Archive | July, 2013

ReReadathon 2013 – The End

This is it, ladies and gents. We have officially reached the end of our month-long ReReadathon. I had so much fun during the ReReadathon, and I hope you all did as well.

I also hope you’re as pleased with your progress as I am of mine. When we first started ReReadathon, I set the very lofty goal of fifteen novel and four novella rereads with the full knowledge that I wouldn’t have time to get to them all. I was right. I didn’t get to reread all the books I wanted to, but I did manage to reread the following nine books and four novellas:

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  • The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (plus all four novellas)
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
  • A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter
  • Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

… as well as four other new books (sequels to some of the above rereads) and a nearly finished re-listen of the Graceling audiobook. Not bad at all, if I do say so myself.

I’ve loved being able to revisit old literary friends and note how my opinions of them and their stories have (or haven’t) changed. Some I liked better, some worse, but in all of my rereads I found myself catching little hints or nods that I missed the first time.

One side effect that I was not expecting is that now I’m itching to dive into some of my new ARCs that have been waiting patiently on my shelf. This ReReadathon has rejuvenated me tremendously. I hope you all can say the same.

The prize linky is open until midnight tonight, so be sure to get in your last-minute recap/reflection posts for extra entries. Once the linky is closed, I’ll use a random generator to choose the winner. Also, now that the ReReadathon is over, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you be willing to do this again next year? Is there something I could have done to make the ReReadathon more interactive/enjoyable? Any and all suggestions can be dropped in the comments section, passed to me on Twitter, or floated to my inbox.

Thank you all again for joining in!

4

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Beginnings/Endings

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’ve discovered in compiling this list that I am a reader of middles. I enjoy the climaxes and sudden revelations, the deepening plots and character lines that come in the sweet interiors of my books. When a thrill over a book’s “ending,” I usually mean the big, breath-taking climax, not the slowed resolution of the end. When I talk about loving a “beginning,” I usually mean that I slip in easily, not that the very beginning had me on the edge of my seat. I don’t know these people, so I’m not inclined to get worked up straight away. That said, there are some books that grab me hard in the beginning and leave me breathless to the last sentence.

My picks are below the jump so the pictures don’t slow things down.

Beginnings:

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
First sentence:

“Where am I?”

Last we knew, our heroine Cammie had set off on her own to parts unknown. When we rejoin her in the fifth Gallagher Girl book, she awakes in a mountaintop convent with no memory of the last five months. She’s freaked, we’re freaked for her, and it only gets more intense from here.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartmann
First sentence:

I remember being born.

Bam! Insta-awesome. It gets even better the more you read. Ms. Hartmann fills her story with lyricism and musical allegories that seep into your soul. Also, shapeshifting dragons and high-flying adventure, and who can argue with that?

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
First paragraph:

At first I was just obstinate, dragging my feet in the thin prison slippers they gave me so they were forced to pull me along the hallway by both arms. But when I saw the drain, I started to scream. It grew in my vision until it dominated the little cinder-block cell, and I kicked at the men who held me, trying to wrench my arms out on their iron grip. I could only conjure the most gruesome scenarios for why they’d need a drain in the floor.

Who knew a simple drain could be so terrifying?

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
First four sentences:

The Narrows remind me of August nights in the South.

They remind me of old rocks and places where the light can’t reach.

They remind me of smoke – the stale, settled kind – and of storms and damp earth.

Most of all, Da, they remind me of you.

Husky and seductive, Ms. Schwab’s prose seeped into my bones from the first sentence. If any book can be dubbed “atmospheric,” it’s this one.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
First three sentences:

He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock. The storage room held winter linens, and no one should have been interested in it in the middle of summer, and certainly not in the middle of the night. By the time the door was open, he had slipped through a square hole in the stones of the wall and soundlessly closed the metal door that covered it.

I cheated a bit on this one, because the “beginning” for me means the first five chapters or so. Even still, they comprise a beginning that I will never forget for as long as I live. To this day, I can’t start this book without a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and a tightness in my throat. I know what happens next.

Movie beginning: Sabrina (1995)
Opening monologue (can’t find on YouTube):

Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Larrabee.

