Book Review: Sweet Temptation by Wendy Higgins

Book: Sweet Temptation by Wendy Higgins

Published September 2015 by Harper Teen|484 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: Sweet #4

Genre: YA Paranormal/Angels

Bad boy Kaidan Rowe has never wanted for anything—money, popularity, musical talent…hot girls—but seducing them is part of his duty as a Nephilim, slave to the demon Dukes. As the son of the Duke of Lust, Kaidan has learned his father’s ways, becoming a master of passion, a manipulator of chemistry. Disobeying his father would mean certain death. Thankfully for Kaidan, he’s good at his job. And he enjoys it. 

Until he meets Anna Whitt—smart, feisty, and inexplicably good—the one girl seemingly immune to his charms. The daughter of a guardian angel and a fallen one, she makes him wish for more than he could ever deserve. 

Determined to save all the Neph from their dark lives, Anna joins forces with Kaidan to overcome the Dukes’ oppressive ways. In the light of her affections, Kaidan must undergo his toughest test of all, a battle of the heart.

Sensual and swoonworthy, this companion volume to the Sweet Evil series, told from the perspective of the mysterious Kaidan Rowe, gives readers revealing insights into the true emotions that drive him.

I’ve really loved this series, so I knew I had to read Sweet Temptation!  I knew it was the series told from the perspective of Kai, and I was really excited to read the events of the series from his perspective.  I didn’t love it, but it was interesting to see things from his POV.

I think, if you love the series, you’ll probably like this one.  I know I did, even though I wasn’t enthused about it.  It really is more of a companion novel than an actual sequel, though I would recommend reading the other three books first.

It did feel like I was reading random scenes from Kai’s perspective, and it didn’t feel completely cohesive as a story. The other thing I noticed when I was reading it was how it felt like things were really crammed into one book.  Higgins covers events from all three books in the original trilogy, and it did feel like a re-hash of the series so far.  I know that’s sort of the point, but even having not read the series in ages, I was able to keep up with what was going on.

I think I was expecting a slightly different story.  I don’t know that I’d want to read the entire series from Kai’s perspective, but still…it felt like there was too much going on.  To the point that I felt like we didn’t really get to see what Kai was truly thinking.  I got the general idea of what things were like for him during the series, but overall, that’s how I’d describe this book.  A general idea of Kai’s perspective on things.  Thinking about it, I really wanted something a little more from Kai and this book, but it was still a fun and entertaining read.

3 stars.  I did like it, and it’s a great book for fans of the series, but it felt like it was rushed and covered too much time in a short span of time.

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Book Review: Working Stiff by Rachel Caine

Book: Working Stiff by Rachel Caine

Published August 2011 by Roc|306 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Revivalist #1

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Bryn Davis knows working at Fairview Mortuary isn’t the most glamorous career choice, but at least it offers stable employment–until she discovers her bosses using a drug that resurrects the clientele as part of an extortion racket. Now, Bryn faces being terminated–literally, and with extreme prejudice.

With the help of corporate double-agent Patrick McCallister, Bryn has a chance to take down the bigger problem–pharmaceutical company Pharmadene, which treats death as the ultimate corporate loyalty program. She’d better do it fast, before she becomes a zombie slave–a real working stiff. She’d be better off dead…

This is a book that I’ve had on my shelf for a while, and it’s weird I haven’t read it yet, especially considering I’ve really liked Caine’s other series.

I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, but I did like it.  It is a cool idea, though.  I mean, a drug that can resurrect people and the company behind it.  It just wasn’t as fun as her other books, particularly her Morganville and Weather Wardens series.  I mean, there is some banter and sarcasm, but…I just wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be.

It’s very different from Outcast Season and Weather Wardens (her adult urban fantasy/paranormal series) and her Morganville Vampire series.  And even her steampunk Library Of Alexandria series.  You’d think I’d be all over her take on zombies, but I wasn’t.  It just wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I was bored and not interested in Bryn and the pharmaceutical company and what they were up to.  It was dull and slow, and it felt like nothing was happening.

Apparently, I’m not going to love every single thing she writes, but I was still hoping to like this one more than I actually did.  I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious, but I had a hard time getting through the book.  I think, if it were any other author, I might have not finished the book, but I’ve enjoyed her books enough that I read more of it than I would have otherwise.

Things felt muddled, and in terms of the world, it just wasn’t there.  I wish it were, obviously, but maybe the other books, if I ever pick them up, are a lot better.  Maybe this series needs some time to get to the level of story I’ve come to expect from Caine.  As much as I like her books, I just don’t know if it’s enough to continue this series.

2 stars.  Working Stiff has a really cool premise, but unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.

Book Review: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Book: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Published January 2018 by Simon Pulse|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A moving, lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and opposite results from a genetic test that determines their fate—whether they inherited their mother’s Huntington’s disease.

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

I really liked this book!  I especially liked the relationship between Adina and Tovah, and how much Huntington’s changed their families and their lives, and especially the relationship with each other.

I can’t imagine having a twin and then finding out one of us had no risk at contracting a genetic disease, while the other one of us would.  Adina really struggled with it, and while she took it seriously, knowing that the results have completely changed her life, she also went down this very destructive path.  I can understand that maybe she doesn’t want to deal with it, and to a degree, she pretends like everything is fine.  But I still can’t imagine reacting the way she does.  Everyone’s different, of course, but she took it to a completely different level.

Adina has people who care about her, but she doesn’t seem interested in seeking help until the very end of the book.  Maybe she had to hit rock bottom to realize she needed more help than she wanted to admit.  Still, you never know how you would react to the type of news she receives, and I don’t want to judge her too harshly just because I don’t think I’d react the same way.

The book does make you think, not just how you’d react, but if you’d even go in the for the testing.  Some people want to know, and some people don’t.  Even I’m not sure if I’d want to know, but at the same time, part of me would.  Also, I think it’s important to know what runs in your family and to make sure you’re following up on things.  Like getting your yearly physical or mammogram, or following up on diabetes or whatever it is.  Seriously, though, it is important to follow up on stuff like that.

I did have a harder time relating to Adina, and I felt like Tovah and I were more similar.  And they have a really difficult relationship- they definitely drifted apart, and part of me hopes that they are able to work it out.  As an only child, I do not get the relationship between siblings at all, and I had a hard time relating to how much they seemed to dislike each other.

Still, we do see how they’re both dealing with everything, and this is one of the few times I actually like the dual POV.  It worked for this book, because you’re following two very different people dealing with a lot of different things.

4 stars.  I really liked You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and there were a lot of things I was thinking about while reading it and even after finishing it.

Book Review: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady Of DNA by Brenda Maddox

Book: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady Of DNA by Brenda Maddox

Published October 2002 by Harper|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Biography/Science

In March 1953, Maurice Wilkins of King’s College, London, announced the departure of his obstructive colleague Rosalind Franklin to rival Cavendish Laboratory scientist Francis Crick. But it was too late. Franklin’s unpublished data and crucial photograph of DNA had already been seen by her competitors at the Cambridge University lab. With the aid of these, plus their own knowledge, Watson and Crick discovered the structure of the molecule that genes are composed of — DNA, the secret of life. Five years later, at the age of thirty-seven, after more brilliant research under J. D. Bernal at Birkbeck College, Rosalind died of ovarian cancer. In 1962, Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for their elucidation of DNA’s structure. Franklin’s part was forgotten until she was caricatured in Watson’s book The Double Helix.

In this full and balanced biography, Brenda Maddox has been given unique access to Franklin’s personal correspondence and has interviewed all the principal scientists involved, including Crick, Watson and Wilkins.

This is a powerful story, told by one of the finest biographers, of a remarkably single-minded, forthright and tempestuous young woman who, at the age of fifteen, decided she was going to be a scientist, but who was airbrushed out of the greatest scientific discovery of the twentieth century.

This was a pretty interesting read.  It’s been a really long time since I took biology, so I don’t remember much of anything.  But I’m glad I picked up this biography because I really had no idea that she had a role in figuring out the whole DNA thing.  I mean, I (very vaguely) remember Crick and Watson, and Wilkins seems sort of familiar, but Franklin doesn’t ring a bell at all.  I don’t know if it’s because she never came up (it was high school biology, after all), or if it’s because she did, and I just don’t remember anything.

It was clear she loved science, and that it was what she wanted to do.  She was determined and hard-working and pretty successful, and it’s sad that she didn’t get more recognition.  It’s not surprising, because she was working in the U.K. after World War 2, in a male-dominated field.  I thought that Maddox did a great job at showing why she didn’t get the recognition she deserved.

It’s a pretty balanced book- we learn about who she was as a person, but we also learn a lot about the scientific developments of the time.  Things really seemed to start changing at that time, and it was interesting to see how her work played such a huge role in figuring out the mysteries of DNA.  She was so close to figuring it out herself, and it was sad that her work was passed along without her knowledge.  That other people got the credit for figuring it out when they couldn’t have done it without her…I really felt for her.  It’s too bad she didn’t get more recognition for all of the work and research she did.

I didn’t love it, and there were times where I had to put it down because I did struggle just the smallest bit with reading it.  I’m not sure why, because I thought it was a pretty interesting read.  I did like that it wasn’t too technical, and it felt like the material was pretty easy to understand.  I do wonder what would have happened had she not died so young- she died from cancer the age of 37, and she did a lot in her life.  Would else would she have discovered and done had she not died?

3 stars.  I didn’t love it- I’m not sure why, but generally speaking I’m not a huge biography person, so that might be it.  While I really liked her story, and while I wish she got the recognition she deserved, I wasn’t as into it as I thought it would be.  I think’s a story everyone should know, because she contributed a lot to one of the biggest scientific discoveries we’ve seen.

Book Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Published September 2002 by Scholastic, Inc|304 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

I liked Esperanza Rising!  I thought it was a really good read, and it really shows what it was like to move to the U.S. during the Great Depression and what it was like to be a farm worker.

Esperanza had a lot of things change once her father dies.  She goes from having everything given to her and having a really good- and sheltered- life to having to work on a farm.  And she had to do it at such a young age, which is hard to imagine.  Considering the book takes place during the Great Depression, I suppose it’s not surprising, but still.  I can’t imagine doing what she and her family had to do, but they were willing to do whatever it took to have a better life.

One interesting thing that we see in the book is the fact that some people were deported back to Mexico, even though they were U.S. citizens, simply because they looked Mexican.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to have changed much, and this story takes place 80-ish years later.  I do wish we saw a little more of that, actually, but it is something that we see in the book.  I can’t imagine having that hanging over your head.  There’s a lot of challenges that migrant workers face, and I thought the book showed that really well.

We do see a lot of the characters change, especially Esperanza.  She changes the most, of course, and she does what she needs to.  She’s grieving over the loss of her father, and her life changes pretty dramatically, but I wanted something a little more.  What, I don’t know, but it felt like there was this spark missing.  But maybe that’s just me.  I did like the relationship she had with her parents and her grandmother.  I was really close to my grandma, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing that in books.  Plus, she crochets with her grandma, and as someone who crochets, (unfortunately, by the time I actually learned how to crochet, my grandma wasn’t able to teach me anymore) I love seeing that in books.

3 stars.  I liked Esperanza Rising, but I think I wanted something a little more.  Maybe I was expecting too much, since this is a middle grade book, but I’d still recommend it.

Book Review: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Book: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Published May 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

I liked Scarlett Undercover!  It’s this cool mystery with elements of the paranormal, and part of me wishes it were part of a series…just to see the more supernatural elements.  It’s not often I want more books, but I would definitely read more books if we got to read more about Scarlett solving mysteries.

I wasn’t expecting a world of cults and curses that are centuries old, and I ended up really liking that part of it.  I finished the book wishing that we got more books with Scarlett solving paranormal mysteries.  It really made me wish that the book focused more on that, but at the same time, I know things needed to be set up, and that we weren’t instantly going to be thrown into the more supernatural elements of the book.

Those elements were pretty rooted in reality, so while those elements are there, it’s not the whole book.  It really is more of a mystery/thriller than a paranormal, and I thought the supernatural would be more present.  Still, I liked the connection between that and Scarlett’s family and some of the people in her life.

I do wish it were explained a little more, though, because Latham didn’t go into a lot of depth in some areas, and other things were inconsistent.  Scarlett, for example, goes from blowing off prayer to praying 5 times a day.  Obviously, what happened changed her, but it wasn’t really explained.  Her religion/faith wasn’t a big part of the book, which is fine, but with some of what happened in the book, I thought we’d see something a little more.

Overall, the book isn’t really about her religion or spiritual journey, so don’t expect that.  It was more about her trying to solve a mystery.  Still, I think it could have been interesting, but I’m also fine with the fact that it’s not really part of the book.

Scarlett is a pretty developed character- though, as the main character, one would hope she’s a pretty developed character- but I couldn’t really say that for the other characters.  It’s part of why I thought things could have been explained a little more, because the other characters were either bland or their role in things were confusing.  Scarlett herself is pretty spunky and sure of herself, and she really does want to help people.  She’s brave and she wants justice, and she’s pretty determined.  I just wish that the other characters were as interesting as Scarlett was.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I did want something a little different.  If you like mysteries, this is a pretty good one to check out.

Book Review: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Book: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Published October 2017 by Philomel Books|363 Pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Rise Of The Empress #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/YA Re-telling

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

I absolutely loved this book!  It took me forever to get through (partly because I wasn’t in the mood, and partly because I was trying to get through some other books).

I love this re-telling of The Evil Queen, and while this story is Xifeng’s journey to becoming the evil queen, it’s still worth reading.  It makes me want to read the next book so, so much.  Regina Mills from Once Upon A Time is an amazing Evil Queen, but Xifeng comes pretty close.  It’s basically Snow White before Snow White, if that makes any sense.  It’s basically a prequel to the Snow White story that we all know (at least from Disney, but this is not the happy Disney version.  Please don’t expect a happy, Disney version of the Evil Queen, because this is not that book.

If you need to like characters, especially the main character, this book probably isn’t for you.  It was so hard to like Xifeng at times, but I did find myself understanding where she came from, and why she did what she did.  She does get jealous of other women, and she wasn’t very confident, especially at the beginning of the book.  She changes so much over the course of the book, but it felt really natural and not forced at all.

I feel like her journey isn’t going to end well, but this is one story that I feel pretty invested in, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes, even if the ending isn’t a happy one.

I thought the world was amazing and really detailed.  I had such a clear picture of what was going on, and I loved how vivid everything was.  My copy of the book was an annotated one from PageHabit, and those extra details really made the book for me.  It was interesting to see what inspired her, and where certain things in the book came from.

Also, this is not a light and fluffy story.  It is dark and twisted and sometimes gory.  I mean, she eats hearts to gain power and make herself stronger.  She will do anything to become Empress, and I thought the use of a prophecy was interesting.  As weird as it may be, I did like seeing how far she was willing to go to get what she wants and what she was willing to do so she could fulfill the destiny that was foretold.

I’m not sure if this was something the author intended, but I couldn’t help but think about prophecy and destiny and how cutthroat some people are, and how they’ll use prophecy to get whatever they want.  Also, some of the characters are pretty catty (and petty), and Xifeng was willing to take them down because they were standing in her way.  I’m sure there’s some sort of real world parallel you could draw.  I won’t, because my brain doesn’t want to work right (and I myself in not confident in my ability to draw a meaningful comparison) but it did feel very real.  Girls and women are pitted against each other as well, and you can definitely see why they act the way they do.

5 stars.  Overall, I loved this book.  The setting is amazing and vivid, and I just loved the world and the mythology and the characters.

Book Review: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Published October 2012 by Flux|262 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.

I liked Beautiful Music For Ugly Children!  I didn’t love it, but I still think it’s a book everyone should check out.  I was hesitant to read it, because it’s not an #ownvoices book, but Cronn-Mills did a pretty good job at writing Gabe, and what he was going through.  It seems like she really did her research, though I could have done without the author’s note at the end.  Something about it didn’t sit right with me.

I spent a lot of the book angry at how other people treated him.  His parents misgender him, they call him by his birth name, and there is quite a bit of transphobia.  He does live in a fairly small town (as small a town as a town that has 40,000 people can be), and I can’t say I’m surprised by how he was treated and with how people reacted.  I’m trying not to assume that everyone who lives in a small-ish town is transphobic, and we do see some people who are really accepting of Gabe.

Still, his parents do come around, and I can understand why they’d have a hard time accepting that Gabe is their son. Especially his mom, who seems to feel like she did something wrong, even though she didn’t.  I did find myself feeling uncomfortable at their insistence on calling Gabe Elizabeth, even though we see him correct them throughout the book.

One thing I thought was interesting was his best friend Paige.  She seemed so supportive, until she herself is threatened because of her friendship with Gabe.  And suddenly, she’s having a hard time with it.  I’m not sure what to think about it, because she did seem so supportive initially, but when she was threatened by the same people who threatened Gabe, she seemed to have a hard time.  Almost like it wasn’t real until she was personally affected by it.  I get she’s maybe having a hard time that Gabe is Gabe (and not Elizabeth) but I still found myself frustrated by how she was acting.

I did love his mentor John, and the whole idea of the Ugly Children Brigade.  It gave the book a nostalgic sort of vibe, and I think that part of it made me think of a couple of books: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford.  If you like either of those books, then you’ll probably like this one.  Plus, I liked how music tied into his story, and how A sides and B sides tied into how he saw himself.  They really are kindred spirits, despite their age difference, and I loved their relationship.

Some of the terms were really derogatory and out-dated.  I know this book was published in 2012, and that things have changed, but this still took away from the book a little bit.  And while Gabe was a great character, I wasn’t enthused with Mara, Heather or Paige.  The female characters fell flat and were pretty one-dimensional, though Paige seemed a little bit less so than the other two.  And they were all love interests, which is fine, but it would have been nice to see Gabe have at least one female in his life who he has a platonic relationship with.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  I can’t speak to the portrayal of a character who’s transitioning, since I’m cisgender, but it does seem like Cronn-Mills did a lot of research.

Book Review: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Book: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Published October 2013 by Harry N Abrams|256 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

I liked this one!  For me, it’s one of those books that’s hovering between middle grade and YA- there is something about it that is a little bit more YA, but I could easily see it as an older middle grade book.

I thought Tara was interesting, and I liked seeing her balance both her Indian and her Jewish identities.  There were a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One was a comment from one of her classmates about how she’s not really Jewish because her mom converted to Judaism, and the other was someone assuming she was Muslim because she was from India.  She was easy to relate to, and I really liked her relationships with both her family and her friends.

Adult me’s reaction is that if someone says they’re Jewish, then they’re Jewish…and I’m pretty sure teenage me would felt the same way.  But I also grew up Catholic, and my knowledge of other religions is pretty limited, so maybe I’m missing something here.  I just liked seeing her struggle with her identity, and how she struggled with her faith.  She is full of questions, and for some reason, I really liked that about her.

I did like Sheila and I really, one of the other characters in the book.  It seems like she gets whatever she wants, but she also has some issues she needs to work on.  I felt a little bad for her, but I also wish we saw more of her backstory, because I am curious about why she did some of the things she did.

Something else I wish we saw was more of her mom’s experience as an immigrant.  Tara and her mom are very different, and her mom seems wary of Tara connecting with her Indian culture.  There does seem to be a little bit of a disconnect at times, but they are also very different.  Still, at least a little about her experience immigrating to the US would have been nice, and I think it would have added something different to her relationship with Tara.  But she was still an interesting character.

I also liked the glossary at the end, which was helpful because there were a lot of phrases and words I wasn’t familiar with.  It was nice to actually see what they meant, instead of forgetting to google it later, or trying to figure out what it meant.  I like it when books include a glossary, and that Freedman recognized that not everyone is going to be familiar with some of the phrases we see throughout the book.

3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Tara.  But while I liked it, I didn’t love it.  I thought a couple of things could have used some more backstory, but overall, I’d still recommend it.

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book: The Young Elites

Published August 2015 by Speak|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: The Young Elites #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

An explosive new series from New York Times bestselling author of the Legend trilogy, Marie Lu 

Darth Vader, Voldemort, Maleficent. Witness the rise of a new villain.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars–they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

I thought The Young Elites was interesting!  I liked it, and I wanted to like it more, because I really liked the concept.

Something about the book made me think of the Spanish Inquistion and even the Salem Witch Trials.  I mean, the Young Elites are hunted down and killed because they’re different.  Anyone suspected of being a malfetto was destroyed, and it’s interesting that Teren should be the leader of those tasked with finding the Young Elites.

I really liked Adelina, and she’s dark and twisted and hurt, but she also really cares about her sister.  No one is good or bad in this book, and everyone is very much shades of grey.

I didn’t particularly care for Enzo, and I think his chapters were my least favorite.  Teren, though, was interesting.  I didn’t particularly like him, but I do understand why he acted the way he did.  I really wish we saw more of Raffaele! I would have been happy if we had more chapters with him than with Enzo, but that wasn’t something that happened. Hopefully there is more of him in the rest of the series, should I continue on with it.

I’m not surprised that this book was a fantasy book, but I think part of me was expecting some dystopic or post-apocalyptic elements.  When you start talking about an illness that killed people, but the surviving children come out different…well, I was expecting something a little different.  It’s darker than I thought it would be, and I am curious about what will happen next.  I don’t know if I want to continue the series- while I liked The Young Elites, I don’t know if I like it enough to keep going.  Maybe one day I’ll pick it up, but if I do, I’ll most likely get it from the library.

I never really got a clear picture of the Fortunata Court, and even though we have a map at the beginning of the book, I never really got a good sense of where everything was in relation to each other.  I felt like the Fortunata Court in particular was sort of vague, and I’m not hopeful that we’ll get a better picture of it.  I’m still hoping, of course, but I don’t want to be overly hopeful and then have that come crashing down because it wasn’t described the way I wanted it to be.

3 stars,  I liked it, but I had a hard time getting into it.