Book Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare was my second read of Bout of Books 12, and I quite enjoyed it.

The Iron TrialAuthor:  Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Genre: Middle grade/young adult, fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: September 9, 2014

299 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Call’s father has always told him to stay away from magic, that magic is what killed his mother, and so unlike the other kids at the Iron Trial, he wants to fail. Unfortunately, one of the teachers at the Magisterium, Master Rufus, sees something in him, and suddenly Callum Hunt is somewhere he’s been warned will kill him.

If you want to see how I would describe The Iron Trial in pictures, check out my challenge post from Bout of Books.

I think my favorite part of this book was Call. He’s not your average protagonist. He’s kind of a jerk (seems like I like jerk main characters. Remember my review of Firecracker?). He’s abrasive, insubordinate, says the wrong things, and pushes people away when they try to befriend him. It takes a little while to understand him and why he does this, but once you do, you can’t help but care for him.

A lot of people have compared (or criticized) this book to Harry Potter – there’s a young boy who goes to magic school, befriends another boy and girl, and has to fight an evil wizard. Okay, yes, those are indeed very similar to HP, BUT The Iron Trial is also unique. The magic is probably the main way it’s different – mages use the elements to create and change and destroy. The focus is on nature and the elements, which is really cool. There are creatures called elementals who’ve been consumed by their element, and chaos-ridden animals and people who have a piece of the void inside them. I’m not going into the whole Clare debate blah blah blah. I liked the magic, characters, and ideas, and that’s what matters.

I felt that Call’s friends – Tamara and Aaron – as well as the other characters were well-developed and full. On the other hand, I think there were a few too many minor characters and I would constantly be confused which character was doing what.

One last thing: No one, and I mean NO ONE, will see that twist coming at the end. It was wholly unexpected, a crazy twist that was both awesome and strange. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book.

The bottom line: The Iron Trial is a fun, unique take on magic school and child wizards. I had a few issues (too many minor characters; middle that was a little drawn out), but I enjoyed it overall. I loved the main character and the world that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have created.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

Have you read The Iron Trial? What did you think?

ARC Review: Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn't Fly

Author: Stephen Graham Jones and Paul Tremblay

Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Publisher: Chizine Publications

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

250 pages

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Chizine Publications for letting me read this.

Mary is a normal teenager, but her life gets flip turned upside down when, at her young cousin’s birthday party, a teenage boy climbs up into a tree and takes off – floating away in the wind. When most of the other kids in town start to float as well, including her little brother, things start to get weird. Her brother Terry gets kidnapped and the government puts a quarantine on her town. How is Mary supposed to figure it all out when she’s completely grounded and everyone and everything else is up in the air?

This book just kind of fell flat for me, which is weird since everyone in the book is floating in the air. I think I had higher expectations for this book than I realized: that title, that cover, the synopsis. It sounded so cool, and the book has a lot of potential, but the book just didn’t match up.

I thought that it moved way too fast. This book happens over the course of, like, one day…? I think. It all just kind of blurs together into this one big lump.

As for Mary, I’m not sure how I feel about her. We are told that she has these anxiety problems, but we never really get to experience them before she apparently evolves into someone who is able to take charge to go on a mission to save her brother. I wish we’d been able to see her with her anxiety first. However, one thing I do like about Mary is that she doesn’t really fit in with the story (which did make it hard to connect with her at first). I think that’s the point of her character though: to show how absurd everything that’s happening is. She sticks out, and because she can’t fly, she’s grounded unlike the other characters. This helped make the fantasy aspect of the story feel like it could actually happen.

As for the other characters…meh. They were interesting, but other than the crazy, Bible-bashing cult of relatives Mary has, none of them were particularly memorable. Well, except for the villain. The writing about him actually made my skin crawl, so that’s a plus – not that I like my skin to crawl, but obviously he was creepy enough to get a physical reaction from me.

The bottom line: I suppose I did enjoy this book, and obviously I was intrigued enough to finish. I just don’t know if this’ll be one I remember.

Rating: 5 – take it or leave it

Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld’s new novel Afterworlds alternates between good and great.

Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: September 23, 2014

599 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

 

This book is LONG. Yes, it’s 599 pages, which is a somewhat long page length, but I read long books all the time. It was just long. It took me almost two weeks to read which is a long time for me. How many times do you think I can say long in the first paragraph? I think part of the problem was that it took me a while to get into it. Once I did, I suppose it didn’t take too much time to finish. As this book is told in alternating chapters of Darcy’s real life (which reads much like a contemporary novel) and Darcy’s novel about Lizzie (which is very much fantasy), I think I should break up my review into two sections: Darcy and Lizzie.

