January 2017, Uncategorized

The Young Elites Series by Marie Lu

I absolutely loved Marie Lu’s first series, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion), and I am thrilled to say that I adored this second series just as much. The two series are very different – set in completely different worlds, with very different protagonists and tones – but are equally compelling, unpredictable and powerful.

If you haven’t read one or both of these series yet, you definitely should! Marie has a wonderful imagination and addictive writing-style. Her books are consistently amazing: I have thoroughly enjoyed all six of them. I cannot wait for her new novel Warcross to come out in October of this year!

This post contains a short review for each book in The Young Elites series, but I’ve avoided spoilers and given an overall flavour of each book in the series and what I loved so much about them. The order of the series is: The Young Elites –> The Rose Society –> The Midnight Star. I would rate these books 4.5 stars, 5 stars, and 4 stars respectively.

 

The Young Elites 

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis for the first book in the series:

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 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.

The Young Elites is a strong and engaging opening to the series. It introduces us to our protagonist and anti-heroine Adelina, a girl who is both endangered and dangerous, who has been wronged and is ready to wrong others. She’s trying to fight the darkness within her but it threatens to overwhelm her. Adelina has suffered the blood fever disease, like many others, and it has not only marked her physically but has given her a great and dark power to work illusions. Sufferers or ‘malfettos’ like her are known as Young Elites and are in constant danger. They are pursued by the deadly Inquisition, which is led by the ruthless and righteous Teren. However, they are also sought by their fellow Elites, who have started to build up societies in which those with powers and markings can train, strengthen their talents and resist the Inquisition.

Adelina is an unusual main character, one who blurs the lines between heroine and villain, between right and wrong, between justice and vengeance. She’s sometimes dark and unnerving – increasingly so as the series continues –  but there is enough light and goodness in her and reason for her actions to make her likeable. We can empathize with her because of her back-story, and we witness all her emotions and experiences first-hand. She’s a unique character, one who is full of surprises, full of strength, and who has a great capacity both to love and to hate.

Adelina is joined by a wonderful cast of characters. There’s Raffaele, the beautiful and gentle courtesan; Enzo, the fierce, valiant and alluring leader of the Daggers; Violetta, Adelina’s sweet sister; Teren, the determined, obsessive and unrelenting Inquisition leader; Dante, a lurking and suspicious presence within the Daggers, and Gemma, kind, friendly and welcoming. Each character is original, complex and vividly portrayed. I loved the friendships between Gemma and Adelina and between Adelina and Raffaele. I also loved the romance that took place in the novel – I thought there was the perfect amount of romance for the story-line and the characters had excellent chemistry.

The Young Elites has brilliant world-building. It’s fascinating to learn about the society’s customs and deities. The plot is great, too. The novel is fast-paced, thrilling, and full of twists and turns. It’s the kind of book you race through. There’s constant tension and threat throughout. You can never guess what is going to happen next. Everything comes to a heart-pounding, emotional and breath-taking crescendo at the end: it’s wonderfully executed and will have you desperate for the next book: luckily, as of October 2016, all the books in the series are already out so there is no wait in between!

 

The Rose Society 

 

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The Rose Society is a phenomenal sequel – I enjoyed it even more than I did the first novel in the series (in fact, it’s probably my favourite book of the three). It’s epic and enthralling and unputdownable from the first page to the last. I loved the opening:

“Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, so she destroyed them all.” 

This sequel introduces one of my all-time favourite characters, Magiano. Legendary and revered among the Elites, his power is the ability to imitate others’ powers. Cheerful (most of the time), charming and confident, this thief brings a lot of light and humour to the novel to balance Adelina’s increasing vengefulness, darkness and inability to control her visions. He bursts to life from his first scene and I loved his distinctive qualities: calling everyone ‘my love’, gathering ornate items, and strumming musical notes.

The introduction of Magiano was one of my favourite things about the novel. My other favourite things were, firstly, Adelina’s unpredictable, unstable nature, which made for constant surprises, and, secondly, the massive twist that came right at the novel’s end. I don’t want to give any details or spoilers, but I will say that I absolutely did not see it coming. It’s a jaw-dropping revelation and one that changes everything. The very last lines of the novel, too, are beautifully and breath-takingly poignant.

 

The Midnight Star

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

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Marie Lu writes the best finales. The ending of Champion gave me a very lengthy book hangover. I sob whenever I reread it, and I know it’s an ending I will never forget. I feel the same way about the ending and Epilogue of The Midnight Star. It’s satisfying, epic and extremely emotionally powerful – heart-aching, in fact. It’s written absolutely beautifully and I loved the way it linked to the novel’s title.

This is a fitting ending to a fantastic series. It keeps you right on the edge of your toes throughout because Adelina’s life is constantly endangered. Everything comes together in this novel – the plot and the characters’ quest links right back to the very beginning and the test Adelina faced when joining the Daggers. I always love it when series do that – when they have been all planned out in advance. The only thing I would say, and I’ve seen other reviews stating the same thing, is that I would have liked it to have been longer – not just because I never want good series to end, but because I just felt things could have been stretched out more and that there was room for more scenes and more dialogue towards the end. The plot was actually slightly too fast-paced for me this time. However, I still really enjoyed it.

 

If you have not read this series, please do give it a go! I would definitely recommend it!

 

 

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Uncategorized

Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

  • Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Rating: * * * * *

Series: #3 Blood For Blood Trilogy

Publisher: Chicken House

Publication Date: 5th Jan 2017

Please note this review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, Inferno. 

Goodreads Synopsis:

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

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I’ve always thought that the novels in this series are like action films, with their high stakes, fast pace, snappy dialogue and vivid descriptions. Mafiosa makes for a truly blockbuster finale. It was everything I wanted and more! The best series get better and better with each book, and this trilogy has certainly done that. Mafiosa is Catherine Doyle’s best book yet.

One of the best aspects of the novel is its unpredictability. There’s constant, palpable tension between the two rival mafia clans – the Marinos and the Falcones – and their hatred and vengeance know no bounds. You can never guess what is going to happen next: there are countless surprises, twists and turns, especially the one at the end of Part III. This meant I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I read the book in one sitting. From the minute it arrived in the post, I was glued to the pages (and before that I was eagerly waiting by the front door for it to come!).

I loved, as always, the scenes between Millie and Sophie. They have such a wonderful, warm, loyal and equal friendship, and the dialogue between them is both hilarious and heart-warming. I particularly liked their brainstorming and banter about high school dance themes.

As well as Millie and Sophie, the novel is full of other fantastic characters and awesome character development. I really liked witnessing a more light-hearted side to Valentino, seeing more of Gino, learning more of Elena and Donata’s story, and hearing more about Luca’s hopes and dreams.

Mafiosa is a real emotional rollercoaster, as all the best books are. I grieved with Sophie for her mother. I laughed with her at Millie’s jokes. I feared for her whenever she was in imminent danger (which was most of the book). I swooned with her whenever Luca was around! I also felt emotional throughout the whole book as it’s the last in the trilogy, and this is the kind of series that you wish would never end!

What a riveting, unpredictable and satisfying end to a truly original and thrilling series. I cannot wait to read whatever Catherine Doyle writes next.

Uncategorized

Reading and Writing Resolutions for 2017!

Happy New Year!

The year has only just begun but I have already read a few amazing books – Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier, Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, and Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle (review of the latter will be posted very soon!) – and I am looking forward to reading many more!

 

Some of the books I am most excited about in the next few months are:

  • Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken, Windwitch by Susan Dennard, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. These three all publish on January 12th, which is less than a week away now!

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  • The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman and Margot and Me by Juno Dawson, both published on the 26th of January

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  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber and Long Way Home by Katie McGarry, both published towards the end of January.

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  • In February, I’m really excited about the publication of the sequels to some of my favourite books of last year: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder, and A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab.

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  • The March books I cannot wait for are: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

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I’m also very keen to read as many classic novels as I can this year, starting with finishing reading the novels of the Brontë sisters: I’ve read four already, so I just have The Professor, Shirley + Villette left. I’m very much looking forward to reading them! Then I’d like to read The Mill on the Floss, The Picture of Dorian Grey and Mrs Dalloway. 

I would also really like to read some Agatha Christie novels this year, as I enjoyed the recent adaptations of And Then There Were None and The Witness For the Prosecution. I’ve been looking at the blurbs for her books and I think Five Little Pigs sounds particularly intriguing:

Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, yet there were five other suspects: Philip Blake (the stockbroker) who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist) who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcee) who had roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess) who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister) who cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.

It is sixteen years later, but Hercule Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind…

 

Most of all, I would really love to finish the first draft of my novel! Today I hit 15,000 words and I’ve written 3.5 chapters so far. Sometimes I get really into writing projects and then abandon them at this point, but this one I am determined to finish! It’s based on Greek mythology, which is something I absolutely love, and the characters are always filling my head.