Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

         The Raven Boys

     Author: Maggie Stiefvater
  Publisher: Scholastic Press
  Length: 408 Pages
  Paperback ARC, via giveaway
  Rating:4.25 Brownies



GoodReads Synopsis:

            "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 theShiver 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.


My Review:

          I have a lot to say about this book, so I'll just jump right on in. 

           The Raven Boys.

          Me oh my, this is quite the roller-coaster ride. The cool thing about it is, though, that despite it being a roller-coaster, it's definitely a smooth ride. This kind of leads into my first point: pace. Stiefvater sets an excellent pace that forces you to patiently wait for new information, yet never makes you writhe in anticipation for too long in between major plot points. I will say, though, that the beginning was a bit slow; it wasn't until around chapter 4 or 5 that I started to really appreciate the flow of the story.

           So, if you've had the chance to read even just the first chapter of The Raven Boys, you know that the writing is definitely unique. Right off the bat, I noticed how much it resembled Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Not only do the two of them use third person, but the writing itself is a bit more intelligent. The words aren't difficult, but they are definitely used as literary weapons. By that I mean that, at least to me, there's a lot of appeal in a book that sounds smart without bogging you down with unnecessarily obscure words. If you liked the writing in Graceling, you're sure to love it.

           World building. Steifvater has a superb talent to describe exactly what's happening. My one complaint though, (and this is not at all a big thing, just a preference), is that I wish there had been more description for places in between the main settings. Personally,  I like to be able picture as much as possible, but some of you may disagree. Either way, rest assured that the most essential settings are laid out in great details that come to life in your imagination. The devil's definitely in these outstanding details.

           The characters. I've thought about this for quite some time, but I've decided with certainty that the characters are my favorite aspect of this book. Stiefvater allows you to 'know' them the minute they're introduced. Their mannerisms, their manner of speaking, their physical description-- she combines these three elements so flawlessly that they become real. I honestly believe that you could meet any and all of the characters in real life, they're so impeccably believable. They have real flaws and real motivations-- two things that many young adult characters lack. Sure, most characters want something, but it takes a great writer to show exactly what they want and how wanting such things affects what they say and do. 

Whoosh, that was a rant. Moving on.

          The book follows four of the main characters: Blue, Gansey, Adam and Barrington Whelk. My favorite character, I'd have to say, is Gansey. Normally I prefer to read through the perspective of a female, but something about Gansey is just so darn fascinating. Obviously, because the novel is written in third person, you're not placed directly in his head. I think this fact only contributes to the enigma that is Gansey; you're given just enough to be hooked, but not enough to give everything away. 

           The last thing I want to cover is romance. If you read the synopsis and assumed the entire book would be about how a girl can't kiss her boyfriend, you are, thankfully, incorrect. In fact, there's very little romance in this first book and the romance isn't even the one hinted to in the synopsis. This, my friends, is a nice dose of reality. Blue, arguably the 'main' character of the four mentioned above, keeps a level head throughout the entire book. She doesn't fall head over heels with any of the boys, but rather reacts just the way a normal person would: with interest. Interest, to me, is stronger than insta-love. It's this slow, gradual build up that makes the eventual romance that much more "YES" inducing.

 Okay, I'm just about done.

            If you're at all interested in a maturely written story full of mystery and spectacular characters,  I strongly encourage you to go buy The Raven Boys. It's a refreshing new young adult novel that takes you on a completely original adventure. I will most definitely be purchasing the rest of series as they release.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

            Hush, Hush

  Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
  Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books
  Length: 391 Pages
  Hardback, via Library
  Rating: 3.25 Brownies



GoodReads Synopsis:


        Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

        But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

        For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.


My Review:

           Alright, I'm a little late in the game here. Hush, Hush was first released 3 years ago, which, in young adult novel time, equates to 3 decades. Even still, it seems to pop up at every corner, which is what led me to pursue reading it. It felt like everyone and their mother (literally) had read this book, and I was tired of feeling left out of the Hush, Hush conversation. 

