Friday, 30 May 2014

Review - The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Published by Scholastic Press on Sept 18 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 409
Rating: 3/5 stars
“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. 
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

I had a lot of trouble getting into The Raven Boys, but once I hit 40-45% it was SO WORTH IT.

The beginning of The Raven Boys is pretty boring, to tell you the truth. As the first book in the trilogy, it has a lot of exposition to get through before it arrives at the action. I found myself longing for the chapters revolving around Gansey and Adam while I read Blue’s chapters as quickly as possible (so that they would be over quickly). I was really surprised by this because, in theory, I should love Blue’s household. She lives with an all-female pack of psychics (side note: what do you call a large group of psychics? They aren’t witches, so they wouldn’t be a coven right?). What isn’t to love? Unfortunately I found Blue’s chapters kind of confusing. I couldn’t keep all of the women straight! I still don’t know who exactly Calla and Persephone are, or what their relation to Blue is. Are they just women who work with/live with Blue’s mother, or are they blood relatives? I can’t tell. I also (mistakenly) spent a large chunk of the novel believing that Neeve (whose name I really wish was spelled Niamh) was Blue’s grandmother rather than her aunt. It was rather disorienting.

That said, these weren’t problems with the book itself. They were my personal issues. The Raven Boys does have a lot of lovely assets going for it:
  1. The boys themselves – Gansey and Adam and Ronan and Noah made this book for me. As someone who rarely likes the guys in YA books (the ones other readers swoon over), I was really pleased with this group of young men. They were all so different and interesting and well developed. They aren’t just characters – they are people who feel like they could step out of the pages and into the real world without difficulty. Adam was definitely the weak link of the bunch, but his flaws made sense, which is ever so important to me.
  2. The writing – This is my first Stiefvater book, but I can now say that I am a big fan of her writing. I heard about her way with words long before these books came out, when she was popular for her Shiver series. I was somewhat interested, but I also heard that the books were full of purple prose and I’ve never been particularly keen on werewolf books. However, I found her writing really hit the mark in The Raven Boys. It wasn’t superfluous, as I’d worried, but brought the story to life in a way that it so rare in this genre (I have encountered a lot of poor writing in paranormal stories). I’ll definitely be on the lookout for The Scorpio Races and The Dream Thieves at the library.
  3. The plot – Although the beginning dragged, once the plot got going I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I read the latter 50% in a single night (I may have been up until about 4am, but whatever. Who needs sleep when there are good books to read?). There was a great balance between plot and character, and it never felt like anyone was acting merely as a plot device. I particularly loved that Noah remained a figure in everyone’s lives even after his big reveal. It was surprising and really appreciated.

The reason I gave the book 3/5 stars is because I felt like the good and bad were equally weighted. As much as I found it difficult to plod through the first half, I loved the second half. Though I didn’t really care either way for Blue and her troupe, I was completely enamoured of the Raven boys. The writing was lovely, though it could occasionally err on the excessive side. Overall, I can definitely see what they hype was all about, though it was far from perfect.
(I'm not sure why, but this felt accurate)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

TV Spotlight Thursda {1} - Teen Wolf

I'm debuting my very first feature! Because I watch so much TV, I thought why not find a way to incorporate that into the blog? I hemmed and hawed over whether I wanted to share my super nerdy, sometimes awful taste in television, but I figure if you aren't judging me too hard already, I should be fine. Plus I get to share my biggest non-book-related obsession with my favourite people! 

Warning: this post contains a LOT of gifs.

This week's spotlighted programme is:

Teen Wolf follows the adventures of a teenage boy who is bitten by and turns into a werewolf. It's pretty self explanatory, right. Teen Wolf: a show about a teen wolf. It features a pretty wide cast of good-looking dudes with minimal chest hair. There are also a handful of really badass ladies who are the true draw (IMO) to the show. Here are some of my favourite characters (like I said, big cast!):

Tyler Posey as Scott McCall
AKA Actual Puppy Scott McCall
Sometimes the show forgets that Scott is the main character because people really love comic relief character and Scott's best friend, Stiles Stilinski. Stiles is great (for the most part) but he's no Scott. Scott is basically a giant puppy dog. He loves everyone and is pretty much the best person in the world. He is so including of others and adorable and lovely. I've recently had my eyes opened the the beautiful person that Scott McCall is. He's pretty much the opposite of an anti-hero. The best thing about Scott McCall: he never judges. He loves you for you.

Holland Roden as (Queen) Lydia Martin
A lot of people say that Holland isn't a very good actor, but I disagree. This may partially be due to the fact that I really love seeing her on my screen week to week, but I really do like her! It's not just because she's pretty, I swear! Lydia is an incredibly strong character. She is crazy intelligent, sex-positive, creative, and all-around badass. She's been through a lot, and she's still holding it all together. I attribute most of Lydia's mental well being to her incredible friendship with light-of-my-life Allison Argent. Her boyfriend, doucheface Jackson Whittemore, doesn't exactly help her out too much.

Crystal Reed as Allison Argent
Allison Argent is pretty much my idol. I'm actually totally in love with her. It took about a season and a half for me to really appreciate her badassery, but OMG she's amazing. THIS GIRL. Where to even begin? First of all, she's a better archer than Katniss Everdeen. Just sayin'. Also, she's a werewolf hunter whose boyfriend is a werewolf. Allison is incredibly strong. She's lost even more than Lydia, but she doesn't let it keep her down. She fights for what she believes in - her friends and her family. Ugh, ALLISON FREAKING ARGENT.

JR Bourne as Chris Argent
Chris (AKA Papa Argent) is Allison's father. He's a veteran werewolf hunter and pretty freaking scary at times. He's also a major DILF. Yeah, I went there... He's a really interesting character. He has a lot of conflicting ideas and feelings about the goings on in Beacon Hills, particularly as they pertain to his daughter. At the end of the day, though, he loves Allison more than anything else in the world.

Gage Golightly as Erica Reyes

Erica Reyes is a horrendously underrated character. She is so strong and brave and wonderful. She becomes part of Scott and Derek's pack in season 2 and her life is completely transformed by her turning. The bite was the best thing that ever happened to Erica in many ways. She isn't my favourite character, but she's a lot better than most of the dudes on this show.

Arden Cho as Kira Yukimura
Kira is a new addition to the show, introduced in season 3B. She brings a host of new mythology to the show. Through Kira, the show has tackled a bit of Japanese mythology, though I don't want to spoil anything! She's a cutie pie - eager, excitable, effervescent. Anymore e-words to describe Kira? I'm not sure. She is introduced as the friendless daughter of Beacon Hills High's new English teacher, and she's adorable from day one. She also has really cute style. I have a few issues with her, but they lie more in the writers than in Kira herself.

My ship: Allydia
MY GIRLS! These two are the best thing that ever happened to Teen Wolf. They're totally not canon, and never will be, but I don't even care. I love them anyway. I READ FANFICTION FOR THESE TWO, OKAY? I don't read fanfiction. Like, ever. I love these two because they're already best friends. Would it be so difficult for them to take that step from best friends to girlfriends? I don't think so. Plus we already have evidence that they are 100% there for each other, no matter what.

I'll admit that I had very low expectations of Teen Wolf when I started watching it. It's not exactly high-brow television. The MTV show tends to be promoted on the basis of its roster of hot, shirtless guys. Not really my thing. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot. I must admit, the first season of Teen Wolf is hilarious. It improves in some ways and deteriorates in others. Though the show gets darker with each passing season, the tonal differences between season one and season three are immense. 

I will let you in on a little secret though: the battle scenes are atrocious. Like, they're comical. The CGI is ridiculous. I firmly believe that this show would be so much better if it didn't have any werewolf battle scenes.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

TTT - Fantasy Series I Need to Get to Soon

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Freebie! Top Ten Fantasy Series I Need to Get to Soon

I had a tough time choosing what to do for this week's freebie. I was torn between this one and Top Ten Badass Main Characters, but I think I'll save that for later. There are a lot of series I want to read, but I'm particularly anxious for MORE FANTASY in my life.

I've read the first thirty or forty pages of Etiquette & Espionage and loved it, but had to return it to the library. I love Gail Carriger's writing and really want to read this series soon!

Everyone seems to love this series except me. I read the first chapter (I think) of Throne of Glass and then returned it to the library unread because I couldn't get into it. I'd love to try it again though, because it is so highly loved. I have a tendency towards jealousy when people love things without me.

Again, everyone loves these books. They look phenomenal. Also, THAT COVER ART. So much pretty.

Another book that I've read a few pages of, though I think I read less than five of Grave Mercy. Unfortunately I just wasn't in the mood at the time. I'm really looking forward to reading these though.

I don't have much to say about these except that they're highly acclaimed and I should have read them a long time ago.

I don't know much about these but I love that they don't follow the traditional European fantasy setting. The main character seems pretty unusual as well.

I'm so in love with the idea behind this series. I've read a bit of the first book but wasn't in the right mood (can you tell that I'm a mood reader?) and put it down a few years ago. I've been meaning to start it again ever since.

I've heard nothing but praise for this series (and Brandon Sanderson in general). I love fantasy with a female heroine, which I find to not be quite as common in adult fantasy as in YA, so I'm always happy to find a series that looks awesome.