There were servants inside the mansion, and servants outside the mansion; boatmen to tend the boats, and six crews of gardeners: two for the solarium, the rest for the grounds, and a tree surgeon on retainer. There were specialists for the indoor tennis courts, and the outdoor tennis courts, the outdoor swimming pool, and the indoor swimming pool. And over the garage there lived a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild, imported from England years ago, together with a Rolls Royce; and a daughter, named Sabrina.

It’s the most beautiful, soothing opening of all time, and Julia Ormond’s narration starts this modern-day fairytale off not with a bang but with a chilled glass of Long Island iced tea.

*WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!*

Endings:


The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Closing paragraph:

“Basileus,” someone hidden in the steam whispered. Others echoed the praise. “Basileus.”

Only Teleus shook his head. Costis watched him, not surprised. “The Basileus was a prince of his people, what we call a king now,” Teleus explained. “That one” – he nodded toward the closed door – “will rule more than just Attolia before he is done. He is an Annux, a king of kings.”

The end of Megan Whalen Turner books are always the best, because it is only in the end that we learn how thoroughly we have been fooled. The King of Attolia is the best of the best, because of the magnitude of Gen’s trickery. Every single time I read it, I want to stand up and scream to every single character, “DAT RIGHT, BOI! YOU DONE BEEN FOOLED!” He tricks them all so thoroughly every single time, and it sends me into raptures.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Closing paragraph:

The Darkling had told her he was destined to rule. He had claimed his throne, and a part of her too. He was welcome to it. For the living and the dead, she would make herself a reckoning.

She would rise.

I’ve written a review for this book and am just waiting for the right time to post it. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I can say that I loved the desolation left by the end of this book. And yet, amid the desolation, there was also hope. I felt like the prisoners of the pit in The Dark Knight Rises, chanting for Alina to rise.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Closing sentence:

I am haunted by humans.

Chills. That’s all I can say. Chills.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Two sentences somewhere on the last page:

Please come back soon. The window is always open.

I can’t give a context, due to spoilery reasons, but these two sentences found in a letter on the last page of the novel always made me choke up. As if this book didn’t make me cry enough already.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Last three paragraphs:

I nod, knowing he offers friendship this time, that he is truly my loyal subject. “The four of us, then.”

“You should have five!” Tristan protests. “For blessing and protection. It’s the holy number.”

I draw myself to my full height, and my voice rings clear when I say, “The fifth place is for Hector.”

SWOOOOOON. Also, ANGST and ANGUISH. Waiting for the next book nearly killed me after this ending.

Movie ending: Wall-E (2008)
Closing credits:

I loved this ending. I loved the music, how the art progressed in complexity and history. I loved the hope.

Both:

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer opens with a fight in a forest with a demon and a rescue by a thunder-tiger. Can’t beat that, except with an even more amazing ending:

“Each of you must decide where you stand,” she called. “All we ask is that you refuse to kneel. You are the people. You have the power. Open your eyes. Open your minds. Then close the fingers on your hand.”

The arashitora leaped into the air, lightning crackling across the tips of its feathers. Up, up into the choking skies they soared, the sound of beating wings building like the storm to come. And with a fierce cry, they wheeled away and turned back to the north, to bring fire and smoke and the promise of a new day.

Sumiko watched them fly away, the scent of fresh flowers filling her lungs.

She looked around at the assembled people,, young and old, man and woman and child, each face upturned and alight with wonder.

She nodded her head.

And into the poisoned air, she raised a fist. 

25

Review: THE YEAR OF SHADOWS by Claire Legrand

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

I… I’m sorry, I need a moment. I’m still working through all my crazy, flaily feelings over this book. If any of you have read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and were worried that Ms. Legrand might not be able to live up to her smash debut, worry no more! Though Shadows isn’t on the same level of freaky horror as Cavendish it excels in the same gothic, touching, heartfelt tone as its predecessor.
Continue Reading →

4

Rewind & Review (17)


Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s the start of a new week, but first let’s get the old week in order.

Blog Posts You May Have Missed

I really enjoyed my posts this week. Is that arrogant to say? But honestly, I got to review a book that I loved, vent my spleen about book turn-offs, and have a really great discussion with all of you about author-blogger interactions. It was an awesome week!

Books I Read
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (part of ReReadathon 2013)
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve decided to start listing the books I read in a week as well to give some publicity to books I don’t bother to review. I wish I could review everything I read, but I honestly don’t have the patience or the time. Reviews are HARD. That said, I don’t want the unreviewed books to slip away unnoticed either.

