The Young Elites by Marie Lu

As a huge fan of Marie Lu and her Legend series, I was really looking forward to The Young Elites. However, it wasn’t what I expected and I don’t know how to feel about it.

20821111 I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

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.

This story was filled with desperate and damaged characters, elaborate world-building and magic powers. I was devouring each tense encounter, action scene and emotional moment and then I reached the end. The twist (was it really a twist?) made my heart drop to the ground. As a lover of happy ever after, I knew not to expect it completely but come on, give me a little hope here!

You see, this book isn’t about a hero/heroine. It’s almost the origin story of a villain; one that was easy to like and relatable. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone and give too much away but the main character stole my heart and then broke it into a million pieces. She is both victim and instigator, Innocent and guilty. I want to see what else happens in her story but I was left with a bad taste in my mouth based on the ending. Is there room for redemption in this story? As a reader, do I want that? Is that where this story should go? I’m not sure. I’ll probably give the sequel a chance because I love Marie Lu but I’m uneasy about this series.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

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Releases and Recommendations: Dark Debt by Chloe Neill

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world.

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Dark Debt by Chloe Neill, which is released on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. This is the 11th book in the Chicagoland Vampire series.

20556438Between standing Sentinel of Cadogan house and making society appearances with House Master Ethan Sullivan, a new member of the American Association of Vampires, Merit has her hands full. The last thing she needs is trouble, especially of the deadly kind.

But when an old friend shows up in need, Merit can’t refuse. Morgan Greer, Master of House Navarre, has gotten himself into serious debt with a dangerous Chicago crime syndicate known as the Triad. And they’re willing to exact more than a pound of flesh for payback—unless Merit can find a way to stop them.

Only the Triad’s connections go deeper than Merit knows, and even one wrong move could be her last…

I love this series. Merit is an amazing protagonist and she is both badass and likable. I started this series within the last year and I gobbled them up one after the other. If you like urban fantasy, you have to read Chloe Neill.

 

Releases and Recommendations: Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world!

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott, which will be released Tuesday, February 24, 2015. This is the second book in the Fire & Flood series.

20657437What would you do to save someone you love?

In Fire & Flood, Tella Holloway faced a dangerous trek through the jungle and across the desert, all to remain a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed for a chance at obtaining the Cure for her brother. She can’t quit–she has to win the race, save Cody, and then fight to make sure the race stops before it can claim any more lives. In the next legs of the race, across the ocean and over mountains, Tella will face frostbite, sharks, avalanche, and twisted new rules in the race.

But what if the danger is deeper than that? How do you know who to trust when everyone’s keeping secrets? What do you do when the person you’d relied on most suddenly isn’t there for support? How do you weigh one life against another?

The race is coming to an end, and Tella is running out of time, resources, and strength. At the start of the race there were one hundred twenty-two Contenders. As Tella and her remaining friends start the final part of the race, just forty-one are left–and only one can win.

I really enjoyed Fire & Flood, the first book in this series. It had that fight to the death competition, like Hunger Games, but with the possibility of less dead. Plus, each competitor has an animal-friend to help them through the challenges. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Releases and Recommendations: Infinite Harmony by Tammy Blackwell

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world!

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Infinite Harmony by Tammy Blackwell, which will be released on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

20417132Ada Jessup lives for the moment, knowing the promise of tomorrow can be all too easily broken.

Joshua is an Immortal, a heavenly warrior who will still be fighting long after the rest of the Alpha Pack have turned to dust.

When a gunshot wound forces Joshua to tell Ada the truth of what he is, there is more at risk than the safety of the Alphas he’s sworn to protect. For Joshua, the real danger is the way he feels drawn to the human girl. After all, what can the future hold for a girl whose days are numbered and a boy whose life has no end?

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit because I’ve already read this book since I was lucky enough to get an eARC. I have a review coming out soon so be on the lookout for that. Spoiler Alert: I freaking loved it! I’ve been a huge fan of Tammy Blackwell since I devoured her Timber Wolves Trilogy. I quickly continued on to her Shifters & Seers series with Fragile Brilliance, so it was a no brainer to keep ingesting whatever Blackwell will dish out. I’m enamored with Blackwell’s storytelling ability. I can’t get enough.

