Book Review || The Young Elites

Hello friends! How is your 2016 going so far? Mine has been insanely busy, which is why I haven’t been able to post as much as I would have liked to. I’ve finally been able to snatch some time to sit down and blog a bit, and hopefully I’ll be able to get some more posts up this month.

It seems that I haven’t reviewed any books in ages, so here I am with one of my absolute favourite recent reads!

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Author: Marie Lu

Publishing Company: The Penguin Group

Release Year: 2014

Genre(s): YA, Fantasy

Series: The Young Elites Series (Book One)


My Synopsis

Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto. As a child, she was ill with the blood fever that ravaged the nation of Kenettra. She was left, like all others who survived the deadly disease, with strange, otherworldly markings–shining silver hair, pale lashes, and a long scar where one of her eyes used to be. After Adelina runs away one night, away from her cruel father who never hesitates to remind her that she is an abomination and meek, naïve sister, life twists upon its head; she is imprisoned by the Inquisitors with her father’s blood on her hands, about to be executed. And then, again, the inexplicable happens. She is rescued by an organisation of malfettos called the Daggers—but they’re no ordinary malfettos. They have incredible powers that people say are either a blessing or a curse, and Adelina discovers her own too.  Enzo, who heads the Daggers, is the estranged crown prince of Kenettra, and he and the other Young Elites are determined to take back the throne from his corrupt sister. As she trains to control her power and direct it to the cause, she is approached by the head Inquisitor to join their cause. The only problem is that Adelina is caught between the Daggers and the Inquisition, which works against the malfettos. Will Adelina be caught as a traitor…and which side will catch her first? Or how long can she go on in this mess of loyalties and spilled blood?

My Thoughts

This book was fantastic! I’ve always been a fan of Marie Lu (check out her dystopian novels, the Legend trilogy), but The Young Elites really flaunts her skill. I could go on for quite a while about this book, so here are my ramblings in condensed form. 😀

First of all, the writing was just wonderful. Lu really thought out every little detail. Not only did she set up Kenettra, she  wrote in such a way that you could feel the culture of the country—the people, the region itself, the buildings in the cities, the landscapes. Besides the world-building, the novel was written lyrically and with such feeling. There were instances that I had to pause and just admire the way a particular sentence was worded. That’s when you know a book is good. 😉young elites cover.jpg

The characters are also well-written. All of them are different and incredibly real despite their powers. They have their faults but you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards them. Adelina was such a great main character because the thing is, she isn’t exactly your typical protagonist. She has a multi-faceted personality and plenty of dark moments. The relationships between the characters are complex, especially when Adelina is caught between two powerful groups and has way of looking at things in a slightly twisted mindset. The Young Elites blurs the lines between “hero” and “villain” in a beautifully deft way that will leave you wanting more.

The plot was so suspenseful and captivating that I immediately had to go and pick up the sequel, The Rose Society, when I finished it, which, by the way, is just as good. (A review will be coming soon for that as well!)

In short: The Young Elites just blew me away. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in dark high fantasy mixed in with a bit of magic! (Actually, check it out even if you aren’t.) 🙂

❤ Yasimone

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Book Review || Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Publishing Company: Harper Collins

Release Year: 2015

Genre(s): YA, Dystopia, Fantasy

Series: Red Queen Series (Book One)


My Summary

Mare Barrow is a Red in a world divided by blood. Silvers are the upper-class, the royals, the ones with fantastic powers straight out of a fairytale. Reds, like Mare and the rest of her family, are the worker class, the regulars, the ones who watch in bitter awe at the Silvers’ strength and ruthless, wasteful ways. Mare and her family are just another one of the average Red families in their poverty-stricken village, the Stilts, between Mare’s pickpocketing and her sister Gisa’s embroidery skills, they make do. What little they have comes crashing down when palace guards show up at their house in the middle of the night and take Mare to work at the palace of the royal family of Norta. There, all too suddenly, in a strange twist of events, Mare discovers she has powers—controlling electricity—that leave even the Silvers reverent and is thrown full-force into the world of nobility as a pawn. red queen.jpgKing Tiberias and his snakelike wife, Queen Elara, declare her to be the long-lost daughter of a Silver and betroth her to the younger son Maven, despite her full Red blood. Everything is strange and foreign, and Mare must watch her every move; her life is at stake. It doesn’t help the situation that a war is being waged in the meantime and unrest is brewing in the nation’s Red population. Maven and Mare end up befriend each other and join a rebel group, the Scarlet Guard, trying to end the tyrannical Silver rule. As if hiding her identity and her allegiance from the Silvers is hard enough, she’s slowly falling in love the two princes, Maven and Cal, and doesn’t know which one to choose. Will Mare make it out of this mess alive, or will her secrets destroy her?