Stuff I Received

  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (from Alexa at Alexa Loves Books)
  • Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (from HarperCollins)
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers audiobook (from AudioSync)
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen audiobook (from Audiosync)

Between free stuff from AudioSync and more free stuff from generous people, it’s been a pretty cool week. A big thanks to my pal Alexa, HarperCollins, and AudioSync!

Miscellaneous Happenings

  • Tor.com ferrets out some of the nastier truths of the Star Wars universe. What has been learned cannot be unlearned. I will never look at Ewoks the same way again.
  • Fresh Sherlock news straight from the Comic Con panel!
  • Also, Tom Hiddleston came to Comic Con in character, and it was awesome.
  • The Sandlot cast reunites after twenty years. (And they look just like themselves. It’s freaky.)
  • The royal baby, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, was finally born. The internet exploded in a glitter-filled inferno of Jason Alexander and Curious George jokes.
  • England approved putting Jane Austen on the 10 pound note, which is totally cool.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy talks on YouTube about killer asteroids. (The part around 4:22 in my favorite.)
  • I bought myself an external hard drive, so I won’t have nightmares about my computer dying and losing all my stuff. Hooray!
  • It was my sister Sunny‘s birthday yesterday, so wish her happy birthday!
  • I read a really cool article about the gender-flipping meme. There’s some language, so be forewarned, but it’s a good read.
  • And the big announcement: I GOT AN INTERNSHIP! It’s remote, with a literary agency, and I’m super-excited. That’s all I can say. Just picture me doing a jig.

My miscellaneous happenings this week are skewed far more nerdy than bookish, but that’s okay. Nerdy FTW!

I hope your week was as cool as mine. If you participate in any similar memes, drop me a link so I can see what you were up to!

2

ReReadathon 2013 – Week Four

The last full week of ReReadathon 2013 is at an end. Four more days and then our time with our beloved rereads will be over. However, there’s still time to sign up to win prizes. New entries are allowed, including recap/reflection posts. Don’t delay! Check out the full details at my introduction post, and catch up on the other three weeks here, here, and here.

As we near the end of ReReadathon, I find myself slowing waaaaay doooown. I only reread Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo this week, but what an excellent decision on my part! I loved reuniting with Alina and found myself enjoying her even more the second time through. Oddly, I was less enamored with Mal, though I still love him dearly. I had also forgotten several scenes throughout the book, so it was fun reading things anew.

Now I’ve moved on to Siege and Storm, which is not a reread. I’m already in love with Sturmhond. You guys didn’t lie about him!

I think Shadow and Bone will be my last reread. I’m still fairly drowning in BEA ARCs I need to read, and my Edelweiss galleys are starting to give me the side-eye. Still, we’ll see. If my old boss will (FINALLY!) return I Hunt Killers to me, I may push aside all my ARCs and rejoin Jasper Dent and Dear Ol’ Dad.

Soooo? How are your rereads going? Have you been able to reread all the books you wanted?

0

The Blogger Side of Author-Blogger Interactions

At the beginning of this month, I wrote a long spiel about bad author behavior, author interactions with bloggers, and that stupid claim that somehow a book is equivalent to a baby. I stand by every word I wrote. However, in that same post, I promised a future post discussing bad blogger behavior, particularly as it pertains to interacting with authors. This is that post.

