Review: The Young Elites

Review: The Young ElitesTitle: The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Source: Gifted
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars

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.

MY THOUGHTS

I should have reviewed this ages ago because I’m still so impressed with what Marie Lu managed to do with The Young Elites but I’m also the worst when it comes to reviewing the books I want everyone to read. (Women of the Otherworld, Croak, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, A Mad Wicked Folly, I’ll Meet You There, Kate Daniels, most of the Marchettas including Lumatere, etc. It’s a problem.) However, Angie (<333) gave her ARC of The Rose Society to Gillian (<333) to give to me and I’ve promised myself I couldn’t start it until I’d reviewed the first book. And I really, really want to start The Rose Society. So here goes.

The Young Elites reads as the origin story of a supervillain or possible anti-hero. I think Lu has decided to go with the supervillain angle and I couldn’t be more pleased. For the first half of the book, I couldn’t tell if I actually liked the book or if it was an effect of her beautiful writing, which is very imaginative and makes it super easy to picture the gorgeous settings. I’m probably reaching here, but I like to think this was thematically significant because it’s more or less what Adelina goes through with her gradual initiation into the Dagger Society. She’s at first completely overpowered by the opulence of the Kennetran court and people actually treating her as a human being for once (at first. I have some major issues with this society which I’ll get to in a moment). I loved her interactions with Raffaele. I especially loved the moment when he was dressing her up and they’re a bit flirtatious and she starts fantasising about what it would be like to have sex with him. More girls and women being shown to have sexual fantasies, please, because it’s a thing that happens quite regularly.

And now as for why I’m unimpressed with the Dagger Society. At first, I was all for them because they’re this group of Malfetto rebels who like to start shit and fuck with the regime that’s trying to oppress them and make them into universal outcasts. However, I’m so unimpressed with their ideology. First of all, they don’t really care for malfettos in general and don’t even want rights for all of them, but just stand up for the “useful” elite. They also embellish their “flaws”, a.k.a. the markings the blood fever from a decade or so ago left on their faces and bodies, but they hide them instead of owning them. Part of this is a safety measure, because they can’t have the palace guard and other officials recognising them. Side note, I saw someone describing the queen and Teren (the guy in charge of finding and executing Malfettos who is incidentally in a great crackship with Adelina I mean what) as Cersei Lannister and the self-flagellating monk from The Da Vinci Code, which is actually super true and also kind of awesome. They’re not really prominent characters, especially the queen, but I just wanted to mention it.

So I was a bit disappointed with this whole “hide your markings” ideology because it wasn’t all for safety only. I wanted Adelina to embrace every part of herself, every bit of darkness and every marking, and walk into the room with this arrogant look on her face, straight-up owning her shit and not feeling the least bit bad about it. She isn’t there yet, but she’s certainly developing in that direction, which is one of the many things that makes so excited to get started on The Rose Society. For some reason, the Daggers don’t feel the same way, which is what I hate about these losers. It’s all in the little wolf nickname. In the beginning, I liked it, because I thought they used it as a way to show her that she’ll grow into her powers and become this mighty beast. But apparently they do want her to become the White Wolf as long as that means she fully controls her power, and more importantly, that they can control her and what she does. She can rise as a powerful player but only if she doesn’t rise above their prince-leader. They want her to suppress the darkness and ambition within her and the moment she shows any sign of not being completely in control (which is not so weird considering she was made to feel ashamed and afraid of her powers HER ENTIRE LIFE and is still LEARNING AND STRUGGLING YOU FUCKERS) she’ll be put down as the rabid dog they assime her to be.

I realise I’m being very dramatic about this but I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s fond of Adelina actually wants her to be unleashed on the world instead of constantly forcing her to keep back part of herself. It’s why I dropped the Enzo/Adelina ship halfway through, even though I was mildly into it before. I also had great visions of her and Enzo rising up and taking over together, and then Adelina turning against him but View Spoiler » Putting the above in spoilers tags because it’s a pretty big spoiler but a very GOOD one. Vague side notes: the Raffaele/Enzo ship was so real but Enzo was a dick and also Adelina/Raffaele very much have Bad Blood as the soundtrack to their relationship.