My Thoughts

I’ll be straightforward with you all: I didn’t exactly expect to enjoy this novel. I began reading it just for the sake of reading and ended up finishing it pleasantly surprised and looking forward to the next book in the Red Queen series. If you’ve ever read my review of The Selection, you’ll know that novels which mix dystopian worlds and monarchy-style governments aren’t exactly my cup of tea. 😛 Red Queen challenged my views by providing a fresh, compelling fusion-genre book that I rather liked.

The writing itself is great. It’s descriptive and vivid and captivating, and much better than you would expect of a debut author. 🙂 A job well done on Victoria Aveyard’s part. I also liked that the plot had so many interesting twists and turns Some aspects of the plot were a bit too familiar—downtrodden poor, self-doubt, sudden major life change, love triangle, rebellion. I felt at times that it took a pinch of personality from multiple dystopian series, added in a smidgen of fantasy, and voilà! Overall, though, it was fairly good. It drags a bit towards the end of the middle but picks up wonderfully at the conclusion. The extremely unexpected plot twist in the last few chapters is incredible. You will definitely want to have the next book, Glass Sword, just to find out what happens. (Glass Sword comes out in February of next year, by the way.)

Character-wise, Red Queen was nicely developed. Mare is a relatable, head-strong, clever heroine. It’s hard not to like her and her endearingly bold personality. The supporting characters (Maven, Cal,  Queen Elara, Mare’s childhood friend Kilorn, Cal’s betrothed Evangeline, Mare’s family,  and many more) are all unique and fun to dislike or root for. Their supernatural powers—or lack thereof—made them feel a bit too two-dimensional for my taste at times, but their interactions were generally believable and interesting. The one interaction between the characters I did not like much was the Mare-Maven-Cal love triangle. It felt rather weak and forced. :/

That being said, everything exceeded my expectations and left me wanting more. If you’re looking for a book with a captivating combination of genres and an exciting, suspenseful storyline, Red Queen is just the novel for you. 🙂

Happy December, by the way! How is the year over already? 😀

❤ Yasimone

Mockingjay Part II Movie Review

Hi all! I hope you are having a great November! 🙂 I know I am, and I can’t believe that the month is already nearly over!

Mockingjay Part II, the thrilling conclusion to Katniss Everdeen’s whirlwind revolution, has officially premiered today! I’m happy to say that I was able to attend an early double-feature showing of Mockingjay Part I—which came out last year—and II two days ago and follow Katniss in the last leg of her journey! 😀 It lasted about five hours, with an intermission break in between the two movies.

Here are the vital stats of Mockingjay Part II:

  • Release Date: November 20th, 2015
  • Genre: Science fiction film/Thriller (Dystopia)
  • Time: 137 minutes
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Past Movies: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part I
  • Main Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Julianne Moore (President Alma Coin)

And here’s the official synopsis:

Realizing the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick for the ultimate mission. Together, they leave District 13 to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow, who’s obsessed with destroying Katniss. What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions.

I will start off my review of Mockingjay Part II by saying that I was truly amazed by this film. It started exactly where Mockingjay Part I had left off the year before and did not disappoint in picking up action as quickly as possible.

Of course, this star-studded cast that we’ve all come to love and support were simply great. The dialogue and interaction between characters is so natural and real. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, did wonderfully in her role as Katniss—especially in this thrilling conclusion to the Hunger Games series.

She just brings a sort of emotional intensity that Katniss also shows in the trilogy, and I doubt that anyone would be able to do it as well. Another actor I would like to recognize is Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow; I am always in awe at how he portrays this character with such ease and keeps him grounded and believable.

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The pin and lanyard I got at the double feature. Definitely not taking it off for the next week or so.

The special effects were, as per the norm for The Hunger Games films, spectacular and very realistic. The war scenes are gritty and intense—and I think another thing that I loved particularly about Mockingjay Part II is that there is no straightforward “villain-hero” relationship in this installment. It is full-blown war, and in war, anything is possible.