Darcy’s chapters:

Darcy’s story was my favorite of the two. She’s written and sold a book she wrote during NaNoWriMo and has high tailed to NYC with her outrageous earnings to live for as long as she can there while rewriting her novel Afterworlds. She’s just graduated high school so is somewhat naïve and a bit of a newbie, but as she lives in NYC, meets authors, falls in love, gets her heartbroken, and rewrites, she grows up. I really enjoyed her character growth and seeing this side of the publishing industry in a book. I have a Master’s degree in Publishing Studies so I’m really interested in this, and I don’t think most people get to see what this side of the books you read looks like. I don’t know too much about the writing side so seeing Darcy’s book evolve throughout was really cool.

I especially enjoyed being able to see things that Darcy and Imogen (another writer) would discuss that would then show up in Darcy’s novel. Seeing Darcy change the novel from conversations she has gave an insight into how writing works, which I liked. I also really liked the romance between Darcy and Imogen, and even though they got together really quickly, I don’t think it felt like instalove. It felt genuine and organic.

Lizzie’s chapters:

Lizzie is the main character in Darcy’s novel Afterworlds, who after surviving a terrorist attack at an airport, finds out that she can now enter the afterworld (or the flipside as she eventually comes to call it), a place that is just like our world but gray and which renders her invisible to the living. When she first entered the afterworld, she was greeted by a boy named Yamaraj, a psychopomp or a guide to the dead. After returning home from the attack, she meets Mindy, her mother’s best friend from childhood who is eleven years old and dead. She was abducted, murdered, and buried in her own backyard, and Lizzie promises to seek revenge as she comes to care for Mindy. I really liked Mindy’s character and how she was both still a child and a little bit grown up. She was still deathly (hehe) afraid of the bad man who’d murdered her and hid in the closet where she felt safe. I won’t give anything away, but what happened later in the novel in regards to her character was fascinating. Very cool idea.

Unlike with Darcy, I really hated the romance in Lizzie’s chapters. It was exactly like instalove and even though it’s explained that Yamaraj hasn’t really aged and is still very much like a teenager, any kind of romance between someone who is really thousands of years old and someone who is actually 17 is creepy (*cough*Twilight*cough*). They jump into a relationship way too quickly, especially after Lizzie has come through something so horrible. On that note, I think Lizzie’s reaction to everything happening to her is…well, it’s pretty much nonexistent. She doesn’t really react to almost dying or to the fact that she can see ghosts or that she can now visit the land of the dead. It was weird.

I did really enjoy the whole idea and plot and story behind Afterworlds though. The thing that gets me though is the fact that it reads like a debut novel even though it was written by Scott Westerfeld. This is either an account of how awesome a writer he is or is not really a good book (Darcy’s novel, I mean). I can’t tell so I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The bottom line: I really, really enjoyed the chapters that centered on Darcy and her road to publication. I liked the idea behind the chapters from her novel but had my reservations when it came to Lizzie’s romance and her reaction to what happened. Overall, it was good but not great. I liked it but didn’t love it.

Rating: 6.5 – between good but not great and pretty good

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites was my first book by Marie Lu, but I am ridiculously impressed. It is incredible.

The Young ElitesAuthor: Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 7, 2014

355 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto, one of the children who were marked after the blood fever swept through the land. But she isn’t just a regular malfetto, she’s a Young Elite, one of those marked that came out of the blood fever with not just markings, but powers too. And now she’s being hunted for them: by Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition Axis who may just have a secret or two hidden under his robes, and by Enzo Valenciano, leader of the secret sect of Young Elites called the Dagger Society who seeks out others like them. Adelina has powers no one has ever seen before.

This isn’t real. This is a nightmare. This isn’t a nightmare. This is real. – page 25

HOLY CRAP, you guys! This book is freaking incredible. I kept having to put it down and take a break because it was just that good. I’ll start by talking about my favorite part: the world building. Even 25 pages in, I already had a pretty clear picture of what everything looked like, and as the book went on, the little details became clearer. It wasn’t just the city around Adelina. We were given small details about the bordering countries, so that the entire world was being painted around us. I don’t know how she does it, but Marie Lu must have entire worlds in her mind and be able to pull out even the smallest of details to add to the story. Plus her world building isn’t done in an obvious way either (some authors are like, “Here. This is what everything looks like.”). Lu does it in a completely subtle and beautiful way in which you barely notice that you now know how the city, the sky, the streets, the people look. I am definitely not doing her writing justice, but I loved it.