Bloggers, I love you, I really do. You are my people. You love books with an untarnished fervency, and all you want out of life is to be able to share that love with other like-minded people. Really, you’re all just readers at heart, albeit readers with internet access and a free domain courtesy of Blogger or WordPress, and as readers, you fangirl along with the rest of the book-loving population of the world.
But let’s face it – you’re not JUST readers. You’re readers with a blog, a platform. Whereas other people just talk about their books, you’re standing on the back of a dump truck with a megaphone. Sure, it may not seem like your words amount to much when surrounded by everyone else with their microphones and heavy-duty speakers, but that megaphone of yours still gives you power.
The Marvel nerds among us are probably already starting to grumble. “Oh no, she’s going to pull out that old Spider-man line about power and responsibility. Here it comes.” I’m certainly not one to disappoint.
As a human being, you have a great many responsibilities, but your power as a blogger adds an extra heft to those responsibilities. Most of them are simple. Don’t do illegal things. Don’t plagiarize. Don’t lie. Do your best and don’t give half-hearted efforts. Check your sources. Don’t be lazy in your research. Don’t misrepresent the content of a book (over-exaggerating elements you don’t like or making them up completely, for example.) However, in my opinion, the biggest and most important responsibility a blogger has is still a simple one.
Don’t be a crappy human being.
I hear so many complaints (and do some complaining myself) about human interaction over the internet. People can be real jerks, often for no apparent reason. I can’t do anything about the jerks, but I can take care of my end of things. I will be nice. I will be patient. I will be calm. If I refuse to be a jerk, then that makes one less jerk on the internet. 
You can do the same. In fact, as a blogger, I strongly believe that it is your responsibility to de-jerkify yourself. You are not one lone atom bumping into a handful of other atoms in this clump of mass we call the internet. Remember, you have power. You have reach. You are a a full-fledged chemical compound causing a chain reaction as you bounce from one end of the web to the other. The bigger of a jerk you are, the more drama you create, the more you’ll create like changes in those around you.
More than just not being a jerk, you can de-jerkify people around you by thinking ahead. For instance, instead of automatically @-ing an author or publisher on Twitter on that 2-star review of their book, think for a minute. How do you honestly expect them to react to the fact that you didn’t like their work and pointedly hunted them down to tell them so? Or if you see another blogger with an awesome meme, think before whipping up a copycat meme. Imagine you worked hard on coming up with an original meme and some mooch came in and stole your thunder. Would you be pleased with that mooch? How much offense, anger, and hurt would you avoid by approaching the blogger beforehand to ask if they’d mind if you started their own meme?
If in doubt, think of the most sensitive, emotionally fragile person you know. Then imagine doing to them what you’re about to do to that other person. Would your fragile cupcake of a friend be alright with it? What steps would you need to take to avoid any hurt feelings or outbursts on their end? Whatever those steps might be, do it.
“But Shelver,” you complain, “that’s ridiculous! I’m not going to tiptoe around some namby-pamby crybaby. I’m not doing anything wrong. If they’re hurt, tough!”
Here’s the thing about the internet. It’s very difficult, sometimes, to read the true intention of a person through the words they write. There are no body cues, no facial expressions, no vocal intonations. Sarcasm and straight-talking read the same. It is very, very easy to have your words and intentions misconstrued. Err on the side of caution. Even if you were merely a citizen of the web with no social media clout, you should do so anyways so as not to be a crappy human being. But you are not merely a citizen of the web. You are a blogger with a megaphone, and you can wreck someone’s day without even meaning to, because you have power. [See Dilbert above.]
On the other side of this de-jerkifying by example equation is the idea of perpetually standing down. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: not everyone is out to get you. In fact, I propose that very few people – if any – are deliberately trying to gun you down.
This can apply to many different kinds of interactions on the web, but let’s look at author-blogger relations specifically. In the past few months, it feels like there have been more author-blogger kerfuffles than ever. Some of that has to do with the fact that there are simply more bloggers and more authors than ever, so the number of total interactions is higher and the number of negative interactions rises accordingly.
Yay, common sense math!
I’ve already addressed the author side of things. Yes, authors need to take a chill pill and be less defensive, but bloggers, we are not blameless. Just as authors need to understand that bloggers are not out to get them, bloggers need to understand the reverse.
I’ve noticed a growing trend that makes me very uncomfortable. As readers, we bloggers fangirl (or fanboy) when authors talk to us. We feel special and honored when they tweet us or RT one of our posts. But as soon as an author interacts with us in any way other than to praise us, we scream like territorial paranoids. “GET OFF MY LAWN, YOU DANG ENTITLED HIPPIE AUTHOR! HELP, AUTHOR ATTACK! AUTHOR ATTACK!”
Stand the heck down, soldier.
Paranoid much?
Remember how a few paragraphs ago I was talking about not offending other people and being nice and using your brain? While reading, could you think of a few instances where you didn’t use your brain, or maybe you weren’t as nice as you could have been? Haven’t you ever inexplicably offended someone because you just didn’t think? Well, other people do that, too. Even authors.
While being loyal is commendable, jumping into a disagreement or misunderstanding between two people is not wise, even if those two people are an author and a blogger. You want to defend your friend or the blogging community as a whole, whatever. That’s fine. But too often I’ve seen other bloggers jump in to defend another blogger with the best of intentions… and I’m not always convinced that the blogger is in the right. We are not in a feud. We are on the same, book-loving team.
Seriously, I feel like this is what people are doing during
every author-blogger showdown before they even know details!
We’ve gotten stuck on this crazy cycle where authors and bloggers go back and forth and hurt each other (intentionally or unintentionally), and now we’re at a point where each side is so freaking guarded that we can barely breathe without inciting a war. Some bloggers are mean, so authors feel like they’re being bashed. Some authors abuse their power, so bloggers feel picked on. These abuses then spread to otherwise innocuous interactions until everyone is a flailing mess of hurt and indignation.
Yes, some authors do very mean things. They overstep their boundaries and try to throw their weight around where they’re not welcome. But that doesn’t mean that all authors do nor that they want to. If an author pops up to comment on your post, chill the heck out and read the dang comment before freaking out about your private space being infringed. (Because hey, it’s not your private space. It’s a blog. It’s for public consumption. If you don’t want comments, write a journal.) If an author mentions something on Twitter or elsewhere on the ‘net and you JUST KNOW IT’S ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU SAID OMG, take a breath. Were you mentioned by name? Did the author give clear, defining characteristics that would point people in your direction? General allusions are allowed, you know. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done.
In all your reactions, read the other person’s words more than once. Read it normally, read it with the worst possible intention, then read it with the nicest. Remember that you can’t judge tone or intent with absolute certainty. Is there any other interpretation for what’s being said other than deliberate malice? Odds are there is. When in doubt, ask. “Hey, what you said is hitting me this way. Is that really how you meant it?”
I’m not saying you won’t make mistakes. You will. I will. But that’s no excuse not to try. (Wo)Man up. Think ahead and de-jerkify when you can. Don’t be a crappy human being. Stand down. Maybe together we can make our corner of the internet a little bit more chill.
32

Wishlist Wednesday #32

Hosted by Pen to Paper

Nick Pearson is pretending to be someone he isn’t. Not high school pretending. Witness Protection pretending. And the #1 rule is “stay low-key”. But, when his sole friend Eli dies in the school’s journalism room under mysterious circumstances, and Nick stumbles upon the conspiracy Eli planned on exposing, staying low-key takes a backseat to staying alive.

Newspaper Nerd Eli had a secret, an in-the-works story codenamed “Whispertown”. And it’s got a lot of folks interested. Like corrupt cops, the town’s shady mayor, and certain high-ranking government officials. Teaming with Eli’s estranged (and gorgeous) sister, Nick sets out to unravel the mystery and still maintain his cover. He’ll have to use all the deviant skills he’s gained from his racketeering dad, assassin godfather, and their Serbian gangster boss to find the truth. However, each clue brings him closer to answers he may not want. Whispertown is bigger than he could have ever imagined, and in its shadow stands a killer…a killer Nick fears may be his own father.

My fingers hurt. I’ve been making grabby hands after this book for WEEKS now. I’ll admit, when I first saw the cover, I was dismissive. I thought it was cool that the person on the cover was black, and I loved the colors, but it looked like an inner-city book to me. Now, books about POCs in the inner-city are fine, but they’re not for me. I wanted a minority main character who doesn’t live in the slums or the ghetto or whatever.

Then I read the description and freaked the heck out. Witness Protection! Murder! Justice! Assassins and Serbian gangsters! All manned by a minority character. YES YES YES! I requested a digital ARC on Edelweiss, so now I can only wait and try not to writhe from longing.

What do you think of Fake ID? Does it interest you? And what book are you wishing for this Wednesday?

5

Top 10 Tuesday: Words/Phrases That Make Me Avoid A Book

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Instalove or “mysterious new boy/girl”

I have a feeling this one will be on a great many lists, so I put it first to get it out of the way. UGH. I can’t stand instalove. CANNOT STAND IT. Insta-attraction I don’t mind, because it’s real. You glance over, there’s a cute guy, boom. Insta-attraction. What’s not real is looking over, spotting a cute guy, and deciding that he is your One True Love and that you must forsake your friends, family, and everything you hold dear to be with said boy for all time. I mean, seriously? You don’t know anything about him! What’s his middle name? What’s his favorite color? His favorite book? His childhood pet? Do you know ANYTHING about him other than that he’s hot? No, you do not.

I combined instalove with the mysterious new person trope because no one falls into instalove with someone they know. They fall in love with handsome and mysterious strangers. It is very rare for a mysterious person to be mentioned in a synopsis without being a potential love interest.