I think there's something about dragons? Maybe I'm just basing that on the symbol on the cover of the first book? I really don't know anything about this series, but it looks badass.

I bought the first book in this series when it was first released back in 2011 and never ended up reading it. I read the first chapter or so and didn't really care for it, but I really do want to read this series. It sounds so interesting and the writing was pretty good from what I remember. I'm really not sure what I found objectionable about it back in the day.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Review - Salvage by Alexandra Duncan


Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Series: Standalone
Published by Greenwillow on April 1 2014
Genres: young adult, sci-fi
Pages: 520
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

Salvage took me by surprise. I hated the beginning of this book. It was infuriating – the strange jargon, the incredibly misogynistic society of Ava’s ship, the lack of connection to Ava. I was so close to putting this book down on many occasions over the first few chapters. However, when I consulted goodreads, quite a few of my friends, whose opinions I trust, had given this book four or five star ratings, claiming that it was a great feminist read and that Ava was an inspiring, fascinating character. Thus, I pressed on. I didn’t really want to and I hated every minute of it (until a certain point), but I kept reading. It was so worth it.

The story doesn’t truly begin until Ava flees her home ship, the Parastrata, and goes down to Earth. This is where things got really interesting. Earth in this book is far from what I expected from what the goodreads description tells me. I was expecting something bizarre and completely different from what is familiar to me – and in some ways, that is what I got. But it was unfamiliar not because the face of the earth was hugely changed but because it took me to parts of the world I have never seen. I absolutely loved that about this book. YAY FOR ETHNIC DIVERSITY.

Not a single scene takes place in an English speaking country. The first city Ava visits is the impoverished Gyre, home to my two favourite characters Perpetue and Miyole. She later goes to Mumbai to find an aunt whom she has never met, the only family she has left. Ava is exposed to cultures that are vastly different from her own, and it takes a long time for her to adjust.

As much as I hated it at times, I really appreciated how difficult it was for Ava to discard her Parastrata beliefs and the values she was brought up to have. She doesn’t become a completely different person the moment she goes “planetside”. She struggles with fitting in and clings to some aspects of her old life, in particular a boy, Luck. Ava’s obsession with Luck didn’t really make a lot of sense to me – they hardly knew each other, had interacted maybe four or five times total, but I also understood that Ava’s ‘love’ for Luck was born of growing up with incredibly minimal contact with men, and basically none with men outside of her own family. She romanticized Luck because he was ripped away from her and because he was the one person from her old life who never treated her poorly. She couldn’t reflect on her family without thinking about the awful way they treated her – they tried to kill her. In that sense, I think that Ava’s preoccupation with Luck was quite fascinating. It didn’t make me like it, though. It was annoying.

There wasn’t much action in this book. It was very character driven, which is something that I happen to love. I can see how it wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s long and at times it drags. It is perhaps a little bit too descriptive, but it is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It is a truly singular book and I’m looking forward to what Alexandra Duncan comes out with next.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up (3)

  • I got the job at the library! I'm now officially a library page! Well, I'm technically still waiting on the criminal record check to go through and I need to call the library tomorrow and change my email address so that I can receive the HR emails they told me to wait for. But I'm SO EXCITED. I really didn't think I'd get it - I thought the interview went well, but I was very nervous and I get really chatty when I'm nervous. I guess they like me though, because I was the one they offered the job to! Now I just need to find another job to actually pay my rent/save some money for school (hahahahaha just).
  • On a similar note, my primary email address broke. I received a notification saying that it had been hacked into and that I needed to change the password, but the retrieval account attached to my email address was invalid, so they asked me to fill out this form to verify my information. Unfortunately, it asked for a whole lot of information that I really don't know - things like "what are some of the subject headers of your most recent outgoing mail" and "what email addresses have you sent mail to recently". Thing is: I don't send emails on that account. After failing the test thingy two or three times, they told me that it was time to cut my losses and just open a new account. SO! I'm now in the midst of the lovely process of switching all of my accounts for various things to my other email. So much fun...
  • I started editing a friend's manuscript. It's tough, but I'm really enjoying doing it so far. I'm kind of struggling not to rewrite things when I really want to, but I'm trying very hard to just give direction and examples and let her do her own writing. It's her story, I'm just trying to help her tell it in the best possible way.
  • Nihal of the Land of the Wind by Licia Troisi
  • Eona by Alison Goodman (DNF'ed at 212 pages)
  • Started The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
No purchases, but I did get a few Netgalley books that I'm quite excited to read.


How was your week? Did you do anything fun? Read anything interesting? Receive any books you're SUPER excited for?