Monday, September 26, 2016

Blog Tour: THE MIDNIGHT STAR by Marie Lu, What Makes a Great Villain

Dear readers:
I am thrilled to take part in the blog tour for the final book in the terrific trilogy, the Young Elites by Marie Lu. If you haven't started reading this trilogy, you should do so immediately, so you can read the final fantastic installment (it gets 5 out of 5 couches from me, I'd give more if I could) as soon as it comes out on October 11, 2016.

So last year, I wrote a post on The Young Elites, and what made up a good villain. Re-reading it, it was more of a love song to The Young Elites as a book (which I still completely stand by), rather than an analysis on what makes a good villain.

This is a good thing because it gives me more space to do that this year prior to the release of The Midnight Star. I really love this topic because I feel having the right kind of villain is vital for a good three dimensional story.

First, I just want to briefly say that THE MIDNIGHT STAR does not disappoint, and in fact, is the perfect finale to one of the best trilogies I've read this year (and I've read a couple of really wonderful trilogies this year-- The Winner's Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski and The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson comes to mind, and The Young Elites now takes its place with these two heavy hitters). I will be posting my 5 star review very soon.

Goodreads Book Description (WARNING: don't read this description if you don't want any spoilers at all):  
28588345The thrilling finale to the New York Times bestselling Young Elites series from “hit factory” Marie Lu.

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

Bestselling author Marie Lu concludes Adelina's story with this haunting and hypnotizing final installment to the Young Elites series. 

My thoughts about villains: I believe a great (and frankly terrifying) villain is one that we can really empathize with because in those certain circumstances, we could see ourselves possibly making similar bad choices spiraling us down that same dark and lonely path.  

I touched on this a year ago, but I'd like to expand on that idea. In particular, Adelina is just that kind of villain. I loved the fact that Marie Lu took a fascinating character (which was originally a side character), and made her the anti-hero main character. Adelina has been through hell, and she has really good reasons to be angry, to want to fight back against all the injustice that has been done to her.  So when she gains powers that align with the dark, what would you expect? And yet, in the first book, you can see the light in her as well. It's struggling to be heard, and even though you just know, deep in your gut, that things are likely to take a turn for the worse, you just hope, really HOPE, that she'll catch a break. I honestly can't say that I wouldn't have made similar choices in her situation. Each time she is confronted with some new knowledge, it pushes her in a certain direction, and I very much sympathize with her as I can completely understand why she is going that way from her past history and what she has endured thus far. There are a couple of heartbreaking moments in The Young Elites, where support from one key person, could have changed her direction completely.

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)Another example of a more fleshed out villain that is from another recent read, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, from the Cinder Chronicles, where we finally get an inner peek into the twisted mind of Queen Levana. I felt sick reading this book and it haunted me for weeks afterwards, but I think honestly, it's some of Meyer's best work. While the other books are in the heroes' viewpoints, Levana finally gets a say. Levana has just a terrible, awful childhood, and she probably does have some underlying psychological pathology, born with sociopathic tendencies-- it's clear from the get go that she doesn't sympathize or empathize normally with other people even before the bad things happened to her. All she needed was a trigger to make her go the wrong way. She had not one trigger, but many triggers that were not her fault, unfortunately, and then the rest were of her own making. She has never had a conception of love, and no examples of true love. Top that off with an unfortunate ability to force people to do her will and disaster is eminent. Honestly, I try to think of every teenager I've ever known, myself included... we are all hormonally out of whack to begin with. Then combine that with her sociopathic tendencies and underlying traumatic childhood--that's an explosion just waiting to happen. Most teens (or people, really) have experienced unrequited love and wish they had the power to force it to happen. Most of us I would say would probably give in to that temptation at least temporarily. I as a teenager probably would have. This book terrified me because in certain circumstances, what says I wouldn't have chosen the same path?

24909852I just finished reading the wonderful Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss that was recently published earlier this month. This is a fictionalized story that takes place during the real hijacking events in the 1970s from a Palestinian terrorist group. The reason I bring this up is because one of the best parts of the book is when the main character befriends a young terrorist, who tells her of the horrifying events that led to his joining the terrorist group. The character is warm, apologetic, and kind. It's an odd juxtaposition as his group has just strapped bombs to the bottom of the plane. And yet, he made the decision to threaten and possibly take innocent lives. He truly believes he is doing the right thing and is eager for her to understand his choices. He is a sympathetic character, and I get why he has made the choices he has, but that doesn't make them the right choices. How coincidental that I get this blog topic and then read about a villain that is as close to a real life villain as one can get.

The last character that I'd like to mention, who is not necessarily a villain, but definitely misunderstood, is Snape from the Harry Potter series. I love that he's not exactly likeable, but you get where he's coming from, and even though he actually does hate Harry, he does the opposite of Adelina and makes the right choices, even when many other people in his position would make the wrong choices. And the fact that he never even got the chance to see if his sacrifices were worth it still tears me apart to this day.

In all these four examples are characters who are villains in some way and above all, three dimensional. Life isn't straightforward and different experiences change us in different ways. I am fascinated to read about characters who are like me in some ways, but make different choices-- it's like a Choose Your Adventure sort of outlook on your own life.  In fact, for the Young Elites, Marie Lu mentions that her main character, Adelina, is modeled after herself, which terrified her. I absolutely love that. I could definitely identify with Adelina and sympathize with her. I also love that it was an incredibly risky move to write about a character who is so much like yourself.  Even more risky to make that main character a villain.

I highly recommend this trilogy and would love to hear your comments and opinions on villains-- what sorts of villains do you like to read about and why?

And here's the tour schedule because you'll want to see all of the rest of these great stops!

Week One
Monday, 9/26: Expresso Reads (Series Sensory Associations)
Monday, 9/26: Ensconced in Lit (TYE “What Makes a Villain” Discussion)
Tuesday, 9/27: Myriad Inklings (Review/Book Playlist)
Tuesday, 9/27: Two Chicks on Books (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Wednesday, 9/28: Mike the Fanboy (Villains/Anti-Heroes in Pop Culture List)
Thursday, 9/29: Reading Teen (Guest Post)
Thursday, 9/29: Twirling Pages (Favorite Quotes/Mood Board)
Friday, 9/30: Bibliophile Gathering (Review)
Friday, 9/30: Brittany’s Book Rambles (Favorite Quotes)

Week Two:
Monday, 10/3: Once Upon a Twilight (Guest Post)
Tuesday, 10/4: The Starry-Eyed Revue (Midnight Star Look Book)
Tuesday, 10/4: Arctic Books (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Wednesday, 10/5: Folded Pages Distillery (Review + Instagram)
Wednesday, 10/5: Fiktshun (Review)
Thursday, 10/6: The Book Nut (Review + Mood Board)
Thursday, 10/6: Bookiemoji (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Friday, 10/7: MundieMoms (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Week Three:
Monday, 10/10: The Fandom (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Tuesday, 10/11: Forever Young Adult (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 10/12: Owl Always Be Reading (Review + Quotes)
Wednesday, 10/12: Buttermybooks (Favorite Morally Ambiguous Characters)
Thursday, 10/13: IceyBooks (Quote Candy)
Friday, 10/14: Dark Faerie Tales (Guest Post)
Friday, 10/14: A Page with a View (Favorite Fanart)
Week Four:
Monday, 10/17: The Book Shire (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Monday, 10/17: Seeing Double in Neverland (Review)
Tuesday, 10/18: What Sarah Read (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 10/19: Adventures of a Book Junkie (Top 5 Reasons to Read TYE)
Wednesday, 10/19: YA Bibliophile (Review + Favorite Quotes)
Thursday, 10/20: Eater of Books! (Swoon Thursday)
Friday, 10/21: Me My Shelf and I (Bookish Scents)
Friday, 10/21: Oh the Book Feels (Review + Favorite Quotes)

post signature

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Best Books I've Read This Year So Far and Mystery Box of Books giveaway (US only) or Swag (INT)

Hey gang:
So I have read some fantastic books recently and wanted to share them as well as do some fall cleaning and thus... GIVEAWAY! :-)

1. Vicarious by Paula Stokes. What a twisty, suspenseful YA sci fi novel. You've got to pick it up! See my blog tour post for more details.
2. The Winner's Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. Can't get enough of Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel in particular is one of the most fantastic heroines I've seen in a long time.
3. The Beauty of Darkness Trilogy by Mary Pearson. Just finished this one and am going to have another post dedicated to it. Another wonderful fantasy with a strong heroine.
4. The Young Elites trilogy (notably The Midnight Star, the final book) by Marie Lu. Mind blown. If you haven't started it yet, it's a perfect time to start. Watch for my blog tour post coming tomorrow.
5. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. Dark and lush writing, she's baaaack! See my post on this great book.
6. Scythe by Neal Schusterman. The master of ethics and twists in a dystopian world. I'll have a review up on the blog soon. Fantastic and moving.

What are your favorite recent reads?

Now stop by to win a mystery box of books (US) or swag (INT)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

post signature

Monday, September 12, 2016

Interview with Kendare Blake, author of Three Dark Crowns and INT giveaway of hardcover of her book!

Hey gang! I'm so excited to invite Kendare Blake, the author of Anna Dressed in Blood, back 23207027 to my blog! I remember reading Anna in 2012 and being blown away by her dark writing, and I knew I'd be picking up her books to come. She has done it again with Three Dark Crowns (and recently just got a starred review, which is well deserved!), which is just a phenomenal book. And as an extra treat, Kendare is giving the book away, so make sure to read to the end of the post!

Goodreads Description:
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

My Rating: 5 couches

My Review: Ever since I read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake many years ago, I knew there were was something super special about this author. The thoughtful but delightfully creepy way she wrote YA horror was really mind boggling. When I saw that she had recently written another book called Three Dark Crowns, I immediately obtained an e-ARC of it from Harper (thanks!) and read the whole thing in a day (thanks to a 3 hour plane ride and a 2 hour stint at the airport!). This book is unbelievable, guys. I had no idea what I was getting into, and it was a ride you won't want to get off.

Three Dark Crowns is written in tight third person present, which really works for the story. We are presented with three (more accurately 4) perspectives in alternating chapters from three sisters, all Queens. The catch is this-- triplets are born from the current Queen, and then when they are 6 years of age, different Houses/islands take them into custody and teach them their ways (Poisoner, Naturalist, Elemental). When they reach of age, only one can be left standing, the other two must be murdered by the ruling Queen. Holy cow, right? What a great hook. It only gets more and more complex as the story unveils itself.

I can't say enough good things about this book. The characterizations are pitch perfect. I wanted to know more about each of the queens, they are all equally interesting to me. I had been wondering if Katharine was the youngest (The Poisoner) and turns out she is because you can just tell by the characterization. She doesn't seem to have any talent and neither does Arsinoe, who is supposed to be a naturalist. The naturalist queen shares the tight third perspective with her best friend, who is the strongest naturalist the kingdom has seen in many years, just adding another hook. Mirabella, the oldest of the triplets, is the most talented, and has had the ability to control the elements for years. While it seems like she is the likely candidate to win, she loves her sisters and has no drive to murder them. I just couldn't get enough of these characters or this world, or the dark, moody atmosphere that Blake is just so good at. Her writing has only gotten better and stronger since her first YA series, and I was just so impressed with the skill of her prose. The feeling I got with this book felt similar to how I felt with Robin LaFevers' series with the assassin nuns, which is high praise because that is one of my all time favorite trilogies. Not usually do I start to have crushes on several boys in books, either, and I found myself swooning over not one, but definitely 2, and possibly 3, although I may have changed my mind about him by the end. And then that ending... oh my goodness. I need the next book in my hot little hands NOW!!!

Overall, a phenomenal start to a series, with dark, lush and gorgeous writing, with rich and three dimensional characters that wouldn't let me go even after the book came to a close. The sequel to this book will be at the top of my TBR list.

Twitter: @KendareBlake
Facebook: Kendare Blake 
Instagram: kendareblake

Pre-order links for the book:

Author blurb: Kendare Blake has a hankering for French food. Or donuts. Or a Seattle dog. Whatever you've got really, she's just hungry. She is the author of the Anna Dressed in Blood duo (soon to be a movie, fingers crossed!) the Goddess War Trilogy, and Three Dark Crowns, which is what she's talking about today. That was a whole lot of referring to myself in the third person.

Author Interview
1. I don't usually ask authors the dreaded question "How do you come up with your ideas?" but I have to ask for this particular story if you had an inspiration for the 3 deadly sisters. I love the setup and think it's so fascinating that there must be a fun backstory to it!

The Dreaded Question...but finally I have an answer to it! So, I was at a book event and there was a bee ball in a tree. A swarm of bees. People were afraid of being stung, but a beekeeper said not to worry, because they were only protecting their queen in the middle and weren't much concerned with what we were doing. Then she told me about queen bees, how they will lay four or five queen eggs before they leave their hive, and when the daughter queens hatch, one kills the rest and takes over the hive. Interesting, I thought. And then on the drive home, I thought about how much I'd like to do that to people, and the idea that became Three Dark Crowns was formed!

2. If you could choose one sister for whatever reason, whether it be that she least annoys you or she has street smarts, etc, to fight for you in a battle, which one would it be and why?

I would choose Mirabella to fight for me in a battle. Hands down. I love all of them, but Mirabella has a drive for protecting those she cares for, and, let's face it, she's absolutely the strongest.

3. There are several swoony guys in this book, and I honestly had a hard time picking one I liked best. Is there one in particular you'd like to keep for yourself? Why or why not?

Ah, the boys. The arm-candy! The personal agendas! I'm curious to find out who you ended up liking the most. As for one I would keep, I mean, if I had to choose only ONE, it would be Joseph. He's completely conflicted but he's all best intentions. He's only loved one girl his whole life. What happens in the book breaks his heart as much as anyone's. 