Star-crossed lovers

Waahhhh our life is so haaaard! All the big, bad adults are keeping us apaaaaart. Waaaahhhh.

The South

Talk about your stereotypes. I live in the South. My family is from the South. I know the South. And while I don’t doubt that the parts of the South that authors choose to portray exist, I wish they wouldn’t all pick the same types over and over. Books in the South tend to show either` 1) small-town country bumpkins with a heart of gold, 2) snippy Southern Belles and class war, or 3) the mystical South as represented by New Orleans.

Geez. Despite stories to the contrary, there are big cities in the South. We have tall buildings, universities, and suburbs. No one’s walking around in hoop skirts and bonnets or cowboy hats and overalls. Nor is the entire Southeast covered in swampland and cow pastures. I tend to steer away from books set in the South because I come out feeling irritated and/or patronized. Show a little imagination and research properly, or leave me alone.

Vampires/werewolves

Over. Done. Dead. Don’t care.

Angels/demons

Theologically annoying and both types fall neatly into another category I try to avoid – the seductive “bad boy.” Most angel/demon books tend to read like an overwrought angst fest. No thank you.

Witches

Not a fan. Next.

Gag.

Love triangles

Granted, some love triangles pull it off well. I understand why the MC is torn between two decent, likeable people who offer different things. However, most love triangles are not written that way. Most love triangles feature a waffling MC (usually female) who thinks with her fleeting emotions instead of her head. She then bounces back and forth between both boys, leading them both on and generally acting like a fluffy, waffling, horrible person. Love triangles often have a nasty habit of combining with instalove, the mysterious stranger, or the bad boy trope.

Clearly, anything with Shawn and Gus is the exception to the rule.

Civil War

My sister Sunny probably won’t like to see this, but I don’t enjoy books set during the Civil War. I think my hesitancy comes from the semi-predictable plot points that inevitably arise. The book will most likely feature one white and one black main character. They will encounter racist people. There will be problems and hardship. There will be at least one Rousing Speech about racism and inclusion and equality. Northerners will be good. Southerners will range from ignorant and misguided (more hoop skirts!) to actively malevolent and hateful.

I acknowledge that books about the Civil War and racism are important. But so many are ridiculously formulaic when it comes to including the points above, and very few bother to use shades of grey. (No, portraying a Southerner as merely clueless instead of evil is not a shade.) I read a Civil War book and I feel like I’m being lectured. So I close the book and find another, better one.

Yep, homeschooled. Watcha gonna do about it, Miss Priss?

Christian/Homeschooled Characters

As with books about The South, books about Christians and homeschoolers seem to tread the same old (incredibly inaccurate) paths. I have a hard time picking up secular books with Christian characters because the theology is inevitably wonky, and the characters in question are generally portrayed in an unflattering light. (Gee, Author, glad to see what you really think of me.)

Homeschoolers in fiction are portrayed as awkward, sheltered, naive kids who just need to learn to live a little, and it drives me NUTS. Personal experience and official studies have proven that, on average, homeschoolers actually socialize more than public schoolers. Their education is often more varied and intensive than public education as well. Or, as I’ve had to snarkily ask a time or two to a condescending public-schooler who worries that I have no friends, “Are you really so sheltered that you can only make friends at school?”

Again, quit it with the sloppy, stereotyped writing. Until then, I’ll stay far away from books with these character types.

Sexytimes

I like romance. I like sweet gestures, gentle kisses, and passionately spoken declarations of love. I do not like knowing what goes on in the backseat of a parked car or behind closed doors. Such scenes make me feel incredibly voyeuristic. Any book that tries to entice me with words like “sultry,” “seductive,” or “steamy” will fail utterly. Keep it in your pants and out of my books.

As you can see, I have pretty strong opinions about what should be in my books, and I’m sure I’ll think of a few more I should have added once I read yours. But that’s enough about my opinions. Tell me yours. What do you think of my turn-offs? Are they yours, or do you like them?

29

Audiobook Review: THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

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.

Audiobooks should come with warning labels. I downloaded a free copy of the audio for The Raven Boys from AudioSync as part of their free summer promotion. I honestly didn’t have high hopes of actually liking the book, despite the hype going around the blogosphere, but it was free, so why not?