Her eyes are very dark, so dark that sometimes they seem wholly empty. Like he could fall to his death in them. – page 57

That quote is not about Adelina, but I’m going to talk about her now. I really liked her. She’s strong and super stubborn (super stubborn), but I liked her. I enjoyed seeing her grow into herself and her power. Adelina’s darkness was so cool and even though it’s frightening, it’s hard not to root for her.

All of the character have a purpose in this book. No one is just there. It’d probably be pretty difficult to discuss them without giving away the twists and turns in this book, of which there are several. So I’ll just say that everyone is awesome.

The ending was exciting and had me on the edge of my seat. The epilogue was crazy awesome and I seriously cannot wait for book two. I need it. Now. Please?

The bottom line: I could probably talk about this book forever. I am so impressed with it. I checked it out from the library, but I will need my own copy so I can reread it a billion times. HIGHLY recommend this one.

Rating: 9.5 – I don’t think I’ve given a 9.5 before. Basically, it means THIS IS AWESOME.

BLOG TOUR: Mortal Enchantment – Review Only Blog Tour

Mortal Enchantment Banner

I read and reviewed the prequel to this novel, The Shadow Prince, HERE if you’d like to read it first!

“Mortal Enchantment spins a unique twist on elemental mythology. This series is not to be missed.” – Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

MortalEnchantment_coverIn Kalin Matthew’s world, elementals control the forces of nature. They are divided into four courts: air, woodland, fire, and water. At sixteen she will leave the life she’s built with her mortal mother. Kalin will move to Avalon to rule with her father—the elemental king of the air court. Along the way, she’s attacked by a fire court assassin and saved by Rowan, a swoon-worthy elemental with a questionable past.

Worst of all, she learns her father is missing.

To rescue him, Kalin will have to work with a judgmental council and a system of courts too busy accusing each other of deceit to actually be able to help her. But, they aren’t her biggest challenge. With the Midwinter’s Ball only five days away, Kalin must take over her father’s duties, which includes shifting control of the elements—power Kalin has yet to realize.

As Rowan attempts to train her, a war looms between the four courts. If Kalin fails, her father will die and the courts will fall, but the betrayal she’s about to uncover may cost her even more…

Mortal Enchantment: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

What I thought:

You might remember from my review of the prequel novella to this series, The Shadow Prince, that I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to reading Mortal Enchantment. I waited a few weeks in between reading them (as I had e-ARCs and such), but I kept looking at Mortal Enchantment on my shelf with excitement. When I finally was able to pick it up, I wasn’t disappointed.

Mortal Enchantment is a fun, fast-paced unique take on elemental mythology. I really enjoyed the setting – Avalon, the world in which all the elementals live divided into four courts that control the elements. These courts – air, water, fire, and woodland – were all fascinating. I’m glad we got to learn more about them in the novel, because the prequel novella definitely got me interested. I thought getting behind the scenes and seeing how Kalin learned to control her powers was really cool. I could almost feel my own fingers burning with the power she was producing.

One thing I wished was different was the length. I wished it were longer! Some of the scenes, especially a particularly important battle scene that had a lot of buildup, were somewhat short and over way too quickly. I could have done with more descriptions here! But instead of focusing on these big moments, the book focuses on the smaller, more intimate moments between Kalin and Rowan or Kalin and her handmaid Ariel. This was enjoyable and allows the reader to get to know these characters better. This isn’t really a complaint: I just wish I had more of the book. All the more reason to read Fragile Reign, the next book in the series!

Two things about Rowan to wrap up this review: 1. I wanted more of him, and 2. He’s got a little bit of an ego, doesn’t he? He knows he’s super sexy and he uses it to his advantage, which is not something I find particularly attractive. I mean, if you know you’re good looking, that’s one thing, but you don’t have to be arrogant about it. Taking this fact into account, it’s funny that I wish we’d had more of him here. I think I was used to reading The Shadow Prince, in which he’s the main character, so trading him off for a different point-of-view was different.

The bottom line: overall, a fun, fast-paced, interesting take on the fantasy genre. I’ll definitely be checking out Fragile Reign when it releases next month!