The great thing about this entire set-up is that Adelina is supposed to hate being held back. She takes issue with their elitism and wants break free from the Dagger Society, which is why the subplot involving her sister Violetta confuses me. I hate her. I hate how she justifies her actions and how Lu concludes this story line with Adelina thinking Violetta is the only one who ever gave her kindness without strings attached, especially because you can tell so clearly just how conditional this kindness is. And the fact that Violetta manipulates Adelina into thinking she was doing her a favour makes their relationship extra gross and abusive. View Spoiler »

Because I’d been going through Lu’s TYE pinterest board every since the book had been released, I totally expected Maeve to play a much larger role in this book. The whole time, I was waiting for her to show up, but she only makes an appearance in the epilogue. To be fair, though, WHAT KIND OF APPEARANCE. I pre-ordered The Rose Society immediately and I’m so ready to read more about this ambitious queer warrior queen(-in-training?). View Spoiler » Maeve’s character isn’t the only thing that promises more epicness to come. The Young Elites has some truly excellent moments and lines. The chapter headings that delve deeper into the mythology are gorgeous and I just want to know MORE. Lu has a tendency to over-explain things when she could easily live things a bit more to the imagination, but at the same time you can see her crafting the Daggers into (more) human reincarnations of the gods and angels. Adelina is the Angel of Fear, Enzo the Angel of Fury, Gemma the Angel of Joy, etc. I’m so intrigued.

The Young Elites is by no means a perfect book, but I’m so impressed with what Lu already managed to accomplish. The pacing is a bit off at times but it all comes together in the end and HOLY SHIT DOES IT EVER. Lu did a few things I hadn’t expected from her, based on the fact that she had a tendency to keep her characters so clean and almost blameless in her Legend trilogy, which is why I was so disappointed with the sequels in that series. None of that here, though. Objectively, Adelina does terrible things but when other characters have the nerve to point that out and actually turn on her I’m like HDU SHE’S GREAT. She’s so completely wrong for this world. There’s no place for her to go or any place where she’ll belong. Even as the White Wolf she stands quite alone. There’s no way for her to fit in or adapt and I don’t even want her to. I hope she burns it all down (possibly with a bloodthirsty malfetto girl gang of her own) because it will be epic.

MEMORABLE QUOTES

One of them jokes about cornering me the next time I walk alone in our garden. I laugh with him. I imagine mixing poison into his tea, then watching his face turn purple and anguished; I picture myself leaning over him, looking on patiently, with my chin resting in my hands, admiring his dying, writhing body as I count out the minutes.

Once upon a time, a prince fell madly in love with a demon from the Underworld. When she disappeared back into the sea, he ached so much for her that he walked into the ocean and never returned. 

The only way to clamp down on my energy is to erase my emotions, and so I fold them each away, one by one. My sorrow turns to anger, then to ice-cold fury. My soul curls in on itself in defense. I am gone. I am truly gone. I am not sorry. 

I pledge myself to the Rose Society until the end of my days, to use my eyes to see all that happens, my tongue to woo others to our side, my ears to hear every secret, my hands to crush my enemies. I will do everything in my power to destroy all who stand in my way.

Mini reviews: Breathe Annie Breathe and Jesse’s Girl

Mini reviews: Breathe Annie Breathe and Jesse’s GirlTitle: Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5)
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Gifted
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

my thoughts

I reviewed the first four Hundred Oaks books in one post, so it only makes sense that I post my mini reviews for Breathe Annie Breathe and Jesse’s Girl together as well. Breathe Annie Breathe is one of the better of the Hundred Oaks books for me. Though I read it months ago, I still think about it occasionally, and with the amount of contemporary books I read, that’s a good thing. This book is about Annie, who lost her boyfriend and is absolutely devastated. Because he had been training for a marathon, she decides to participate in his honor, and starts training. To do this, she enlists the help of both Jordan from Catching Jordan, who now teaches at her high school, and Matt from Things I Can’t Forget, her new running coach. The way Miranda Kenneally does cameos is one of my favorite aspects of this series. It feels a bit like coming home again. I absolutely love revisiting these old characters and seeing where they are now. Matt especially plays an important role in this book, and I love reading about him again. I also think Kenneally wrote Annie’s struggle really well. It can be tricky to write about loss and grief, but it broke my heart.

Breathe Annie Breathe’s main couple are Annie and Jeremiah, and they are in my top three Kenneally couples (along with Jordan and Sam Henry, and Will and Parker). What I absolutely loved about Annie and Jeremiah is how, despite how obvious their initial attraction is, they are friends first. And even when they eventually grow into more, they are still, first and foremost, best friends. I loved that. Another aspect that Kenneally wrote really well is Annie’s struggle with friends, and how she eventually started hanging out with Vanessa (I love her, and also Vanessa + Rory forever), Savannah, and the girl whose name I forgot. I think it’s important to show that friendships can often be very, very difficult, and that struggling with them is not a strange thing. One thing that was a bit triggering for me was that Annie very often gets sick after running. This is obviously a part of training, but for someone struggling with emetophobia on a daily basis, it can be quite hard to read about. Obviously, this is completely personal and probably too much information, but it did make me read this book a bit differently. Still, I absolutely adored this book, and would love to reread it.

memorable quotes

“Even the people who didn’t know him are silently weeping. Maybe not for him specifically, but for what Kyle lost: the chance to have experiences, good and bad and crazy and life changing. They feel sorry his mother and father lost their son. And maybe they start thinking of losing their own parents or children or brothers and sisters and how that feels like darkness, a hole that can never be filled. And if they’ve never lost somebody, what will it feel like when they do? When you finally watch your loved one being lowered into the ground, away from you forever. Before October, I couldn’t have fathomed it. I felt immortal.”

“Great,” he mutters. “Why are all the women in my life out to get me?”

Mini reviews: Breathe Annie Breathe and Jesse’s GirlTitle: Jesse's Girl (Hundred Oaks #6)
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Borrowed
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

my thoughts

Of these two books, I prefer Breathe Annie Breathe over Miranda Kenneally’s latest, Jesse’s Girl. The thing with this Jesse’s Girl is that I absolutely loved the first half of the story, but I thought the second half fell short, or at least that it never went as deep as Breathe Annie Breathe, for example, did go. It just didn’t give me nearly enough time to get properly invested in the story. In the first half of the story, Maya Henry (yes, Sam Henry’s little sister) gets to shadow Jesse Scott, a very popular country music star, for a day. It starts out so great: Maya is a badass punk girl with a weakness for eighties music who loves music and her family more than anything, and though Jesse acts like a douchebag the first time they meet, she’ll have none of his shit. I could relate to Maya’s struggles with friendship and her down-to-earth attitude when it came to Jesse Scott, and I love her a lot. The first half of the story is about Maya and Jesse slowly and reluctantly getting closer, all during that one day they spend together. Their humor and playfulness is amazing, and I found their chemistry to be very believable. Basically, I want to reread this part over and over again.

I was therefore more than a bit disappointed that the second half of the story didn’t do as much for me. I still really liked Maya and Jesse, and I found the development of their relationship to be quite believable. However, it all stayed a bit too superficial for me, and when Maya and Jesse were “official” by the end of the story, I found myself wishing for more build-up, more time together so that I would have found their relationship to be a bit more believable. I still liked them, don’t get me wrong, but I could have absolutely loved them, but it never reached that (emotional) level for me. In general, I think I would have liked this book to be either a bit longer, or to have described a longer time period, so that we could have seen more of Maya’s development. I felt like her growth was overshadowed a bit by her relationship with Jesse, and I was a bit disappointed. What I did really like about this story were the cameo appearances of Jordan and Sam, who are still delightful and hilarious and still one of my top three Kenneally couples (perhaps my favorite). All in all, I did really enjoy Jesse’s Girl, and it had many solid aspects, but it never went as deep as I would have liked.

memorable quotes

“Friendships come and go – I don’t hang out with the same people I did in elementary school or even junior high. But I know that other people have managed to keep their friends. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I belong anywhere?”

“I remember my shadow day. I said I wanted to be an NFL player, and the school arranged for me to shadow the manager of the Athletic Superstore at the mall.”
“And I said I wanted to become an exotic dancer,” Sam says, “but I got detention.”

“Jesse scans the audience, and his eyes meet mine. His mouth falls open. Then it slowly forms his famous half-cocked smile. He grabs a microphone. ‘Hey, Maya Henry. What’re you doin’ here? And who’s watching my cat?'”

Bout of Books 14.0

boutofbooks

Yay! It’s time for another Bout of Books readathon, and although I (Judith) have done a lot of them in the past, I haven’t been to join in a while. But now it’s still summer, university hasn’t started yet, and I’m ready to read all the books. Bout of Books is organized by Amanda from On a Book Bender and Kelly from Reading the Paranormal and it lasts for a week. I like it because it’s very low-pressure and you can do whatever you want. Also, the Twitter chats are glorious. (Note from Ellice: The Twitter chats are the best! They’re worth participation alone, plus I love how these ladies emphasize that if you read ANYTHING, you have succeeded at Bout of Books. WOOOO!)

Mini review: P.S. I Still Love You

Mini review: P.S. I Still Love YouTitle: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2)
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

my thoughts

I already wrote a mini review for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and I don’t think I have that much more to say about the sequel, but I did want to write down my thoughts, so consider this a mini mini review. P.S. I Still Love You starts off exactly where the first book left off, with Lara Jean’s letter to Peter. If I’m being honest, I feel like if the letter had been included in the first novel, despite the slightly open ending it would have had, this story would have been enough. For a large part while reading this book, I didn’t feel like a sequel was necessary. I liked the ending a lot, but also there was a lot of repetition and the dragging out of Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship was getting on my nerves. When I think about it now, I do like that Jenny Han showed how difficult relationships can be, and how getting together is the easy part.

I do really like being in Lara Jean’s head, and she is still as adorable as it was in To All the Boys, and I also feel like Genevieve’s story was an important addition to the first book. My favorite character by far, though, is Kitty. She is honest and hilarious and just all around fabulous and dear Jenny Han, can we please have a Kitty spin-off? I also genuinely liked John Ambrose McClaren, and I felt like he and Lara Jean would have been an amazing fit. The group thing with the tagging game read a bit young, and I felt like it was just added to give the plot a bit of a boost. So yeah, I did still enjoy this book. I love Lara Jean and Kitty, the family aspect, and I genuinely like Peter and the ending of the story felt like a very mature ending for them. And yet, the constant back and forth didn’t do much for me.

Team Kitty Song Covey forever.

memorable quotes

Margot opens her mouth to respond, but then Kitty comes up behind us and says, “Enough with the letters. Just go get him back.”

“Hey, I thought I was your best friend!”
“You’re not my best friend. You’re my sister, and that’s more.”

“I’m thinking of Mrs Duvall, of what she said before. She would probably lump Chris in with the party girls, the girls who sleep around, the girls who aren’t “better than that.” She would be wrong. We’re all the same.”

“I had no idea you were such a feminist,” I say.
“Feminist?” Stormy makes a disgusted sound in her throat. “I’m no feminist. Really, Lara Jean!”
“Stormy, don’t get worked up about it. All it means is that you believe men and women are equal, and should have equal rights.”
“I don’t think any man is my equal. Women are far superior, and don’t you forget it.”

“If this is love, no thanks. I don’t want any part of it. When I’m older, I’m jut going to do my own thing.”
“What does that mean?” I ask her.
Kitty shrugs. “If I like a boy, fine, I’ll date him, but I’m not going to sit at home and cry over him.”
“Kitty, don’t act like you never cry.”
“I cry over important things.”
“You cried the other night because Daddy wouldn’t let you stay up to watch TV!”
“Yes, well, that was important to me.”

“What song are you singing?” Kitty interrupts.
I take Kitty’s hands and spin her around the kitchen with me. “I am sixteen, going on seventeen; I know that I’m naive. Fellows I meet may tell me I’m sweet; willingly I believe.”
Daddy throws his dish towel over his shoulder and marches in place. In a deep voice he baritones, “You need someone older and wiser telling you want to do…”
“This song is sexist,” Kitty says as I dip her.

July in Review

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we did

Judith: I went on holiday! For two weeks this month, I was staying in a little house near Bordeaux, France, and I pretty much had the most relaxing time ever. I spent long days on the beach, read a ton of books, and visited some gorgeous cities. And that’s pretty much all I did. It was very relaxing and I very much needed it. There’s pictures here!

julypics

Ellis: I had a good month but WHO CARES ABOUT JULY WHEN AUGUST IS GOING TO BE EPIC BECAUSE JUDITH, GILLIAN, AND GABY ARE GOING TO BE HERE SO SOON. Ahem. Quick recap of the month I’m supposed to be focusing on: I graduated, was supposed to be done with school forever but was asked if I was maybe interested in a PhD in gender studies, proposals are approved every February so I’d have to find work for another year first, the professor promoting/advising/supervising the project suggested I’d look into the Gender and Diversity MA they’d started last year, and after a few days of researching and “do I REALLY want to go back to school” questioning I decided that if I’d been told to go study anything else, I would have gone with the working for a year option, but this gender and diversity programme is practically made for me and even if my proposal doesn’t get approved, it will still give me a great background for the field I want to work in.

July wrap up 2

This also means I’m going to move back home, which is going to be weird after five years of semi-independence where I only saw my family during the weekends. Normally I get used to that dynamic again during summer break, but this year we’ve all been doing our own thing a bit, so the six of us being together has been an exception so far. We’re going to Copenhagen for a few days next week, which I’m also super excited for. I’ve been catching up with old friends, which has always been a consequence of unexpectedly bumping into each other, which isn’t all that hard in my hometown. The usual pattern is that we yell and hug for a bit and then blurt out random highlights, which often leads to more yelling and hugging. I’ve also had to train a new colleague for a few days. She’ll be taking over for me soon, since my contract ends in September and I’m becoming  a full-time student again. July has felt long, though not in a bad way, and I’m pretty sure almost all of it was because it’s leading up to THE EXCITEMENT that is going to be August.

Ellice: I spent some time in Nashville this month, which was totally the highlight of July for me! I LOVE the city, and I had planned my trip so that I would be there for Miranda Kenneally’s event at Parnassus Books. However, Miranda wasn’t feeling well and didn’t get to make it (she contacted me early to let me know, which just shows how incredibly thoughtful she is), which I hated, but look forward to meeting her in October when we’re both in Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books. While I was there, I still went to the bookstore, of course (where I bought 4 books and wanted 50 more! hehe). I LOVE the people at Parnassus Books. They are just the best. I wish I lived closer so I could hang out in there all the time. Even their shop dogs are super friendly! Other highlights of the trip: I visited downtown Nashville, and found the antique shop that is owned by Mike Wolfe (one of the guys on the American Pickers show on the History Channel). My favorite part about it was actually the surroundings though. It’s in this old car manufacturing building that still has the original floors, walls, etc. on the inside, and you can walk through it and visit all these cool little boutiques, art galleries, and even a tattoo parlour. That building was gorgeous! The hotel was fun too, because it had a courtyard, a lovely hotel bar, and a really nice pool on the roof :) Other than that, July was full of work. School will be starting back in August so I was trying to get a lot of stuff done before the students come back!

ellicejuly3

Oh, I also decided to join the 3rd round of On the Same Page’s Secret Sister! I’ve already met so many people and am slightly obsessed with the hashtag on Twitter. I understand why everyone enjoys it so much. I’ll post pictures each month of the goodies I get from my ‘sister.’ :)

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