I nearly stopped listening a few minutes in. The narrator was a slow-speaking Southern man, and the opening chapter was filled with seances and ghosts and fortune-telling. Not my cup of tea. I almost unplugged my headphones right then and there. Luckily, I was on a walk and was still several blocks from my house, so I kept listening. And listening. And listening.

Audiobooks should come with warning labels. How else could I have prepared myself for how utterly obsessed I would become with this book?

I don’t even know what to do with this book. It was so different from anything I’d read before. The story starts with Blue, a Virginia-bred high school girl and the only person in her entire family who isn’t a psychic. Instead, the only “power” Blue can boast of is her ability to make the energy around her louder. She is, as she is described by one character, the table with the outlet that everyone fights over at Starbucks. It’s an ability very useful to her family, but otherwise pretty unspectacular.

Though Blue is the character we meet first, this is not her story alone. Balancing out her and her family are the Raven Boys, Aglionby Academy students so nicknamed for the raven emblem sewn to their school uniforms. Despite their different backgrounds, Blue is irrevocably linked to one Raven Boy in particular, a rich and charismatic young man named Gansey, when she sees his death predicted in an old churchyard on St. Mark’s Eve. As Blue searches for Raven Boy Gansey to warn him of his predicted death, Gansey and his friends embark on a quest of their own to find the resting place of the legendary Welsh King Glendower. Legend has it that the person to find and wake Glendower from his enchanted sleep will be granted one wish of unimaginable value.

The above is the crux of the plot of The Raven Boys in its sparsest form. Blue wants to save Gansey, who will die before the year is up and may be her one true love. Gansey and his friends want to find Glendower. But this book is so much more. It has betrayal and secrets and lies. It has amazing friendships and the first bloom of young love. It has class wars and domestic abuse and death. I loved it all.

First, let me just say that the narrator totally made the audiobook for me. Though his style takes some getting used to, I can’t imagine discovering the book any other way. Will Patton’s slow drawl is perfect for this book. He personifies the mystical South with his quiet, easy speech patterns, and the way he contorts his voice to portray each character is incredible. I especially enjoyed the leaps Mr. Patton made between Adam’s soft, gentle country boy accent, Ronan’s harsh, angular rebel boy tones, and the deep, bitter snarl of the boys’ professor, Barrington Lynch.

I was completely drawn in by the world Ms. Stiefvater creates. While I know there’s no such thing as “the mystical South” setting that the author and others choose to employ, I found myself enchanted by the little town of Henrietta. Every description, every turn of phrase, every word choice felt so carefully selected. Several of the figures of speech that Ms. Stiefvater employed make me blink in surprise at how unexpected and perfect they were. There were times later in the novel that I felt more restraint could have been used, but in the beginning I adored every moment.

The characters, though, are what make this book. The very first time the narration jumped from Blue to Gansey, I thought I would be disappointed. Small-town, spiky-haired Blue is so alive and fun. I wanted to know more about her and her strange family. I didn’t want to leave. But then I met Gansey. Powerful, charismatic, clueless Gansey. With his carefully coiffed hair, pressed Aglionby sweater, and winning politician’s smile, he is a character that I expected to hate. And yet, the more I learned, the more I liked him. Throughout the book, Blue compares the perceived Gansey to the Gansey she saw in the churchyard – Real Gansey. Real Gansey is quiet and sometimes moody. Real Gansey carries around a stuffed leather journal filled with notes about his obsessive hunt for Glendower. Real Gansey wears spectacles. Real Gansey is a protector. Real Gansey isn’t afraid to die.

Though The Raven Boys is set in the South and focuses on the hunt for a Welsh king, it is an Arthurian  tale at its heart. Strong, persuasive Gansey is Arthur, the golden boy with a lion’s heart. Blue, once they finally meet, is his Merlin. She holds the power. She makes things happen. And though she hasn’t told him, she has foreseen his end. The other Raven Boys are his knights. Each of them charmed me in their own way. We visit Adam’s perspective nearly as often as we visit Gansey’s. The outcast of Aglionby, Adam works three jobs to pay his way through school. He is Gansey’s strongest supporter, his right-hand man. Words cannot express my love for Adam and the sweet, tentative romance he shares with Blue. But he is also a boy with demons of his own that I fear will threaten the others in future books. Ronan, on the other hand, displays his demons proudly. Pugilistic, foul-mouthed, and reckless, he enjoys making people wince. Between the two boys, it’s hard to say which will prove the most dangerous in the end. Which will destroy our teenaged Arthur, his loyal but obstinately proud Lancelot or his dark and dangerous Mordred?