Chicagoland Vampire Series by Chloe Neill

A week or so ago, I started the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill. I’ve always had a soft spot for Urban Fantasy but I’ve also always had my favorite UF heroines. I’m happy to say that Neill’s Merit makes that list.

4447622They killed me. They healed me. They changed me.

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world. When a rogue vampire attacked me, I was lucky he only got a sip. Another bloodsucker scared him off and decided the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead.

Now I’ve traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed,
four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude—and servitude. Right…

But someone’s out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches?

My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

I bulldozed through the first seven books of the series within a couple weeks. I just couldn’t stop reading; I had to see what happened next. Unfortunately, with all these books under my belt, it’s hard to remember where each book stopped and another started. I guess that’s an indication of how flawless this series is when it comes to plot, writing and flow. So I’ve decided to do a “why-you-should-read-this-series” review (even though I’m not quite finished yet.)

To be frank, I am in love with this series so be prepared for some biased fangirling. The main protagonist in the series is Merit, English grad student turned vampire against her will when she was attacked on the way across campus one fateful night. She then joins the Cadagon House (All the vamps are separated into “houses,” where they pledge their allegiance to the Master.) and meets the master vampire, Ethan Sullivan. [Cue Swooning]9581001

The chemistry between Merit and Ethan is electric. Neill makes the reader wait a really long time before anything really happens between them but the give and take is just as good as any dirty details. When it does come down to the nitty gritty, Neill is very light on the details. The focus is really on their relationship not so much the physical aspect. Regardless, each interaction between Ethan and Merit left me panting or reeling. I loved every second of it.

Merit is a kick ass heroine. She has to come into her own but once she does, she is one badass girl with a katana. I enjoyed watching her navigate the vampire world but still hold onto her humanity. Each book in this series has a challenge for Merit, Ethan and the Cadagon vampires to overcome, exposing the reader to new supernatural species, such as shifters, fae and river nymphs. There’s always a lot of action and really good character development. Not just with the main characters but the secondary characters as well. For example, Merit’s best friend Mallory and Catcher, the sorcerer.

My favorite book so far is Hard Bitten, the fourth book. The reader FINALLY gets to see some action between Ethan and Merit and the ending is such a cliffhanger it left me bawling my eyes out. There are nine books currently out with the tenth installment, Blood Games, coming out soon on August 5. If you are a fan of Urban Fantasy, especially if you enjoy authors such Kim Harrison or Patricia Briggs, you will love Chloe Neill. This is a series that shouldn’t be missed.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Kate Daniels series #1-3 Magic Bites, Magic Burns, and Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

I’m always up for a good urban fantasy, when I heard about this “Kate Daniels” and Ilona Andrews, I was intrigued…and I was hooked after the first few pages of book one. Let me give you the low down on the first three books in this series because, most likely, you will read them in quick succession like I did.

imagesWhen the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Book one, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, was a sufficient introduction into Kate Daniels’ world. I found Kate to be incredibly entertaining with her badass moves and her witty quips. (A girl after my own heart.) The line “Here, kitty kitty…” when she first meets the Curran, the lord of the beasts, was hysterical! I found this book to be a great set-up for the series but the “meat” just wasn’t there. The relationships were only just starting to grow and the storyline was beginning to take off.  However, we do get to know Kate very well, well enough to love her and continue the series.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

imagesCAM6ZXAPDown in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.