4. I ask in all my interviews, and in this particular case, I think will be very enlightening: Which Hogwarts house would each of the sisters be sorted into and why? I have my suspicions :-)

Oh, delightful question! My husband and I just recently sorted ourselves at Pottermore and were surprised to discover we're both Ravenclaws. Okay, I was surprised to discover he was a Ravenclaw. Anyway, back to the question:

Mirabella would be a Ravenclaw, for her natural excellence and superiority of her gift. Arsinoe would be a Gryffindor, for her indominable spirit and courage for herself and her friends. And Katharine would be a Hufflepuff. Perhaps you thought she would be a Slytherin? Natalia and Pietyr certainly would. But sweet Kat is Hufflepuff through and through.

5. You've written several different genres now-- the wonderful Anna Dressed in Blood, a YA horror duology, The Goddess trilogy, more into Greek mythology, and now dark fantasy. What genres would you like to try next?

Next...well I do like dark fantasy. And I will always have a toe in horror. I want to write a hero's tale. And maybe a weird thriller. Maybe a graphic novel, a different kind of storytelling altogether.

6. What is your drafting process? Do you do a free write? Outline? Give us a few details of what you do to get the story down on paper.

You know, it seems like every book is different. With Anna I did a little research first and then Cas pretty much took over. With Antigoddess, Athena took over, but Cassandra was a pill and refused to cooperate, requiring many rewrites and diagrams. Three Dark Crowns was "free-written" about four times. That last time was just because I realized I'd written it in the wrong voice. The wrong tone. Three Dark Crowns 2 was largely outlined, which I've never done before. So I guess I don't have a set process. I have to wrangle each book how it wants to be wrangled.

7. If you could go anywhere in the world for a write-cation, to get inspiration for your next sets of books, where would it be and why? 

I would want to go to a European city. Vienna, maybe. I feel like cities are great, dynamic environments with a lot of options. 

8. What books can we look forward to next?

Hopefully I'll have a better answer to that in a few months, but for now Three Dark Crowns 2 comes out in 2017!

And now... the giveaway! Kendare has generously offered a signed hardcopy up for grabs and this giveaway is INT! So please enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
post signature

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review of The 5th Wave Series by Rick Yancey

Hey blog readers!
I just finished THE LAST STAR by Rick Yancey a few days ago, and figured that since I was intending to blog about the first two books several months ago before it came out (and obviously failed to), it's time to actually blog about the whole trilogy.

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)
Let's get right to it! This series has been a blockbuster hit, and is riding the YA apocalyptic wave (pun totally intended) to success. I have mixed feelings about this, as I think there are much more worthy books that have come out recently that I personally loved more and didn't receive as much success when I believe they should have. But at the same time, I definitely think this trilogy is worth reading.

Goodreads Book Description: After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My ratings: 5th Wave- 3 couches, The Infinite Sea and The Last Star 4 couches

Review of the series: The 5th Wave was definitely my least favorite of the three.  This book stars Cassie, who is one of the most infuriating and annoying protagonists that I've read in a long time. I'll admit I skimmed through most of her first person narrative, because her point of view is seriously grating. However, I do believe that Yancey wrote her very intentionally this way, as the other characters (particularly Ringer later on who may possibly rival me in detesting Cassie), accurately describe her in a pretty similar way. Cassie as a character does work for a lot of other bloggers/readers, so just know that this was just my personal reaction to the character. The premise of the book is pretty similar to most other apocalyptic books of its genre; for some reason there are waves that are knocking down the human population, possibly alien in origin, and everyone is just struggling to survive. And within that is a love story between Cassie and Evan. Evan is an interesting character and I gravitated much more towards his part of the story, but because of my issues with Cassie, the love story didn't quite work for me. Because the book ended on an intriguing note, I decided to give the next book a shot.

I'm glad I did because The Infinite Sea was in my opinion, a much (infinitely? lol) better book, with better characters, notably Ringer, who let's face it, is just as bad-ass a female character as you can get. We also get introduced to another character, which I won't reveal who it is as it's kind of spoilerish. Interestingly enough, the mere fact that this story is not really about Evan and Cassie's love story is the very reason that many people were turned off by this and the next book. For me, this was a major plus, as you might suspect from my review so far. I personally thought that these other character arcs were worth sticking around for, and by the end of The Infinite Sea, I knew I'd be picking up the third.

The Last Star unfortunately brings back Cassie, but she has to share the limelight with the other characters. Ringer gets her fair share of action, which I was delighted to see, and the trilogy ends in a way that I did not know was coming. Total kudos to Yancey for taking that risk. I definitely had fun reading this book and while at certain places it dragged or got too dark, the characters and story were worth reading to the bitter end.

Overall, if you are hankering for a solid apocalyptic read, the 5th Wave is not a bad way to go. Some great characters, Ringer in particular, and some really nice twists.

Would love to see what the rest of you thought in the comments!
post signature