Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Oh man. I've tried to write this review several times, but I couldn't manage to keep my fangirl and reviewer halves in balance. This time, let's get down to business (to defeat the Huns...). Also, as this is a sequel, there are some spoilery bits below. Nothing major though, so it's mostly safe. Maybe? Eh, use your judgement. 

This is the second installment in Maggie's The Raven Cycle quartet, and focuses primarily on Ronan Lynch. Ronan can take things out of his dreams and bring them into his real life, an ability he inherited from his father, Niall. A significant portion of this novel delves into Ronan learning about his dream ability and his family's secrets. I really enjoyed this different perspective into Ronan's life, and the scene where a young Ronan wakes his father is an image that stayed with me long after I finished reading.
"Niall's face was smeared with blood and blue petals. "I was just dreaming of the day you were born," Niall said, "Ronan." He wiped the blood on his forehead to show Ronan that there was no wound beneath it...Ronan was struck with how sure he was that they'd come from his father's mind. He'd never been more sure of anything." (3-4).
The first book in this series, The Raven Boys (reviewed here), provides a much more singular look at Ronan. But in The Dream Thieves, we are treated to the full expanse of Ronan Lynch - his admittedly brief moments of kindness, his sharp wit and sharper smirk, his wild streak and unfailing loyalty. I came to appreciate Ronan so much more in this book, and I enjoyed how Maggie's writing style even began to reflect Ronan's perspective - sentences were sharper, there was a frenetic energy to certain scenes that appropriately portrayed Ronan's anxiety. A friend has expressed that she didn't like this aspect of the writing, but it didn't bother me like it did her, so...personal opinions differ.  I also found Ronan's relationship with Kavinsky so intriguing (in a Fatal Attraction kind of way, that is). Because going from "hey bro I dreamt you some more of those bracelets you like" to "hey bro if I can't have you bad shit's gonna go down" is really NOT OKAY KAVINSKY but you made a brilliant (if confusing) character.

While Ronan is obviously the focus of The Dream Thieves, each of the other characters has important development. Adam, bless his heart, is really having a tough time post-sacrifice. It's hard to be Cabeswater's eyes and hands when Cabeswater...you know, disappears. And the ley lines are having a power shortage because certain people are dreaming too enthusiastically. But the scenes where we see Adam struggle with his anger were heartbreaking, and the scenes where his heart is breaking had me enraged. There were moments were I felt that Adam was on the verge of becoming too pitiful to enjoy his character anymore (aka Gansey's mom's party), but I'm hoping that Adam's re-centering of sorts does a world of good.
"Sometimes Ronan though Adam was so used to the right way being painful that he doubted any path that didn't come with agony." (71) V GOOD OBSERVATION RO.
Speaking of Adam's heart breaking: Blue. I just...I can't with Blue in this book. I know the third book focuses heavily on her, so I'm honestly hoping my opinions change when I read that book. But as it stands, I am not a fan of Blue. Why not just tell Adam about the curse, or even leave out the true love part? The scene between them goes down so badly...and I can't help but think it's largely her fault. I don't want to get too into this because this is where I break down and go into full-on rant mode in my previous attempts at reviewing this book. The Dream Thieves left me unimpressed and unhappy with Blue Sargent. I hate to harp on something negative when I enjoyed a book so much overall, but BLUE WHY DO YOU MAKE POOR CHOICES?

I must say, however, that one of my favorite scenes in this book is one that occurs between Blue and Noah. It's the second half of chapter 31, fellow readers. Yep, that scene. On the first read through I laughed because it's funny and sweet, but as I often do with scenes I enjoy, I read it again. And cried. Because on a second read, it was so sad. Hands-down the saddest kissing scene I've ever read. That's the way I took it, but oh my god y'all.