           Such is why I am writing this review now, 3 years overdue.

           So, I'm just going to put this on the table right away: I did not expect to like this book. In fact, I pictured myself tossing it across the room, tearing out pages and setting the binding on fire. I don't know what it is about the premise, but for some reason all I could think about before reading it were the numerous reviews that attacked Patch's character, calling his relationship with Nora everything from boring to psychotic. The only way I could bring myself to read the book was to make a compromise: I would check it out from the school library. 

           Imagine my surprise when, about five chapters in, I have to evaluate the situation. Not only was I reading Hush, Hush: I was enjoying it. I'd even venture to say that I had trouble putting it down. The review I'm about to give came out of a couple days of allowing my opinions to sink in, as my brain had trouble accepting all of the things I like about it.

          One of the highlights of the book, in my opinion, was the writing. This is actually what I worried most about going in, even more so then the supposed crazy romance. Fitzpatrick has an enchanting ability to describe, in lovely detail, what's happening in the book. Even now, my brain can easily conjure up images of characters and situations. She also succeeds at interweaving Nora's thoughts into the narration so it doesn't feel like a play-by-play.

           As for the characters, the only ones I found myself growing attached to were Nora and Patch. Vee's character could easily have been among my favorites, but something about her really turned me off. I'm hoping that I'll grow to like her more as the series progresses, because she still shows a lot of potential. On a different note, though I feel the readers should've been given more time to get to know them, Elliot and Jules were pretty solid characters. I hated them, but in the good way. Kind of like the way you have a love-hate relationship with your favorite movie villain. 

           Patch was a different story. Despite the creep factor that he definitely exudes during the first part of the book, I found myself slowly beginning to like him for his candor. If he felt like saying something to get under Nora's skin, he would. It's as simple as that. I know there are a lot of romantic interests out there that have the same mentality, but that doesn't take away from the glory it gives Patch. I even laughed out loud a couple of times at some of the remarks he makes.

           The protagonist, Nora, was nothing special in my opinion. Was she pleasant to share eyes with?  Sure. Did she leave a lasting impact? No. Of course, this isn't a terribly bad thing. I guess it's just one of the reasons I still only give Hush, Hush a 3.25 rating. Again, I'm hoping that once I break into Crescendo I'll grow to appreciate her more.

          Now, bear in mind, I haven't read many fallen angel books. I'm not sure I've read any, for that matter. I'll say, though, that the back-story behind the fallen angels in Hush, Hush really had my attention. I won't blow any of it, but I'll say that I thought it was pretty well thought out and delivered. I'm also interested to hear more about Patch's life as an angel.

           I'll end this review with a final statement: if you're looking for a decent, quick read to pass the time, Hush, Hush is definitely something you can consider. As someone that didn't have high hopes, I am happy to say that I'm sure to read the other installments as soon as possible.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review of Grasping at Eternity by Karen Amanda Hooper

          Grasping at Eternity

   Author: Karen Amanda Hooper
   Publisher: Starry Sky Publishing
   Length: 352 Pages
   Paperback,via GoodReads giveaway
   Rating: 4 Eternal Brownies



GoodReads Synopsis:

        Leave it to Maryah Woodsen to break the one rule that will screw up eternity: Never erase your memories.

        Before entering this life, Maryah did the unthinkable—she erased. Now, at seventeen years old, she’s clueless that her new adoptive family has known her for centuries, that they are perpetually reincarnated souls, and that they have supernatural abilities. Oh, and she's supposed to love (not despise) Nathan, the green-eyed daredevil who saved her life.

        Nathan is convinced his family’s plan to spark Maryah's memory is hopeless, but his love for her is undying. After spending (and remembering) so many lifetimes together, being around an empty version of his soulmate is heart shattering. He hates acting like a stalker, but has no choice because the evil outcast who murdered Maryah in their last lifetime is still after her.