One thing I really enjoyed was how faithful the film remained to the book; very little was changed and the movie had the same aesthetic and feel as the novel itself did—dark, epic, and action-packed. While Mockingjay was written by Suzanne Collins as one novel, I do believe that the movies worked quite nicely as two parts—the second part was definitely more brutal and heart wrenching than the first, and it made sense, because the end of the book is like that as well. I did end up shedding a couple tears, especially at the conclusion of the movie. (Hunger Games fans will understand!) 😥

And now a little bit about my experience at the double feature showing itself: This is actually the first double feature I’ve ever attended, and I am super glad that I went. part 2.jpg.pngIt was just such a great atmosphere and watching the two movies back to back was very enjoyable as well. Everyone who attended received a lanyard with a special pin and a holographic card that switches between two versions of the Mockingjay pin symbol. Another one of the highlights was when we had finished watching the first movie and during the intermission break, a mini-trivia game was held, and prizes were being given out to anyone who answered a question correctly! I actually ended up answering a question and winning a Blu-ray disc of Mockingjay Part I!

This was the perfect conclusion, in my opinion, to one of the best dystopian film adaptation franchises ever. And while we won’t have the pleasure of being able to anticipate any new movies, rereading the books and rewatching the movies will never get old! 😉

Mockingjay Part II won’t disappoint! I suggest you go see it as soon as possible! 😀

❤ Yasimone

Book Review || The Sword of Summer

Hi everyone! I’m finally back! 🙂

It’s been three long weeks since you all heard a peep out of me, but I’ve been insanely busy lately; so much so that I haven’t been able to properly sit down at my laptop and type up anything. :/ Sorry about that! Here’s the long-awaited review of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. I finished it a while ago but never found the time to review it—I hope you enjoy it!


Author: Rick Riordan

Publishing Company: Disney Hyperion

Release Year: 2015

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary Fiction, Mythology

Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (Book One)

My Summary

Magnus Chase is… an unconventional teen. He’s lived on the streets of Boston after his mother was killed a few years ago. His life is certainly not normal—but even he didn’t expect to be told by his estranged uncle that he’s the son of a Norse god and fight a demon with an ancient sword he retrieves from the bottom of the Charles River. Oh, and he definitely didn’t expect to die…

And yet, it’s the furthest thing possible from the end of his adventure. After landing in an afterlife for the brave who are being trained to fight in Ragnarok, the battle of the apocalypse, Magnus realizes that everything in his life has changed. Teaming up with a teenage warrior, a fashionable dwarf, and an elf who is learning magic, Magnus must find out his family history, what to do with the ancient Sword of Summer, and how to stop the Seven Worlds—especially Midgard, the human world—from being taken over by evil forces while trying to stay alive at the same time.

My Thoughts

Rick Riordan is back at it again! (By that I mean that he is writing books that cause me to go completely fangirl-crazy over and hand my money over to bookstores without a single coherent thought.) 🙂 In all seriousness, however, this book was so good! Ugh, where to begin…?

Since I’m not sure how else to review this book without going on a long rant, I’ve organized everything into bullet points.

+ First of all: Norse mythology! It’s pretty new for me—I’m a nut for Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology but I’ve never really delved into the world of Odin, Thor, and the others. Can’t wait to learn more!image

+ When I was first starting the book, I’ll admit that I was rather scared that Magnus Chase would be a clone of Percy Jackson, personality-wise. Luckily, he’s his own person—and that definitely pleases me. 🙂 However, it does seem that the two have the same snarky, witty sense of humour. While I did quite enjoy Magnus’s amusing observations of the situations he lands in and the people he meets, it was a bit too reminiscent of the Percy Jackson novels.

+ The cast of The Sword of Summer is very diverse, and I think that’s wonderful! 🙂 You’ve got Magnus, who happened to be homeless, Blitzen, an African-American dwarf, Hearthstone, a deaf elf, Samirah Al-Abbas, a Muslim teen girl who just happens to be a warrior for the Norse gods, and a ton of great characters. It makes me happy to see minorities represented in literature.

+ The plot was compelling and exciting for the most part. The ending dragged a bit and was rather predictable, to be honest, but overall, it was an action-packed and suspenseful novel. I still found myself liking Riordan’s previous books better, but I still really enjoyed The Sword of Summer, which was a relief.

+ I loved the chapter names! Rick Riordan is hilarious. Some of them included:

“13. Phil the Potato Meets His Doom”

“20. Come to the Dark Side. We Have Pop-Tarts”

“23. I Recycle Myself”

“39. Freya is Pretty! She Has Cats!”

“48. Hearthstone Passes Out Even More than Jason Grace (Though I Have No Idea Who That Is)”

The one above is my favourite— a sneaky reference to the Heroes of Olympus series. 😉 And finally…

“53. How to Kill Giants Politely”

+ All in all, a must read for Rick Riordan fans, mythology lovers, and anyone interested in an exhilarating, well-written novel that combines the modern and ancient worlds. 🙂


Well, that’s it for today, everyone! See you soon, and happy November! (How are we almost at the end of the year?)