When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…

Book two, Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews was an amazing continuation of this series. It had a “meaty” plot that drove the interactions between the characters. Andrews created the most delicious sexual tension I have EVER experienced. I was writhing in anticipation by the end; can Kate just get a little action?? Speaking of action, there is also a completely different kind of  action in this book, and it was non-stop. I LOVE fight to the deaths and Andrews delivered. My heart is still racing from all the action. As a character, Kate is slowly unraveled before us exposing the secrets she keeps and why she keeps them. I loved her secrets and I loved that she fought to keep them a secret but was still human enough to want an ordinary life. The only issue I had with the series so far is every problem turned into “IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!” This plot device can be overdone and desensitize readers. At one point, I found myself annoyed that every fight determined the fate of the world. I’d appreciate a little more reality in that aspect of the books. Overall, it’s still a great book.

STARS: 4 out of 5

images2Investigator for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Kate Daniels keeps humans safe in Atlanta. But when her werewolf friend Derek is dying in human form, from attack by the mysterious Reaper team at the Midnight Games, she and Curran, the Beast Lord, must fight together to win the Wolf Diamond topaz and save his Pack and her friends.

Book three is Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews. This series just keeps getting better and better, just when I thought the series would level out, it keeps building with more action, more character growth, and more PASSION. I am absolutely hooked. Andrews has led me along quivering in anticipation from the sexual tension between Curran and Kate. Finally, in book three, there was some sizzling action. (Waiting until the third book for a sex scene in an urban fantasy has got to be a record!) These sex scenes add to the plot which is super refreshing and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed them. However, the best thing about this book was the witty writing. I have never (in my entire life) laughed out loud while reading as much as I did with this book. I was practically rolling on the floor. (This is NOT an exaggeration.) I had so much fun with this book and it was so entertaining. I loved how Andrews blended the funny with the serious. This book had a very sweet ending. Andrews has truly built a series that I want more and more of.

STARS: 5 out of 5

I’m already on the path to devouring the next two books, Magic Bleeds and Magic Slays, and I’m anticipating the release of Magic Rises which comes out July 30, 2013. If you love Urban Fantasy, this series is for you.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

 The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson is the sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns — a far greater masterpiece than its predecessor.

 In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

 Warning: If you haven’t read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, please be aware there are spoilers ahead.

 I am so enraptured by this series. The first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was good but I never got around to writing a review. It was too difficult to put into words how I felt about it. I just knew that I enjoyed it enough to read the second book, even though Rae Carson ended her first novel with some really depressing twists. I didn’t know if I would recover and I didn’t know how Carson could recover a series that ended so…bloody.

Alas, The Crown of Embers was magnificent, better than the first book. The main character, Elisa, is more confident and aware of herself. There is more character development and the plot churns on until the reader HAS to know what will happen. The best part, however, is the romance. Carson has perfected the forbidden love story. In the words of Mr. Darcy, Carson has bewitched me heart and soul. Hector and Elisa’s relationship blooms from the ashes of her loss of Humberto in the first book. I didn’t think it could happen, but Carson reignited hope into Elisa and into the reader. I clung to the tiny spark of hope like it was something precious throughout the entire book. Being Queen is not easy and a queen is never given many choices. Elisa is being pressured to find a husband, far too early since the death of the King only months prior. I was on the edge of my seat in desperation for Elisa to find love — and get to keep it.

 There is so much adventure and political intrigue in this book. I love the world Carson created and I love to watch Elisa’s failures and triumphs in the kingdom she is so desperately trying to save. She really puts herself out there to save her kingdom, making her an extremely relatable and likable character. I love that she also puts herself out there for Hector. There was all of this sexual tension and emotional turmoil. They were both torn between their feelings and duty, making for a very interesting plot twist in the end.

I have to mention how much I loved the “God” element. As the bearer of the Godstone, Elisa has this direct connection with God. (Just to clarify, I don’t know whether its the Christian God or Carson’s fictional god. Either way, I’m loving this additional layer of relationship.) The physical warning signs the Godstone puts out adds something unique to the story, and I, for one, can relate to such a devout character.

I really enjoyed this sequel. It was better than the first book now that the plot has been narrowed down to something more specific, not to mention Hector! The ending left me breathless in anticipation for the next book,  The Bitter Kingdom, which releases in September 2013. This will be a must-read in 2013 for me.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5