I genuinely enjoyed this second installment in The Raven Cycle, and gave it 5 stars on my Goodreads page. I loved how visceral this book felt, and there were moments whilst reading when I actually felt scared (hello bird monsters). In certain aspects I think The Dream Thieves surpasses The Raven Boys - it felt more intense, unleashed a wealth of complex plot lines and character development moments. The Dream Thieves stayed with me for days after I finished reading, and I had an hours-long conversation with a friend about all of my theories. I am entirely too invested in this series, and I love it. If you've read The Dream Thieves, let me know! I'm going to buddy read Blue Lily, Lily Blue with a friend very soon, so look out for that review.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: This Shattered World

There will always be a special place in my nerdy little heart for Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, because these authors are the reason I started reading YA science fiction and came to love it. I was very vocal about the fact that one of my favorite books of 2014 (of all time?) was their first novel, These Broken Stars. That book made me appreciate scifi as a genre I had never considered before, and fall for stories set in the stars. At the end of December 2014, Amie and Meagan published the second book in their Starbound Trilogy: This Shattered World. 

Set on the swampy planet Avon, This Shattered World follows Captain Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac - two people on opposing sides of the Avon conflict. Lee Chase is a soldier through and through, but when she's kidnapped by Flynn, one of the rebel leaders, everything they both know about themselves and Avon changes. 

I often worry that the second book in a trilogy/series won't quite stack up to the first. Amie and Meagan, however, have constructed a trilogy that avoids any such pitfalls, largely because they're telling three different stories within a larger overall narrative. Also because these authors are amazingly talented, just FYI. While my beloved Lilac and Tarver make brief appearances, This Shattered World is focused solely on Jubilee and Flynn. And what a duo they make! Both so quick-witted and strong leaders, seeing them clash and then ultimately come together marks a great progression for both characters. I really enjoyed having the female character feel like the main focus in this book. The chapters switch perspectives, but much like These Broken Stars felt more Tarver-centric, This Shattered World felt Jubilee-centric. At least in my opinion. Stone Face Chase, who's been on Avon longer than any other soldier and doesn't dream, was my favorite character (shocker). I personally felt like I could identify with Jubilee - she's was more badass, but having to always be strong to be taken seriously, doubting your personal but never professional choices - that resonated with me.

Flynn is such a brilliant foil to Jubilee. That smirk, swoon! The pacifist leader of Avon rebels, Flynn is a passionate character. He wants a better life for his people, and to discover the secret about what's really happening to his home. He gets caught up between his people and the military, and it's up to Flynn and Jubilee to find the truth before Avon is torn apart.

This Shattered World was a markedly different book from These Broken Stars, and it adds so richly to this larger story. We're shown a different part of the galaxy and different players, but the connections fall into place in such a way that establishes such a wealth of potential for the third installment. I really enjoyed This Shattered World - Jubilee and Flynn made it for me, if I'm honest. The Irish parts of the Fianna identity provided such wonderful world building details. Am I guilty of comparing These Broken Stars to This Shattered World? Yes. But I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading this book completely on its own merits, and for what it contributes to the bigger picture. 

Amie and Meagan recently announced the title and release date of book three - Their Fractured Night, out December 29, 2015! The also revealed a brief glimpse into what's to come on Corinth. Check it out on Meagan's blog HERE! Needless to say, I am beyond excited for the final installment! Preparing to swoon throughout a book that features Tarver, Flynn, and new character Gideon. Be still my heart. Not to mention my favorite kick ass ladies - let's be real, the actual reason stuff gets done.

SPOILERS BELOW!!!! (and fangirlish flailing)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Haul!

So recently, I went on a bit of a book buying spree. I try to limit the amount of books that I purchase, but this month by budget got blown out of the water. Whoops. These are all books that I'm desperate to read, or have already read and loved. Besides, who doesn't love a book haul? No one, that's who.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. This new standalone from Holly Black was my most anticipated release of January. I've already read and reviewed this book, and you can check out my review here

The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. The second and third installments of The Raven Cycle quartet. If you read my review of The Raven Boys, then you know how much I loved the first book in this series and how anxious I am to continue. Plus, Maggie just announced the title and release date for the final installment - The Raven King, out in September! I've fallen so in love with this series after just one book that I'm a bit worried for my poor heart by the end.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer. This newest release from Marissa Meyer is a prequel to her Lunar Chronicles series. A science fiction retelling of classic fairy tales that features cyborgs and space travel, Meyer's latest installment tells the story of the villain, Queen Levana. I'm really excited to read this, partly because I like to root for the bad guy (shocker). It also features some exciting extra content - the first three chapters of Winter, the final book in the Lunar Chronicles, out in November.

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab. The sequel to The Archived, The Unbound was released in paperback this month so I had to pick up a copy (because I like things to match, ok?). My love for this world and these characters is wholehearted and true. Sigh. I wish there was a third installment in sight! I have a review of The Unbound here, so check that out.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. This book was a gift from my dear friend Lindsay. It's a murder mystery story that takes place when some Oxford alumni return to their old college for a Gaudy Night. I love the vintage cover style! I can't wait to read this and reminisce about our Oxford days.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Last year I read Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, and the only positive thing I took from it was that I'm long overdue to read The Bell Jar. I love Plath's poetry, but never read her semi-autobiographical novel. When I saw this lovely cover at the bookstore, I knew it was time. I feel like this novel will really resonate with me, but because of certain themes (depression, suicide, etc.), I'll need to carefully decide when I read this. But so, so looking forward to it.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab. Do you ever put off reading a book because you know you'll love it so much? Maybe too much? That's what happened with Vicious. Victoria Schwab's first adult novel follows two friends-turned-enemies on their quest for power and superhuman abilities. I know, I can't believe it's taken me this long either. Victoria has a new book out at the end of February, A Darker Shade of Magic, and I fully intend to have this read by then.

What books did you purchase recently? Have you read any of the books mentioned above? Let me know!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

Release Date: January 13, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown (Hatchette)

Oh, you guys. Few authors make me anxiously await release days quite like Holly Black. Beloved creator of one of my favorite trilogies (The Curse Workers, oh sweet lawd), Holly writes fantasy that's on another level of awesome. So when her latest novel, a standalone entitled The Darkest Part of the Forest, hit shelves this month, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a modern faerie tale full of magic, but without the clich├ęs. A sister and brother grow up in their small town of Fairfold, where humans and faeries coexist - well, relatively peacefully. Hazel and Ben spend their childhood playing as a knight and bard, using Hazel's bravery and Ben's musical magic to hunt faeries who break the town's tenuous agreement. All the while, they both fall in love with the horned boy who sleeps in a glass coffin in the forest. ("They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh.") But now, years later, Ben doesn't play, Hazel's hiding a secret, and the sleeping prince has awoken. And something even darker is stirring.

You won't be surprised to hear that I adored this book. This was such a well-rounded story! The love stories were romantic, but the scary parts genuinely conjured up feelings of anxiety and fear in me. Brave, fierce Hazel who kisses boys because she wants to and dreams of being a knight - I loved her.
"She goes through this world as if nothing touches her, as if no one can reach her, as though she's focused on something bigger and better and more important that she's not going to tell you a single thing about" (229).
I developed a stronger appreciation for Ben and his gift/curse of music as the story progressed. I'm always happy to see more diversity and LGBT representation in YA fiction (welcome to 2015, society!), so brava to Holly Black for such representative characters. As a side note, Ben's love story was one of my favorite aspects of the entire book. Brilliant.

Jack, Ben's best friend, is a changeling (a faerie child replaced with a human one), and his story is a great part of the novel. Holly Black writes faeries so well - tricky and manipulative but still enchanting, and the dichotomy between faeries and humans in this town is such an intense dynamic. The story of how Jack stays with his human family is a great representation of that divide. The sleeping prince Severin is the member of this team that gets the least screen time, but makes such an impact. He's beautiful, and smarmy, and a bit scary.
"I love you like in the storybooks. I love you like in the ballads. I love you like a lightning bolt. I've loved you since the third month you came and spoke with me...I love and you and I am mocking no one when I kiss you, no one at all" (296-297).
The story itself is brilliant - well paced with lots of action, romance, and mythology. There are surprises and plot twists, one of the best of which revolves around Hazel and her secret. Amazing. I find standalones to be tricky sometimes - often I'm just greedy and want more. It's difficult to create a world and tell a story in just a single novel, but Holly Black did it in such a seamless way. This is definitely a book that I'll want to read again (and soon!), and in that sense standalones are great for rereads. I became so enraptured with this story and these characters. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good faerie tale.

Goodreads rating: 4.5/5 stars

Have you read this or any other books my Holly Black? Share your thoughts below!