodied in The Wood).

The story was good for what it was. Expect a young-adult fantasy and it will deliver. The world-building was just average, and the magic was just that—magic. Don’t expect any intricate Sanderson-type magic systems or Tolkien-deep world-building and mythos. It’s a nice dark fairy tale, and that’s where it shone. I liked the fairy tale feel of the book. I think this book is suited for those who want some fantasy but aren’t ready to invest too much in its lore and aren’t ready to commit to something too heavy.

What I liked the most (spoilers ahead):
I liked how the author chose The Wood, a forest, as its primary villain. It had a mystery to it. You can’t help but ask: What is in it? What is it? What does it really want? These were somehow answered at the end when the Wood-Queen finally appeared and we’re shown what happened many years ago. I kind of predicted that there was some sort of “vengeance against my people”kind of thing, but being validated didn’t reduce its effectiveness in the story. That bit somehow reminded me of the Children of the Forest (aSoIaF) and the Fae (Name of the Wind)’s backstories. I also liked how the end of the book didn’t conclude at the vanquishing of evil—it explored and dwelled on the aftermath of it all. In real war, it doesn’t truly end when you kill the enemy. Lives are lost and ruined and rebuilding is just as hard as winning. This is what made “The Scouring of the Shire” so important in LOTR. It delves into what happens after. How do we move on? How do we heal? Imagine being in war all your life and then one day you’re free—what do you do then? I think the closing chapters were the some of book’s strongest (and that epic tower “summoning vs the queen” battle scene, too awesome).

What I liked the least (more spoilers ahead):
The love story—ugh, where do I even begin? It was so unnecessary! The characters of Sarkan and Agnieszka didn’t develop enough for them to have that kind of connection. It didn’t help that Sarkan was written like he’s an old grumpy man. Yes, they are centuries-old apart. That alone made their relationship icky—but Sarkan was written exactly like he was centuries older than her. He told her around, nagged her, called her names, and treated her like she’s a little girl. The author could’ve at least made his character more youthful. Twilight was terrible but at least you kind of felt that Edward was young at heart despite being decades older than Bella. Sarkan, from the very beginning, was pictured as this “old” powerful hermit wizard—his words and actions were like he’s an old wizard… and for him to have sex with a seventeen year-old girl?? I mean… that was just really creepy! Talk about major Stockholm syndrome for Nieshka! The way the sex scene was written also bothered me A LOT. It was graphic and didn’t fit the genre of the book at all. I have no idea what the author was thinking putting that in there. She could’ve written it more subtly and more classy, like in Graceling (Po and Katsa’s love scene was beautifully-written and fit the theme of the book). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude at all, but it really felt like one moment I was reading YA Fantasy, the next I was reading erotica, then YA fantasy again.

Another problem of mine was the way some scenes were narrated and depicted. Some of the narration was not clear at all. There were a lot of times wherein I had to read a paragraph twice because “Wait, what just happened?”. Imagine this: you’re reading a storyboard and instead of carefully panning from one scene to the next—the scene suddenly jumps five frames forward and POOF, there you are! The choice of words and descriptions were also not clear enough to make the reader accurately visualize some scenes, especially when there were a lot of fantastical elements involved. I’m just saying this book could’ve been so much better. I feel like the story and the development merited at least two books—but everything was cramped into just one, making the content suffer.

Final Verdict:
Overall, I still loved this book. It’s a light dose of fantasy with a dark fairy tale twist. I think Uprooted would make a great movie, especially with all those Summoning special effects and dark magical trees. It has a lot of Disney-esque potential if done right.

If you liked Graceling then I think you would enjoy this book. If you’ve read this book and are looking for something similar, Graceling is a book you should definitely add to your reading list (and it is tons better). I wouldrecommend this book despite its flaws, and I do think it is a good read 🙂

Edition Review: American Gods x Anansi Boys (B&N Collectible Edition 2016)

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The moment I saw this beautiful edition online, I knew I just had to have it. I’m a big Gaiman fan so imagine my excitement when I learned that it’ll be available in my country.

The cover art was designed by Jim Tierney. I love the silver and blue theme. The typography design really stood out against the black leather base. It’s a truly gorgeous piece.

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The exterior theme extends to the inner jacket. The page trims are also coated with silver.

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The paper is smooth and thin, kinda like The Bible. The book also has a ribbon marker, so no need for bookmarks.

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The book is a bit heavy so I don’t recommend it for casual reading. I bought this book with the intent of displaying it so I don’t really mind the weight. Overall, this is a beautiful edition that any Gaiman fan would love. Definitely worth every penny!

Casting Name of the Wind (Part 1)

Okay, so it’s been a while since it was announced that Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda will be producing Rothfuss’ much-loved Kingkiller Chronicle and various sites have already published their dream cast for the series. So… I’ve decided to make one for myself!

1. Kvothe

This is probably the most difficult part to cast. I mean, it is Kvothe. I would actually prefer if they got someone completely unknown, so that I won’t be able to associate him with anyone else (like how they did with most of the GOT characters). I’ve always pictured Kvothe with burning red hair and faerie-like pale skin. Initially, I thought he looked somehow like  Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian from Narnia), but with slightly reddish hair and paler skin.

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I tried to photoshop a photo to see how he would look like with red hair. Not bad!

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2. Denna

Patrick Rothfuss once said that his Denna would be Natalie Portman, but I think she’s already too old and already too well-known to be cast as her. As for me, I’ve always thought Nina Dobrev would make a good Denna. She has that dainty but feisty appeal. I mean, just look at these photos of her! Isn’t she perfect?

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A lot of people have also been suggesting Kaya Scodelario (Skins, Maze Runner), which I think is also a good choice.

3. Auri

From the very beginning, my Auri was a cross between Elle Fanning and Evanna Lynch (Elle’s innocent look and Evanna’s whimsical acting). Or maybe a blonde Mackenzie Foy?

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4. Bast

I would have to say that Ezra Miller is the perfect choice for Bast. He has that faerie-devilish beauty that can transition from an innocent assistant to a cruel fae. I believe a lot of people see him as a perfect fit for the role as well.

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5. Fela

In my head, Fela was someone really attractive with lots of sex appeal. I think Alexandra Daddario would be perfect. The downside is that she’s already  too well-known (she’s already attached to Percy Jackson, White Collar and Baywatch).

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6. Simmon

When I saw him play the dorky Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts I immediately thought Eddie Redmayne would be a perfect Simmon. He has that awkward “clueless-looking” Simmon charm! Doesn’t he look like someone who would serenade you with a poem?

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I’m still trying to think of who to cast as the other characters, particularly Ambrose, so I’ll post more ideas in my next post! How about you? Who will you cast as Kvothe?

Audiobook Review: Secondhand Smoke (Jake Brand, PI #2) by M. Louis

3 Stars

This audiobook was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, it’s been a long while since my last blog post and although I’ve been reading books here and there I haven’t really been able to update my site for a while due to my work schedule… so I’ve decided to get my blogging groove back as my New Year’s Resolution!

It’s been decades since my last mystery read. I think my last one was Dan Brown’s Inferno (which was ages ago) so I welcomed this audiobook with open arms.

First and foremost, I haven’t read “Angel’s Devil”, the first book of this series, so I was worried I might have a hard time understanding the plot since this was a sequel. Thankfully, the book was written in a way that it could stand alone. My first reaction while listening to the first few chapters was “This Jake guy has a really unique sense of humor”, lol. I like how the tone wasn’t too serious like most mystery novels. It’s serious, but not too serious. I think the narrator, Colin McCarthy, did a good job with balancing the tone of the audiobook as well. The story started off nicely and gradually picked up as the novel progressed. There were times wherein I had to stay a few minutes longer in the car just to finish a chapter. There were some really intense moments where I questioned if Jake’s crew would make it. Another factor I really liked was the time spent on Jake’s mundane PI moments. It’s nice to see what he normally does as a PI when not getting himself in trouble (kidding).

Overall, I enjoyed this audiobook. I think the gem of this novel was really Jake’s (sometimes awkward) sense of humor, which made him very likable. I might read Angel’s Devil too and see what Jake got himself into there. I think this book would probably make an enjoyable movie due to the numerous action-packed scenes.

P.S. This book made me wanna visit Portland!


See my goodreads review here.
Credit for the graphics: http://mlouisbooks.com/

It’s been a while!

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Wow, it’s been four months since my last blog post. I’ve been quite an irresponsible book blogger! But, in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to… here it is! For the past few months I’ve been busy designing stuff (fan art, typography, prints, etc). I’m an artist by profession and lately I’ve been really motivated to draw and design things that are close to my heart. One of my favorites were these Harry Potter-themed bookmark and sticker sets!

I just thought that there aren’t much decent Potter merchandise available in my country, and I don’t want to buy from random stores who only download and print stuff from the internet when I can design my own. So, here they are!

On other note, have you read The Cursed Child yet? What were your thoughts? Personally, I enjoyed the book (script) for what it was worth. It’s definitely nowhere near the Rowling books, but hey, it’s canon and it’s still Harry Potter. The book felt like fan service more than anything else.I’m sure they could’ve done so much better if they decided to go another direction. Still, I was happy with it. I truly felt that it was a gift for true Potterheads. It was like being reunited with long-lost friends, and I was just so happy to see them again that nothing else mattered.

How about you? Did you love it, or hate it? Were you glad they decided to release an eighth book?

 

P.S. If you’re interested in my bookmarks and stickers, just email me at kaeriart@gmail.com!

Bookmarks!

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My work colleagues and I decided to join the KawaiiPH Market and sell some of our art. Being the bookworm that I am, I decided to design some bookmarks! It was my first time doing this kind of thing and there was a lot of procrastination involved. In the end, the event was a success and I enjoyed it a lot!

Here are some of the bookmarks I made. I’m sure my fellow bookworms can relate to some of these!

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I’m an artist by profession and I think I ended up being too pantone-crazy. The black ones are still my personal favorite though.

Overall this was a great experience and I might design more bookmarks and other fandom-related things in the future!

 

P.S. If you’re interested in buying some, do email me at kaeriart@gmail.com!