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Want a chance to win a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card PLUS signed Mortal Enchantment books? Of course you do. Click this Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway!

For more chances to win and to read more awesome reviews of Mortal Enchantment, check out the tour schedule HERE.

ABOUT STACEY O’NEALE

Stacey_ONealeStacey O’Neale lives in Annapolis, Maryland. When she’s not writing, she spends her time fangirling over books, blogging, watching fantasy television shows, cheering for the Baltimore Ravens, and hanging out with her husband and daughter.

Her career in publishing started as a blogger-turned-publicist for two successful small publishers. Stacey writes young adult paranormal romance and adult science fiction romance. Her books always include swoon-worthy heroes, snarky heroines, and lots of kissing.

Stacey loves hearing from readers. Follow her on Twitter @StaceyONeale, look for her on Facebook, Pinterest, and GoodReads. You can also visit her blog at http://staceyoneale.com/.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

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ARC Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
So if you’ve read my reviews of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, you could probably tell that I LOVE The Raven Cycle series. I was super excited to get approved for an e-ARC of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and I was not disappointed.

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, young adult
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
416 pages, hardcover

WHY? WHY IS IT OVER??? WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG TO FIND OUT WHAT’S NEXT?? Ahhh.

Okay. Breathe, Stefani. Breathe.

If you haven’t read either of the other two books in the series, this review might contain some spoilers. If you haven’t read either of the other two books in the series, what the heck are you doing with your life?? Seriously. Drop everything, and go read them.

This book picks up where The Dream Thieves left off. Everyone is heading back to school. Blue’s mother is still missing. The Gray Man is still in Henriette, but now so is his employer, Greenmantle. I don’t want to give anything else about the plot away, so if you need more, check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

This book was all about character development. Stiefvater continues to develop the characters in these books in such a subtle and careful way. The characters develop in ways that make you wonder if you haven’t always known that about said character. Stiefvater is a master of her craft.

The Raven Cycle series hypnotizes you when you turn the first page. The books put you under a spell. I don’t think about whether the book is good or not. I completely forget that I’m even reading a book and I float through the pages spellbound by the magic and power of Stiefvater’s words.

The pacing in this book was perfect. It had me on the edge of my seat or relaxed and grinning like a fool when I needed to be. This book had more Gansey and Blue moments that the other two, which was lovely. SPOILER if you haven’t read: I wish it had a few more Ronan and Adam moments. I ship them SO hard.

Even though there’s A LOT happening in this book (mysterious caves, lawsuits, missing people, new characters, tombs, death) this book is about friendship: the friendship between five people who are all in love with each other in different ways. The friendships between the Raven Boys and Blue are beautiful, obsessive, loyal, and downright real. Love love love.

Also, the ending.

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The bottom line: My only complaint is that I read this book on my Kindle. I wish it had been a print book so I could flip its pages and feel the magic brushing off on my fingers with each turn. I will most definitely be buying a print copy of this. I cannot wait to reread The Raven Cycle books.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream ThievesAuthor: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: September 2013

439 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

I cannot fathom reading a series more powerful, magical, spellbinding, or beautiful as the Raven Cycle books. Diving into one of these books is a completely mesmerizing experience. These pages don’t want to let you go, and honestly, I don’t want them to either. It’s hard to put into words how absolutely amazing these books are. I love Maggie’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series too, but the Raven Cycle series perfectly fits her writing.

The prose (and book and characters and settings) feel otherworldly in a way that other books just don’t for me, even if they are about aliens or fantastical creatures. I said this in my review of The Raven Boys, but it’s as if you can feel the magic rubbing off the pages and settling onto your fingers. The experience of reading a Raven Cycle book is completely and utterly magical.

Okay, so I should probably talk about the plot, right? I don’t want to give too much away that could be potentially spoilery, so this review might just be super gushy about why I love everyone in this book. Ronan, who I think you’re meant to be uncertain about in the first novel, is the focus in this one. I really came to adore him throughout The Dream Thieves. I didn’t feel that warm and cuddly toward him in the first, but I just wanted to hug him a lot in this one. Also, Gansey. Oh, dear God, Gansey. I liked him in The Raven Boys, I think, in part, due to the fact that I could really relate to his passion, his need to find Glendower. But in The Dream Thieves, I fell in love with him. He’s so…swoon-worthy.

In The Dream Thieves, we get dream thieves. Shocking, I know. This is such an interesting idea! People who can pull things from their dreams. I loved that, even after we found out that sometimes it can be dangerous, especially when the ability is abused.