       While Maryah’s hunter inches closer, she and Nathan make assumptions and hide secrets that rip them further apart. Maryah has to believe in the magic within her, Nathan must have faith in the power of their love, and both need to grasp onto the truth before they lose each other forever—and discover just how lonely eternity can be.

X-MEN meets MY NAME IS MEMORY in Karen Amanda Hooper’s latest young adult release.


My Review:

         To say that I was shell-shocked to see that I won a GoodReads giveaway would be a gross understatement. I was beginning to think it was impossible to accomplish, as I had entered countless of them to no avail. Lo and behold, an e-mail popped up in my inbox a few weeks ago deconstructing any suspicions I had accumulated. I had won a First Reads giveaway.

I walked on clouds for the rest of that day.

          Flash forward, about two weeks later, and a package waits for me calmly at home. My fingers were tearing at the material surrounding the book with a certain ferocity before I could even guess at what waited inside: Grasping at Eternity-- in all of its gorgeous cover glory, complete with a sealed envelop tucked within a random page.

          I'll take this moment to give a huge shout out to Karen Amanda Hooper, (and her fabulously named dog, Rooney), for taking the time to write me a lovely message bound in an equally lovely envelope. I'm not sure she'll ever see this review, but I wanted to give a shout out anyway to show my appreciation.

        Anyway, on to the point at hand. Grasping at Eternity.

           This book definitely surprised me. Oddly enough, it surprised me by not surprising me. I got exactly what I wanted from it. All too often lately I've had totally wrong notions about what a book may be about. It was a nice breath of fresh air to read something that delivered in every area that I had hoped it would.

           Reading the synopsis, one may immediately notice that the central topic of the novel is reincarnation. The whole idea caught my attention from the beginning; there aren't many young adult novels about life cycles around these days. I hoped going in that it would set a high bar for a concept I had yet to dabble in, and set a high bar it did. Due to the shifting perspectives of Maryah, pronounced like Mariah, and Nathan, the reader is allowed insight into the idea of reincarnation almost immediately. At times it was mildly frustrating knowing so much more than Maryah, but at the same time it's easy to understand why she's kept in the dark for so long. If someone were to tell me I've lived 20 other lives, I'd run for the hills at full speed.

            On the topic of changing perspectives, I will say that Nathan's point of view was kind of... iffy-- but only at first. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but his voice read more like a female than a male. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't seeing things through Maryah's eyes. After getting comfortable with the fact that he was lifetimes old, though, I started to understand why he sounded so different: he didn't sound like a typical teenage boy because he wasn't a typical teenage boy. Far from it, actually. I won't spoil anything more, but I will say that his intense love for Maryah also contributed to the way his voice was conveyed, and after a while it began to feel more natural. 

          This sort of leads into my next point: the way Hooper delivers the romance. While I admit that I wish I was given a little more time to get to know Nathan, I understand the reasons he kept his distance. I also realized that, in many ways, seeing less of a romantic interest is better than having them shoved down your throat during every scene. I think the main reason it bothered me at all was because by the time they "got together," it felt kind of rushed and weird. I understand that they were by no means strangers to each other, but as a bystander that witnessed only the events of the novel, it felt as though all of a sudden these strangers had fallen madly in love. It isn't insta-love, but we're never given a build up, either.

          Lack of romantic build up aside, it's crucial that I point out how lovely Hooper's writing is. Her descriptions creep off the page, slowly inching their way up into your mind. Everything is vivid and everything is beautiful. That's the simplest and best way I can describe it. You'll just have to read it for yourself to understand, but it's pretty incredible.
I'm just about done with my ranting session now. 

         I really hope that this gains more notice within the Young Adult/New Adult crowd. I was shocked to find that this fantastic book had only 209 ratings on GoodReads. What does that mean? It means go buy Grasping for Eternity. It's a wonderfully crafted novel that embraces a new phenomenon that is sure to keep your pages turning.