❤ Yasimone

Book Review || Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Publishing Company: Viking (Penguin Group)

Release Year: 2015

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary Fiction

Series: N/A

My Summary

Mary Iris Malone—or Mim—is living in Mosquitoland. (Also known as the lovely state of Mississippi.) She’s going through a difficult adjustment period, living with her recently-married dad and stepmother Kathy, while her mum, Eve, is back in Ohio where Mim believes she belongs.

And did I mention how pretty the cover is? Look at that gorgeous book!
And did I mention how pretty the cover is? Look at that gorgeous book!

When her dad and Kathy are at a principal conference discussing her erratic behaviour, she happens to over hear a little something—a little something about her poor, dear mother in Cleveland battling a disease. That’s it. That’s her breaking point. She runs to her house-not-home, grabs Kathy’s “secret” coffee can of cash, and catches a Greyhound, vowing to not turn back until she reaches her mother. And so begins the journey of a lifetime. As she makes her way from Mississippi back to Ohio, she encounters so many different people: a lovely, elderly lady who she immediately befriends, a dashing young lad with whom she teams up with, a Carl, who is just as good as any Carl she’s ever met (maybe even better), and a homeless teen with Down Syndrome who she takes under her wings, to name a few. And when this winding journey is finally over, nothing is as expected, but everything is just right.

My Thoughts

Wow. Where do I even start?

Mosquitoland, told in two voices, Mim’s own point of view and letters that she writes to a relative named Iz—you’ll find out exactly who Iz is at the end of the book—is such a heartfelt, quirky, strange, laugh-out-loud-funny, un-put-down-able novel. (Notice my last adjective. XD It wasn’t a word five minutes ago, but it is now!) David Arnold brings to life so many characters, each more eccentric than the other, and somehow, he makes it work. Everything about Mosquitoland is over-the-top, and yet, everything seems so lifelike, so possible, so real. It’s a book about determination, loss, anger, friendship, fear, grief, and facing one’s self in trying to find someone else. Mim is such a great narrator—she’s witty and believable. She can be so rational sometimes, and then all of a sudden, she’s just another teen, acting on her heart and trying to navigate the crazy journey we call life. Another thing I absolutely loved was David Arnold’s style of writing. It’s so lyrical and it just captivates you so that you can’t put the book down. Can’t wait to see what’s next from him, and I couldn’t believe it was only his first book! I think that using two forms of narration was a great idea for this book; in some novels, it seems unneccesary but in Mosquitoland, it just made everything more three-dimensional. The one thing that gave me a tiny nagging feeling throughout the book was Mim’s use of “warpaint.” She draws tribal patterns on her face with her mother’s lipstick as a way of coping and giving herself strength. While her mother is part Cherokee, what Mim does isn’t exactly justified. At least Mim notes throughout the book that she know what she does may not be completely politically correct; please don’t let this discourage you from reading the novel, it’s a very minor thing. 🙂

I’ve always loved books about life-changing roadtrip, and Mosquitoland was no exception.  All in all, I found it to be a vibrant, tongue-in-cheek journey about, simply, a small girl and the big journey she takes to find home, her mother, friends, and ultimately, herself. ❤

Signing off,

Yasimone

Book blogger and Mosquitoland fan

(Oh, and happy October, you guys! Hopefully more fall-themed posts to come!)

Book Review || Through the Skylight

Author: Ian Baucom

Publishers: Simon & Schuster

Release Year: 2013

My Summary

Siblings Jared, Shireen, and Miranda are staying in Venice with their parents, and they’re bored. Life suddenly becomes more interesting when they happen upon an old Venetian shopkeeper, who lets each of them pick out a treasure from a bag— two rings for Shireen and Miranda, and a wooden die for Jared. Once home, however, they realize that these aren’t just any rings or dice. In fact, they just might be magic. That night, their father begins reading to them from an old book, a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, that the shopkeeper had also given them. The book tells the story of a boy named Rashid, as well as two girls, Maria and Francesca. Slowly, Jared and his sisters begin to realize that the power of their treasures may be connected to the children in the book. And then…

A stone lion awakens.
A cat speaks to them.
A painted faun comes to life.

So the adventure commences! The lives of Jared, Shireen, and Miranda become intertwined with those of three other children; children who were alive centuries ago. The very ones whose names are mentioned in the book. Reading the book further, they discover a sinister plot, and it’s up to them to stop it! With the help of Silvio the faun, Maldini the cat, and Lorenzo il Piccolo the stone lion, they join forces with Rashid, Maria, and Francesca and use their magic relics to try save Venice— and hopefully making it out unscathed.

My Thoughts

Through the Skylight is a suspenseful adventure story rich with detail— both historically and culturally. Blending elements of magic, fantasy, and real history, it creates quite the journey for Jared, Shireen, and Miranda. So, let’s start off by saying this: though I found this book to be a little uneven at times, I thought that it was overall a fun, interesting read. Venice was definitely the right choice for the setting; what better backdrop than a city so full of culture and whimsy? through the skylight.jpgThe characters were also an interesting bunch— two adopted kids from India, their blonde little sister, a wine-guzzling faun, a surly stone lion, a wise black cat, an evil monk, plus three children from the past who are in grave danger. It was refreshing to see such a diverse cast, though some characters felt a bit two-dimensional once in a while (*cough*Jared*cough*). The concept of the plot was intriguing as well but felt overwhelming and confusing at times since new obstacles and ideas kept cropping up as I read. I did, however, like that, without being too preachy, the book indirectly addresses ideas of prejudice and co-existing with people from different faiths, nationalities, and even time periods. If you’re a fan of enchanted quests and a historical-modern mix, then Through the Skylight is for you! 🙂

Book Review || What the Moon Saw

Author: Laura Resau

Publishers: Delacorte Press

Release Year: 2006

My Summary

Clara Luna’s name means “Clear Moon” in Spanish, but lately her thoughts have been anything but clear. Questions are taking over her mind like tangled weeds— Who is she, really? Where does she come from? After all, Clara doesn’t know much about her father’s side: he had run away from his native home in rural Mexico to cross the border into America as a teenager. Just as Clara is restlessly wondering about her roots and her life, a letter comes in the mail.

Querida Clara:

La invitamos a nuestra casa por el verano. Vamos a esperarla el dÍa de la luna llena, en junio, en el aeropuerto de Oaxaca.

Con cariño,

Sus abuelos


Dear Clara,
We invite you to our home for the summer. We will wait for you on the day of the full moon, in June, at the Oaxaca airport.
Love,
your grandparents

Now Clara is even more puzzled. Should she go? What are her grandparents like? She’s never met them. Her father is lost in the land of memories, her mother is super-enthusiastic, urging her to discover her history, and Clara is balanced on the edge of a cliff, peering over. She decides to go. And so begins the journey of a lifetime.

Clara’s grandparents await her at the Oaxaca airport— calm, knowing Abuelita and cheerful, good-natured Abuelo. yucuyoo.jpgThey board a bus that will take them to the village of Yucuyoo, and when they finally arrive, it’s not as Clara expected at all. Though at first Clara is apprehensive, she soon grows used to the wooden little home with the tin roof they live in, the fact that they have no technology at all, the sounds of the jungle nearby, and the delicious food Abuelita prepares fresh everyday. Clara looks and listens and learns. Listens to Pedro, the goat boy’s, beautiful voice and song. To the sound of the mystery spirit waterfall, which is heard but never seen. To Abuelita’s stories of her childhood and learning to be a healer. Slowly but surely, Clara realizes the magic within Yucuyoo, the Hill of the Moon, within her grandparents, and even within herself.

My Thoughts

This debut novel from Laura Resau is an enchanting, lyrical book that I absolutely LOVED. Thought-provoking and moving, What the Moon Saw explores the themes of finding one’s self and culture, reconnecting with family, and learning that living simply opens your mind and heart to the magic and beauty of the world. The writing almost takes you to another dimension and paints an intricate and detailed scene of life in rural Mexico, and the characters are all so solid and real. Clara is just an average girl who lives a privileged life in America, and the contrast between Pedro, who grew up in Yucuyoo, and Clara’s lifestyles made for interesting interactions between them. Clara at times has to explain simple technology to her grandparents, and their amazement at the habits of  those who have access to modern-day gadgets truly opened my eyes.

Guys, so many people around the world don’t have these things— they don’t have phones, computers, washing machines, cars, refrigerators; things that many of us take for granted. But guess what? You don’t need these to be happy. Clara’s grandparents are perfectly content to live in their village, talk to their neighbours, farm their land. Those of us who do own this technology should use it to make other happy too, don’t you think?

All in all, I thought that this was a beautiful novel. The two narrators, Clara Luna and Abuelita telling the tales of her past, will truly inspire you, and leave you will a heartful of spirit waterfalls, beautiful, wild nature, stories of healing, and hope for all. Definitely a must read.

(On a side note, I am back from my mini-hiatus! Isn’t it funny how you can be so busy when you least expect it?)

❤ Yasimone