The Young Elites (#1) by Marie Lu

young elitesThe Young Elites is about a young noble named Adelina who survived a plague when she was a child, but not unmarked. In addition to losing an eye, her hair has turned white, marking her as a malfetto. Some malfettos have special abilities and are known as the Young Elite. Adelina soon discovers that she has an ability, which soon gets her swept up in a plot to overthrow the king and queen.

Having already read Marie Lu’s Legacy series, I went into the book expecting to enjoy it. Even so, the book had a number of surprises that I was not expecting and deeply appreciated (such as the fate of an important character and the motivation of another). In this regard, the series felt like a step forward in Lu’s writing. The Legacy series did not carry the same level of unexpected turns as this one did, which made the series less predictable. The Legacy series has shown that Lu has no qualms killing off major characters, something more common in YA these days, but not so early in a series. This established high stakes that will only make the series going forward more compelling and unexpected.

I have two main issues with The Young Elites:

First, I think the character of Raffaele was a somewhat unnecessary character. His mentoring of Adelina was important, as was his friendship with Enzo, but he also served an expository function that made some revelations in the book seem too easy. Rather than discover the emotions that Adelina’s magic aligned with, the series simply told us from the start. I think it would have been more powerful to discover this through her actions and experiences instead.

Secondly, we were repeatedly told that Adelina was dark and ambitious (and extension of my first complaint), but very little of what we were shown of her in the book really indicates this. Yes, she made a few questionable choices, but no more so than other characters, including those whose emotions were aligned with “joy” and other more positive emotions. It feels as though the book is trying to convince us that she has darkness within, but mostly fails in the attempt.

That being said, the characters were dynamic, the world believable, and the power-struggle engrossing. I will definitely be reading book two when it comes out.

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Throne of Glass (#1) by Sarah J. Maas

throne of glassThrone of Glass follows master assassin Celaena Sardothien, who is captured and forced to work in a labor camp after being betrayed by one of her fellow law-breakers. Her life changes when she is given the chance to win her freedom. All she has to do is win a dangerous competition against other hardened criminals for the position of King’s Champion.

What I enjoyed most about the book is the quick pace, intricate but interesting backstory, and the air of mystery surrounding the characters and events. The characters are engaging and likable and it is easy to be drawn into the story.

Where the book faultered was in its commitment to the Celaena’s role as an assassin. We are frequently told that she has killed many people, that she is known as the greatest living assassin. While it is clear that she is skilled and capable, it is difficult to believe she is truly a ruthless murderer. She risks her life and her chance at freedom to save her fellow competitor, she immediately falls for the son of the man who murdered her parents, she displays a level of childlike wonder that is not likely of someone who has experienced the hardships she has experienced.

Despite this issue, the rest of the story was engaging enough to be enjoyable.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

yes pleaseYes, Please provides a comical behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood’s comedy scene and a peek into Amy Poehler’s life. The scenes about her career are strong and engrossing. If you’re a fan of Parks & Recreation, you have to love Poehler’s assessment of her co-stars (while simultaneously feeling sad because the show has drawn to a close).

However, there is room for improvement. The overlong prologue rambles on about how hard it is to write a book. Halfway through, my attention wandered and I repeatedly checked how close I was to the next chapter. There are funny moments within the opening, but it felt like it would never end. Condensing and cleaning up would improve the pace.

The rest of the book was equally scattered. An anecdote about starring in a Wizard of Oz production filled a full chapter, not because there was a lot to tell, but because it was filled with tangents. The rambling is Poehler’s comedic style, but would be enhanced with more editing to streamline the writing and emphasize the most interesting parts of Poehler’s story.

Poehler also has a few words of wisdom that are inspiring and others that are just plain ridiculous. Worth the read, but be ready to wade through some slower bits to reach the true heart of the book.