The Raven Boys – attribution

I cannot adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. The characters were fantastic, the storyline was riveting, and the magic was awe-inspiring. Seriously, Cabeswater blew my mind. Just you all wait. And I’ve never read a book that delighted me so with each narration shift. Each character is so very dear to me. There were, however, a few small points that earned my displeasure.

First, the loose ends. The Raven Boys is the first in a proposed four-book series. Clearly, there will be loose ends, and that’s fine. However, so many different lines of inquiry were laid out in this first book, and not one was tied up. Not. One. Seriously, Maggie, would a little closure have killed you? Because lack of it is certainly killing me.

With that are the several seemingly purposeless characters that drifted through the novel. I assume that their purposes will be revealed in later books, but right now they seem to be simply taking up space. For instance, Ronan’s brother appears maybe two or three times and then disappears without any real impact on the story. Sure, he makes an impact on Ronan and helps explain why Ronan is the way he is (sort of), but he in no way furthered the plot. The same with Ronan’s brother’s girlfriend who appeared briefly in two scenes and then was gone, leaving me with nothing but misplaced suspicious feelings. Even the fourth Raven Boy, Noah, lacked agency. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Noah just as much as the other boys, and I understand why he vanishes for large swaths of the book, but I felt like Ms. Stiefvater could have been a little more evenhanded in doling out his scenes. His presence was so important in the latter half of the book, but couldn’t he have been made to seem less of a waste in the former?

I also didn’t appreciate the language or the fortune-telling mumbo-jumbo, though I understand the reasons for both. At least with a finished copy I’ll be able to Sharpie out some of Ronan’s crasser sentences.

Now I sit, waiting anxiously for The Dream Thieves to release. I have so many questions, so many desires. Will my unauthorized ship of choice be allowed to set sail? (Blue and Adam FOREVAAAAH, y’all!) What will become of Gansey? Will we ever learn the truth about Ronan’s family? Will Blue ever find her dad? GAH! Please, go run and read this book so you can wait in agonized suspense with me.

Points Added For: A fantastic narrator choice, excellent handling of multiple points of view, atmospheric setting, amazing characters, gorgeous phrases.

Points Subtracted For: Loose ends, Barrington feeling oddly incidental (as opposed to Neeve, who is truly present and creepy), underutilized characters.

Good For Fans Of: A more mature version of Bridge to Terabithia, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Diviners by Libba Bray (so says Goodreads), small-town Deep South.

Notes For Parents: Language, fortune-telling (Tarot cards, scrying, etc.), murder.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

10

Rewind & Review (16)


Hey all! I’m still trying to figure out how we made it through half of July already. I mean yeesh, really? Is summer really almost over? My word. Despite the flying time, it was a good week. We had a great discussion this week about writing and researching, and I got to review a book that I adored.

Blog Posts You May Have Missed

That was the week on the blog, and it was a good one, too.

I kinda sorta fell off the wagon when it came to buying books this week, but only a little. Sunny had a friend over, so we all went to the thrift store. It’d been my first time there in almost two months, so I think I did rather well.

Stuff I Won

  • The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith + poster (via LibraryThing)


Stuff I Bought

  • The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
  • Everneath by Brodi Ashton
  • The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile (a Royal Diaries book) by Kristiana Gregory
  • Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor (a Royal Diaries book) by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart (a Dear America book) by Kristiana Gregory
  • Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady (a Dear America book) by Ellen Emerson White
  • Page (Protector of the Small #2) by Tamora Pierce
  • Squire (Protector of the Small #3) by Tamora Pierce
  • Lady Knight (Protector of the Small #4) by Tamora Pierce
  • I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

Stuff I Received

  • SIGNED Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn (traded via YABE)
  • Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter (traded via YABE)
  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (from the publisher via NetGalley)

Not a bad haul, eh? I’m especially excited to start those Tamora Pierce books. I just need to find the first book. A big, big thanks to YABE, NetGalley, Quirk Books, LibraryThing, and Disney Hyperion!

Miscellaneous Happenings

Lots of exclamation points in the happenings, but what can I say? I’m excited! 

2

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes