Guest Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Guest Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Published by Scholastic on 2013-09-17
Pages: 448
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take? Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things. Ronan is one of the raven boys — a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface — changing everything in its wake.

“Boys like him didn’t die; the got bronzed and installed outside public libraries…His voice was full of the honey baked accent of old Virginia money.”

In full disclosure, one of the reasons I’ve latched on to this series is because I just moved to a quiet, unexplored corner of Virginia. This story, which is full of so much crumbling grandeur, sad wildness and…well and magic…it lends my loneliness a romantic edge.

This book brought an unforgotten nostalgia for my own childhood and the wishful half-belief in the sorcery of deep woods and hidden creeks, which transforms moss and vines into bowers, thorns and mud into dark fey, power lines and clear cuts into the ravages of orks or – far worse – the inevitable encroachment of men into the holy places of the world.

“…Blue thrilled again and again with the knowledge that magic was real, magic was real, magic was real.”

In a way, my memories are a compliment to Maggie’s lovely book. Within her words I rediscovered the enchantment, and she doesn’t patronize those experiences by turning them into figments of a character’s imagination.

Isn’t that the most irritating thing? When the desires of your heart are made flesh, and then you’re supposed to wake up, grow up or die  – and learn something from it.

The Dream Thieves, like The Raven Boys, has buckshot of loss spattered through it. In the morning light, she somehow makes me feel like the day is already done – simultaneously experiencing a moment and mourning its passing. And the Kavinsky/Ronan Janus-dynamic illuminated the delicacy of the balance between creation and destruction.

The characters are so vivid – from golden boy Gansey and our girl Blue to the interesting supporting characters like Calla and Mr. Grey.

 “In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest.  Their awfulness and strangeness. Her Raven Boys.”

Me too, Blue.

Except maybe Noah.  Poor fellow. But that there’s unworked land. I’d like to be given the chance to fall in love with Noah. Right now he seems kind of pathetic. Smelly. Dead.

I’ve enjoyed witnessing Maggie Steifvater develop as an author.  The Wolves of Mercy Falls series was good, but I never really understood the hype. In my opinion, The Scorpio Races was much more interesting, and the Raven Boys series is top notch — Definitely one to curl up alongside the other keepers in your mind.

I can’t wait to see which character we get into next.

 Kelly IzlarKelly is a science communicator and writer. She recently completed an internship with the US science communication team for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and is currently freelancing in rural western Virginia. Kelly likes swimming, hiking, eating good cheese and reading young adult fiction. Visit www.kellyaizlar.com/ or follow Kelly on twitter @KellyIzlar

 

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Published by Penguin Random House on 2013-05-07
Pages: 480
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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The Passage meets Ender's Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

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.

Thoughts: To hear some people put it, The 5th Wave should have been called the The 2nd Coming. The hype surrounding this novel was crazy. Absolutely crazy. So much so, that it was hard for me to separate the book from the hype even while I was reading the thing.

But now, having let it stew in my mind for a good long while, I can see why people were excited when it came out. It’s got the right mix of action, fantasy, dystopia and romance in it to appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. This is mostly down to the multiple narrators: we’ve got a mix of genders and ages (oh, and species) telling the story, and I can see how that makes the book more appealing to publishers and booksellers alike.

“Lovely, Kay. Nice insight into marketing. But was it a good read?,” you ask.

Not really.

Sorry people, but the truth is I had to force myself to finish The 5th Wave. While I could appreciate what Rick Yancey was shooting for, I found the jump between narrators extremely frustrating. Just as I was starting to become emotionally invested in a character, we would switch over to someone new. Then, by the time we’d get back to the original subject, I had lost the emotional tie I had previously had.

You  play two great symphonies at once, and they’ll just become noise. The 5th Wave was a very noisy book.

So despite the body-snatching aliens, the child soldiers, the Walking Dead style of survival, my main takeaway from The 5th Wave was a lesson in how not to structure a novel. Intellectually, I am interested in knowing how the series ends, but if everyone dies in the end, I wouldn’t really mind. Never a good sign.

Bottom line? The 5th Wave lacked any and all emotional pull, and I can’t say I’m rushing to recommend it. But if you adore multiple narrator books, perhaps you’ll love this book.  

Review: Gone by Lisa McMann

Review: Gone by Lisa McMannGone by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #3
Published by Simon & Schuster on 2010-11-01
Pages: 240
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Fade

Things should be great for Janie - she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she's totally in love with. But deep down she's panicking about how she's going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people's dreams is really starting to take its toll. Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time -and he's in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice she thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined.

Thoughts: Who else remembers how the blogosphere exploded in outrage when Gone came out back in 2010? For those of you who don’t. it was rather similar to the outrage we recently saw when Veronica Roth’s series ended (which I still haven’t read – I KNOW). A lot of people adored the series, and were rather outraged by the very existence of Gone.

Well, four years later, I finally understand.

It’s not that Gone is a bad book… it just isn’t a book. It had no over-arching plot, no murder mystery and, really, nothing changes at the end of it. It is just a really, really, really lengthy epilogue.

Let me give you a the Hunger Games example (spoilers of THG, obviously):

Let’s say Suzanne Collins skips her epilogue and writes a whole extra book instead. In it, Katniss and Peeta decide to have children. Katniss then thinks about her decision, decides to stick with it, and they have children. Voila. There you have it: the District 12 version of Lisa McMann’s Gone.

Fortunately, the book hasn’t put me off the whole series. Wake and Fade are still magical novels that I’d highly recommend but… you can skip Gone.

Bottom line? Gone isn’t the last in a trilogy. It’s the lengthy, frustrating epilogue of an extremely good duology. Skip it. No really, you aren’t missing a thing.

Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

Review: Fade by Lisa McMannFade by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #2
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 248
Genres: Contemporary YA, Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Gone

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They're just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody's talking. When Janie taps into a classmate's violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open -- but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie's in way over her head, and Cabe's shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability -- and it's bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what's to come is way darker than she'd feared....

Thoughts: To start with, I was slightly skeptical about the premise of this book. Janie and the police department are working off only the vaguest of hints… I just couldn’t imagine real-world police officers investigating so much effort following them up.

Of course, they turn out to be true, but hey – that’s just because it’s a book.

Anyhow, once I got over that aspect, Fade was quite enjoyable. Although it didn’t have quite the same magic as Wake, Lisa McMann’s writing is undeniably addictive. I read this whole book on-and-off during a single day. McMann is a concise, poetic and – well – rather brilliant writer.

McMann’s books may have a fantasy element to them, but they are undeniably “realistic fiction”. They are gritty and portray a far-too-real version of life. Relationships are hard. People are horrid. Men will rape you. Mothers will hate you. You aren’t safe. You’ll never be safe. Welcome to the real world.

Surprisingly, I rather enjoyed that aspect of Fade. I feel like a lot of YA tries to make the world a slightly shinier version of itself – which is certainly enjoyable for a bit of escapism – but every once and a while we need something to remind us of how terrible everything is. I mean, this isn’t quite Ellen Hopkins‘ level of misery, but it is a cousin of some sort. But while I like gritty realism, I also think a bit of mild optimism is in order. Wake had that; Fade does not. I missed that… I think Gone is going to be the darkest of the three books.

I was also not enraptured with the main characters (Janie and Cabe) in this installment of the Wake series. While I appreciated their role in the story and pitied the pain they were suffering, I didn’t actually care about them. Probably because they were so wrapped up in their problems… The only character I truly adored was Captain Fran Komisky. We saw very little of her in Wake, so Fade was her chance to shine. She’s a lovely mother figure and also a total badass. *draws hearts* Can’t wait to read more from her.

It’s also probably worth noting that Fade is starting to show its age: a few of the tech references – TiVo and tiny phones that *gasp* go online – stuck out. Unbelievable, but a lot has changed in the 4+ years since this was published.

Bottom line? A solid second novel by a wonderful author. If you are looking for a lyrical YA series to get sucked into, pick up these books!

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin Random House
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Thoughts: Everything there is to say about John Green has already been said. He’s one of those authors that (almost) everyone adores. He makes writing and reading YA fiction something an adult can be proud of, while simultaneously appealing to every teenager ever. It’s kind of ridiculous.

So, yeah, The Fault in Our Stars was amazing. Brilliant. Gorgeous. And, well, every other adjective along those lines. But if I hadn’t been sent it for review, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Because, honestly, it’s a teenage cancer book. As if life weren’t miserable enough already.

I thought I’d list a few reasons for you to read this book in spite of the scary, depressing cancer. Reasons I would have liked to have known, for those of you who haven’t wanted to pick it up:

  • It is a book about a book. This is one of those tropes usually seen in lit-fic, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it in The Fault in Our Stars. I love a good book about characters seeking out an author or obsessing about a sequel/ending that doesn’t exist. The Fault in Our Stars was rather like Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind… only, er, good. 
  • It’s funny. It probably shouldn’t be funny, but it is. The characters are snarky, witty and quick with their comebacks… I loved how their minds worked and highlighted every other line to add to my own repertoire of comments.
  • It is THE cancer book. It’s the only one you ever need to read. Once you’ve read it, the obligation to read anything similar is gone. And despite the cancerous misery, it is also rather life affirming. So… it’s probably as good as cancer books get.
  • You’ll finally understand all the friggin’ references. Alas, not reading this book has become like not reading The Hunger Games. Okay? Okay.

Bottom line? Yes, this book is emotionally manipulative. Yes, it will make you laugh. Yes, it will make you cry. So… just read it already so we can all stop talking about how much we loved it.

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