Like in my review of The Raven Boys, I want to give you a few examples of just how beautiful Maggie’s prose is. I reread these sentences a few times because they were…amazing (which feels like a completely inadequate word to describe this book).

“Anything that didn’t impale itself on the sharp line of the sleeping boy’s cruel mouth would be tangled in the merciless hooks of his tattoo, pulled beneath his skin to drown.” – 34

“It was a sort of ferocious, quiet beauty, the sort that wouldn’t let you admire it. The sort of beauty that always hurt.” – 364

“And Ronan did. Because Niall Lynch was a forest fire, a rising sea, a car crash, a closing curtain, a blistering symphony, a catalyst with planets inside him. And he had given all of that to his middle son.” – 370

I can’t tell you how many times throughout this book that I went, “Jesus. That’s good” or “Ugghhh. I will never write something as beautiful and lovely as this book.”

The bottom line: Read it. Do it for your soul.

Rating: 10 – Perfection. One of the best books I’ve ever read (one of the super rare 10s I give out on my blog)

Reading next: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. Thank goodness I had an e-ARC of this.

Book Review: The Shadow Prince by Stacey O’Neale

Stacey O’Neale’s The Shadow Prince is a fun, well-paced, action packed intro into her Mortal Enchantment series.

The Shadow PrinceAuthor: Stacey O’Neale

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher:

Publication Date:

102 pages

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

Rowan is a fire elemental and the son of the Fire Court’s Queen. Rowan has lived most of his life outside of Avalon – the home to all four elemental courts – learning to control his element. The Fire Court Queen, Prisma, has never shown her son any love, believing it to be a weakness, so when she announces that she’ll be abdicating her thrown to him, you could say he was a little surprised. But of course, she will not give up her thrown without wanting something from Rowan in return. Prisma wants Rowan to kill the half-human, half-elemental daughter of the Air Court King.

What I thought:

The Shadow Prince is the introduction to Stacey O’Neale’s Mortal Enchantment series. It packs an unbelievable amount of action, world building, and character development in its short 102 pages. It was a great beginning to this series that had me ready to start the next book right away.

Rowan has lived most of his life in the mortal world, so the way that he talks is a lot like teenagers these days. I appreciated this, but it was also quite jarring to read a fantasy book in which the main character tells himself to man up or calls his friend a dick. It was weird at times. The relationship between Rowan and his best friend Marcus, a Gabriel hound (basically a shape shifter that Prisma has forced to serve her), was a lot of fun. I enjoyed their banter, but at times it was hard to remember they were boys.

Another thing I didn’t like was the repetitiveness of some of the content. Rowan thinks about the fact that his mother would never give him the crown unless it would benefit her about a hundred times. Also, the word “regardless” is used about a million times.

It sounds like I didn’t like this book, doesn’t it? That’s completely not true. There were a few things that irked me, but I really enjoyed this one overall. It is completely entertaining, well-paced, fun, and interesting. As I said at the beginning, O’Neale is able to pack an astonishing amount of story into this short novella. I’m looking forward to reading Mortal Enchantment and getting to know Rowan even more.

The bottom line: The Shadow Prince could have used a little more editing, but overall it is an entertaining, well-paced, and super fun intro into the Mortal Enchantment series.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys

Title: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Supernatural/Paranormal

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: September 2012

Paperback: 408

Stand alone or series: Start of a series

How did I get this book: Bought

 

Let’s start with a brief synopsis (from Goodreads):

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

What I thought:

It took me about 30-40 pages for me to get into this book, but once I did, I was hooked. I couldn’t read this book quickly, like I usually do, but it wasn’t because it was hard to read. It was because the prose made you slow down to savor the words and feel the magic surrounding them.

The Raven Boys is just gorgeous. There were several times that I got goosebumps because I could actually feel the magic in the book. The prose was absolutely beautiful. Let me give you a couple examples of this:

“This was a beautiful, old wood, all massive oak and ash trees finding footing among great slabs of cracked stone. Ferns sprang from rocks and verdant moss grew up the sides of the tree trucks. The air itself was scented with green and growing and water. The light was golden through the leaves. Everything was alive, alive.” – page 219

“The air moved slowly around his body, somehow tangible, gold-flaked, every dust mote a lantern.” –I’ve lost the page for this! L

“When Adam got to Cabeswater, it felt like a living being. The wind through the leaves was like the bellows of an exhaled breath and the hiss of the rain on the canopy like a sucked-in sigh.” – page 381

Asdfjkl; – so pretty! Safe to say I was captivated with the prose and it drew me in and wrapped around me like a warm blanket.

As for the characters: I loved them all! Stiefvater has a way of writing each of the characters so carefully that each of them feels developed even if they aren’t central to the story. Blue was fascinating: the daughter of a psychic who doesn’t have the abilities of the rest of her family, but amplifies the abilities of those who do. She was different and strange and wonderful. I found myself wanting to go on these adventures with the Raven Boys, and I was glad to put myself in Blue’s shoes to do so. And the Raven Boys – oh, man. They had such an air about them. They were real, quirky, relatable, sarcastic, and I loved them. Even Ronan.

The story was so unique and interesting, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Maggie Stiefvater is a master storyteller, and I was very excited to read another book by her (I loved her Wolves of Mercy Falls series). I liked that though the romance was central to the summary, it was more like an underlying theme throughout the book. It was there, but it wasn’t being thrown at you. It made it more beautiful that way.

I will say that the book is one of those smoldering, slow to burn novels. It never feels boring or sluggish though. It’s just not going to give away its secrets all at once. This may bother some people, but I really enjoyed it. It felt even more powerful because of that. But it does take a bit to get into the story and might make it seem confusing at time because there is just so much happening.

Also, I won’t give anything away, but that last line?! I literally said “What?” out loud about ten times when I finished. You can ask my family. They were just staring at me, but they’re so used to outbursts like this that they just let it go. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

The bottom line:

Magical, beautiful, smoldering, lovely. All words to describe this book. You can feel the magic in the narrative coming off of the book’s pages.

Rating: 9 – Practically perfect

Reading next: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

 

Have you read The Raven Boys? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

avalavenderTitle: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2014

Hardback: 301 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

 Let’s start with a brief synopsis (taken from Goodreads):

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

What I thought:

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about this book. I can’t really explain how reading it was for me, so I’m not sure how this review is going to go down. I apologize if it’s just one long rambling mess. There were parts of this book that I really did enjoy, and others that I wasn’t sure how to feel. The writing is beautiful, and its fairy tale qualities were truly magical. But at the same time, there were several moments when I was wondering what exactly the point was. Sometimes it’s okay for you to read a book like this, but I just didn’t understand some parts of this novel. I suppose, like the title says, this book is quite strange. But it is also very beautiful. And sorrowful.

This book is magical realism at its finest. It states the magic in the story as fact and offers no explanation for how these things happen. Everything is stated matter-of-factly through Ava, our narrator. I loved this, though it was weird at first. The prose is really gorgeous and haunting at the same time. This book is a fairy tale in every sense of the word. It tells the story of three generations of the Lavender family and documents their loves, losses, heartbreak, and deaths. I’ve read a few reviews of people who didn’t enjoy the inclusion of the family history as the title suggests that it is only about Ava. I really liked this part of the novel because it gave a complete backstory to Ava’s life and family. It made it so that all of the characters were completely well-rounded and complete. I will say, however, that it was parts of the backstories that made me question what the point was. I know how wishy-washy I sound right now. I loved these backstories; I didn’t like them. Which is it? I don’t know. I did enjoy getting a fuller history of the Lavender family, but sometimes there were things included that just didn’t add to the story.

I think that a lot of people will really, really love this book. I did enjoy reading it. I know that you might not believe it from what I’ve said so far. But I did. I’m glad I read it. And I think that you should read it, too. I would definitely recommend it to people who like magical realism, fairy tales, and, well, sad stories. Because this novel is sad; like, super sad. Like, shockingly dark, horrifying, and depressing. I think that many readers will find that this novel will strike a chord with them. Others will miss out on the point of the novel.

This review is so hard, because I did appreciate this book. Really. I loved Walton’s writing and the magical realism, as well as the dream-like quality of some of its scenes. The things that I liked about this book, I REALLY liked. I look forward to what comes next from this author. I will definitely read her other books. And I don’t feel as if I wasted my time reading this book. I’m glad I picked it up and that I had the pleasure of reading Walton’s words.

The bottom line:

I think this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” times. I think you should read this novel. I am glad that I did. I just didn’t always understand the point of what I was reading.

Rating: 7 – Pretty good

You can find out more about Leslye Walton by following her on Twitter or visiting her website.

Reading next: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins