Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462Title: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Supernatural
How I got it: I bought an eBook.

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 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.

 

REVIEW:
How to even begin?

This book has been around for a long time before I decided to pick it up. Mostly, it’s because of Tumblr and all the quirky edits about the series that I’ve encountered while reblogging photos of cats. I mean, a book series getting that much traction in a website full of picky, easily offended people must be really something for a whole community to collectively love. So I decided, why not? I jumped right into that bandwagon and read the book.

… And I was not disappointed.

At least, not that much. I like the story as a whole, and the characters are colorful and lively. A houseful of psychic women, a gang of rich, good-looking boys, a quirky female character… what’s not to like, right?

The plot basically goes like this: Blue is a non-psychic in a house of psychics. She’s basically an anomaly, but she’s like a conductor, so to speak, in the sense that she can amplify psychic powers for some unknown reason. Growing up, she’s always been told that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die.

Gansey is a rich guy with a clueless kind of demeanor, especially towards the less fortunate. He’s very interested (obsessed) with ley lines, and quite obviously she’s Blue’s true love. He’s a nice guy overall, really determined, a great friend, but he’s doomed to die because he will be inevitably attracted to Blue which will bring on his tragic demise. It sounds a little shallow, put like that. But before the whole tragic demise thing, a lot of other stuff happens which add substance to the story.

As I’ve said previously, what I like best about this book is the characters. Mainly, the Raven Boys. In my opinion, they really make the story with their contrasting characters adding some serious weight and texture to the plot. I like that they’re easily distinguishable from each other not only due to physical attributes, but due to expert characterization. Stiefvater managed to breathe life into these four boys and make them unforgettable, almost tangible characters that you can’t help but love.

It’s really hard not to play favorites so I will. I have to admit now that I’m Noah Czerny trash. This poor boy with his big heart, who was the first one to love Blue when she became part of the gang just because he’s the sort of guy who would automatically be attached to a person who’s nice. He didn’t have any agenda for welcoming Blue with open arms, unlike Adam. He did it because he’s just genuinely warm. Noah Czerny is precious and important and in my mind, I’ve pictured him looking like Niall Horan. I’m so sorry, but it can’t be erased.

Ronan is another one. You know those people you know you’re supposed to stay away from but for some reason you can’t? Yeah. That’s him. You’ll rationalize with yourself that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. But you will be inexplicably drawn to him like a moth to a flame, and you’d rather burn than be far apart. To explain better, here’s my favorite quote pertaining to Ronan Lynch:

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”

Do you know what I mean? Do you get it now? Ugh. I don’t know any better way to explain, but if Ronan Lynch was an actual person that I know, I’d be in big trouble.

Adam and Gansey are alright. They each have their moments. Sometimes Gansey manages to shine and set my heart a-flutter, but they’re both not as remarkable to me as the other two.

It’s Blue that I have a problem with, though.

I don’t know but she seems like a frail copy of Frankie Landau Banks. Actually, if you think about it, The Raven Boys is a bit like E. Lockhart’s book in a sense that it’s about a girl who dreamed to belong in a man’s world. Only that Blue succeeded where Frankie failed, which I can’t really credit to Blue since it’s more for the fact that The Raven Boys are a much nicer bunch than the Basset Hounds of Frankie’s boarding school.

Blue is like a faded photocopy of Frankie, a much less intelligent ghost. She lacks Frankie’s ingenuity and is sometimes rather annoying even when she’s trying to come across as the epitome of girl power. This is the reason why I can’t give this book a 5-coconut rating. It feels so much like a tapestry of stories that other authors succeeded in telling (The Gemma Doyle trilogy comes to mind. A group of girls in a boarding school playing at magic and managing to transport themselves in an otherworldly realm, just like The Raven Boys with the ley lines and Cabbeswater.) and Stiefvater is trying to piece together to form a literary masterpiece, only that it didn’t quite work all that well.

Don’t get me wrong, The Raven Boys is still all kinds of amazing, and fantasy-wise, it’s quite remarkable considering the plethora of others we currently have in YA. The Supernatural element is fantastically executed, but it feels familiar, and not in a good way. It feels like stories I’ve heard before, disguised as something else by wearing a new jacket.

Still, I’m giving this book 3 coconuts. 3 for Stiefvater’s undeniable talent in writing a beautiful prose, 3 for Noah and Ronan and Blue’s mom, Maura, for all the feelings they evoked in me, and 3 for the fact that I finished this book in one sitting. But I’m withholding the other two stars because of a somewhat questionable claim at originality.

Finally, I recommend this book to all lovers of YA Fantasy, doomed love stories, sharp-as-knife characters, and supernatural aficionados. I personally think that I get what the hype is all about, and maybe the comparisons I’ve drawn and the similarities are all coincidental. But if Gansey didn’t believe in coincidences, why should I?

3-cocnut

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Book Review: White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

6087756Title: White Cat  (Curse Workers, #1)
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
How I got it: Lent by a friend
Click here to buy this book from Amazon

SYNOPSIS:
Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers – people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail – he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.


REVIEW:
This book has been on my TBR list since early this year and I decided to finally crack it open for my Tackle Your TBR Pile Read-a-thon. Lots of people have been going on and on about how great this book is and the series as a whole. In fact, many of my trusted book bloggers seem to like White Cat a lot, but after reading it I honestly don’t see what all the hype is about.

Conceptually, White Cat was very promising. ‘Curse Worker’ sounds so sinister and magical at the same time and truthfully, I think that we can never have enough books about magic so I welcomed the concept with open arms. But I guess when it comes to building the principles around the concept itself Holly Black falls short. I personally think it’s because of the lack of details and I for one am hungry about the good nitty-gritty. The idea of curse working was very casually served to the readers, the first few chapters were smattered with vague details about the crime families and the government’s stand on ‘workers’ and ‘working’ but the execution itself of this technique was average at best. I’ve read novels before that doesn’t necessarily give detailed lists, graphs, or lengthy explanations about the concepts/ideas involved but dishes them out slowly throughout the story, and they worked fine for me, better actually since the author challenges the reader to read between the lines and figure out all things unsaid, and I live for those moments, trust me. But this one was just confusing and that in itself is a huge buzzkill.  It felt suspiciously like the author obscuring the obvious behind a curtain of opaque vagueness just to make it feel like there’s something mysterious about the whole thing when in truth, there’s really not.

When it comes to the characters, I don’t really have much to say except that I was thoroughly bored. Cassel’s voice was distinctly male, yes, but there was nothing special about him really. In fact, I might have to say that he’s a bit overdramatic at times even considering the circumstances. Lila was projected as an interesting character because that’s how Cassel feels about her, but I am not enchanted by her at all. She did nothing surprising in my opinion and in fact, she ended up being too predictable. Plus, there’s zero chemistry between her and Cassel; I’d probably rather ship him with Daneca. The most interesting characters in this book for me were Maura and Granddad, Maura because in my mind’s eye she looks like the woman who played Jack Nicholson’s wife in The Shining, and Granddad because he reminds me a liiitttle bit of Uncle Eddie from Heist Society. The villains at least, were well crafted. I like the fact that Philip and Barron were conning their own brother and Anton was believably psychotic. I expected a whole lot from Zacharov than what I got, though. I mean, isn’t he supposed to be head of a crime family? His character felt a little too soft for my liking. That was one of the big disappointments I got out of this book.

Plotwise, it was kind of predictable and nothing happened that wasn’t already expected. I immediately knew who the White Cat was and I guessed rather early that Cassel was really a worker and what kind of work he can do. About the only thing I didn’t guess was what Cassel’s mom would do in the end, and honestly? Bad parenting. The mafia-ish vibe wasn’t used to it’s full potential and the cons aren’t nearly as impressive as the narrative makes it seem. I liked the concept of the blowback, though. Lots of magic books tell us about limitless power with very slight physical consequences, but in Cassel’s world, you get your karma immediately, and light would be the last word to describe it. The blowback definitely made things more interesting and it set even Cassel and his unusual abilities on the same ground with other workers because it’s a mutual vulnerability they all share.

Despite the myriad of shortcomings I listed, White Cat was still an enjoyable read. Some parts were slow but most were action-packed and I can’t help but notice that this was the case in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown as well. Holly Black thrives when she’s world-building and writing the ass-kicking scenes and for the most part it makes up for her less-than-stellar skill in plot-weaving and characterization. I’m a bit disappointed though that White Cat was not as good as I thought it would be, but I have to admit that it wasn’t half bad either. I most probably won’t read the other books in the series, but I would still recommend it to everyone who loves urban fantasy and who enjoys reading in the male character’s POV. Three coconuts!

3-cocnut

This is the 7th book that I finished for my Tackle Your TBR Pile Read-a-thon.

Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it? Leave me links and comments so we can talk! Happy reading! x

lp,m

Book Review: The Nightmare Affair (Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

12411635Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
How I got it: Borrowed from a friend!

SYNOPSIS:
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


REVIEW:
I am a true-blue sucker for boarding school stories, which is perhaps the very reason why I picked up The Nightmare Affair. That, and the cover, which reminded me so much of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Before cracking this book open, I was actually  expecting some sort of dark, gothic, paranormal mystery, but what I got instead was a fun and entertaining read.

Sure, it isn’t high literature or anything and the plot was a little predictable, but I honestly could not put it down while I was reading it. Whatever magic Mindy Arnett put on the pages of this book, it sure worked on me. But that doesn’t mean I failed to notice the many deficiencies of the story. Although I liked The Nightmare Affair a lot, I must admit that the plot felt like a Jenga tower that’s very close to toppling down on itself. There were parts in the book where the author would pepper us with facts about magickind history and the mechanics of this or that, but crammed in a chapter and in succeeding paragraphs, they ended up perplexing the heck out of me. There were also some very confusing concepts, which I understood in the end, but the point is, the telling wasn’t flawless, and understanding didn’t come naturally as I was reading it (or maybe it was just my brain, tired from lack of sleep).

Dusty was very likable as a main character. She’s plucky and witty and capable, though a little bit slow on the uptake. Eli was likable as well, but I can’t help noticing the lack of a back story, which could have served as a foundation for his character development. This is also true with secondary characters such as Paul, Selene, and Moira – Dusty’s mom, who I kinda liked a lot. Sad to say, her relationship with Dusty was reduced to an inconsequential part of the plot. Characters-wise, the book felt brimming with them, so much that some managed to spill on the side. There were just TOO MANY types of magickind all at once, and this turned out to be a disadvantage, mainly because the author failed to make distinctions as sharp as they should have been.

In terms of the romance, I’m actually surprised to find myself liking it. There was a bit of a love triangle, which I know is a common premise in YA, but I have to argue that the Paul-Dusty-Eli triangle is a bit more reasonable than others. First, because none of the guys acted particularly douchenuggetty. Second, because Dusty’s feelings were valid – an attraction for the good-looking guy she had to sit on during their dream-feeding sessions, and the magnetic pull of someone who makes it clear that he wants to be with her.  Third, even during the end of our story, Dusty was still smart about her feelings. There wasn’t an instant jump from one guy to the next, which I greatly appreciated. Plus, there were no illicit kisses shared and other stupid love-triangle related stuff.

But let’s go back to the plot. As I have mentioned earlier, it was a bit predictable. It didn’t take that much brain power to know who the nefarious people were and I saw the ending coming long before it’s opening scene. It also has uncanny similarities with other novels such as Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and even Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, especially during the second half of the novel. I should also point out that the events leading to the climax fell short of riveting and ended up quite lax, odd because this is the part where everything should be coming together for the ultimate build-up.

Still, this book has a significant entertainment value, otherwise it wouldn’t get a 3 out of 5. I was vastly entertained by it and for the most part, I couldn’t put it down. I guess it’s because I’ve been reading a ton of serious stuff lately and this kind of book was just what I needed to lighten up a little. Low-ish ratings aside, I would still recommend The Nightmare Affair for those who are looking for something fun to read just to pass the time. I don’t know if I’m actually looking forward to the next installment, but I’m not pushing the idea of reading it away either. All in all, a very fun book. Not the best of its kind, but definitely far from the worst as well.

3-cocnut

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

13496Title: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre
: Fantasy, Adventure
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.


Review:
I honestly did not expect to be hooked by this series. The moment I saw the first book, I face-palmed myself because it was so. thick. How am I supposed to finish it? Why did I even buy it?

But I was a HUGE fan of the TV series. It started out as a guilty pleasure which turned into an obsession. And after shrieking, squealing, and sobbing my way into and out of season 1, I knew that I just have to know what would happen next to my favorite characters, even if it meant plodding through thick-ass books that are oceans away from my normally preferred genres.

I can’t say I regret it, because damn, it was a fabulous experience. George R.R. Martin is one of those rare authors who could wow you and repulse you at the same time. It was almost like an out-of-body experience because it left me wondering and thinking like, wow, what kind of fuckery is this? How evil are these people? But then I’d be like, ohmygod this is SO AWESOME.

But okay, before I go into full-spaz mode, I should probably tell you as coherently as I can why I fell in-love with this book. Reasons, reasons. Let’s start with the characters. Whether you read YA or other genres of fiction, you and I both know how tired we are of perfect characters and/or Mary Sues. I assure you, you will not find a single perfect character in this book. They all have flaws, errors in judgments, major psychotic tendencies, and even the noblest of them all made me want to punch a wall. It’s this lovely thing called diversity that GRRM employs in his characterization in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, in which this book is installment #1. I honestly couldn’t ask for more, because although the author is writing about a different time and world, his characters reflect the darkest, cruelest, normally hidden side of human nature, as well as it’s lighter side. No character is made up of pure dark or light, everyone is a mixture of both in varying degrees and sometimes, the only thing that makes them different are their motivations in doing what they’re doing.

Another reason why I like this book is the intriguing plotline. So many twists and turns, so many characters that you just couldn’t categorize in neat columns. Is whatshisname evil or not? Don’t trust him! Oh wait, trust him! Ohmygod why did you trust him!??! Jezus. Yeah, you get the picture. You can never guess what will happen next, or maybe you can, but not the way it plays out. So many secrets, so many lies! And not one character that you can just disregard as irrelevant, because even those who seem weakest can surprise you.

This book also has an interesting brand of folklore. Is folklore even the word for it? Hey, whatever. Anyway, what I mean are the beautifully described, sometimes creepy, sometimes endearing creatures that are interspersed inside the whole plot. Dragons, The Others, Direwolves, etc etc. So vividly described that they come alive in your imagination. And don’t even get me started on the wordplay! George R.R. Martin is flawless when it comes to dishing out metaphors, symbolisms, and foreshadowing. Even the vulgar language doesn’t hinder the plot to it’s destined greatness. In fact, in my opinion, it was just right to help it get there.

With its richly textured characters and multi-layered plot, A Game of Thrones totally satisfied my thirst for a good great story. If you feel like this could be your thing, you should stop what you’re doing right now and get your own copy of this epic book. I gave this the rarely seen 5 out of 5 coconuts because it’s nothing like I’ve ever read before. The number of pages was a forgivable oversight because the pace of the novel was intense and fast moving. Before I even knew it, I was turning over the last page and being harassed by an uncontainable frenzy of conflicting emotions. In the end it left me wanting just one simple thing.

It’s called MORE.

5coconuts

Book Review: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, #1) by Susan Ee

11500217Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:
It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.


Review:
First of all, I would just like to say that I, along with many other YA aficionados, have really bad experiences when it comes to books that has something to do with angels. This paranormal archetype has been used in some of the most terrible YA books to ever come out in the history of YA Fiction, and yes I am talking about Hush Hush, Fallen, and Halo. These are just really bad books with angels in them as main characters and/or love interests, and they were so traumatizingly horrible that they made me super cautious about jumping into the angels bandwagon again. This is the reason why I kept on putting off reading Angelfall. It was in my Kobo for months before I even decided to give it a try.

And now all I can say is WOW.

Seriously. My logical mind predicted this book to be bad, bacause a.) it has angels in it and we all know how well that turned out for Lauren Kate and Becca Fitzpatrick and b.) it is a self-published book, which, you know, stereotypically means it’s not that good. But boy, did this book trash all of my logical predictions. It did so in a way that surprised me and completely caught me off guard.

Why is this book so good? It’s because Susan Ee’s depiction of the dystopian world we found Penryn in is so tragically beautiful in all its glorious monstrosity that we can’t help but fear it and at the same time, want to know all about it. In a post-apocalyptic world, Penryn Young struggles to keep her family alive and afloat despite the tide of disaster that is threatening to overwhelm them. With a troubled mother and a disabled sister, Penryn is the only person that can be trusted to make decisions that would keep all of them safe in an unsafe world. But what is causing all this havoc and chaos in the first place? Angels. That’s right. Winged monsters from the heavens who are as ruthless and brutal as they are beautiful.

The conflict of the book starts when Penryn rescues Raffe, an angel who was injured in a fight with five others of his kind. Our heroine soon realizes that the price for this act of kindness was more than she was willing to pay as it becomes clear that her sister Paige, the person she loves more than anything else in the world, was captured by one of the five angels who attacked the one she just saved. Determined to get her sister back at all costs, Penryn decides to take a risk and forges an unlikely alliance with a reluctant and arrogant heavenly creature whose entire race was the enemy of her own.

This is not your usual fraternizing with the enemy kind of tale, where at some point while camping on the dark forest floor the characters decide they were attracted to each other so they jump each other’s bones the first opportunity they get. No, thank you. The farthest Susan Ee took us into the romance department were Penryn and Raffe’s sharp, sarcastic banter, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Only a hint of a budding love was given because both characters have more pressing issues to attend to, and yet it only made this book a lot more enjoyable (and the sequel that much more covetable). You know it’s a good book when the author doesn’t need to bombard you with cheesiness and smut every 3rd page just to keep you interested.

Penryn as a character is very admirable and memorable. She is sassy and compassionate and brainy and full of steely determination to do what needs to be done no matter what it takes to get there. She knows how to kicks ass literally and is an overall warrior princess in all the ways that matter, and though she acknowledges Raffe’s physical allure, she does not act stupid in his presence just because of it. A+ for the self preservation, Susan. A++++

Y’all girls need to read about Penryn Young.

Anyway, this book is also full of action not limited to the main characters alone. There is a hidden military camp that aims to save the day, cannibals that lurk in the black of night, and supernatural experiments so nightmarish in their description that they make your shiver. In short, this beautiful story is backdropped by such unspeakable horrors that it creates a very interesting contrast in the narrative which works astoundingly well with all the elements of the story. Add this to the fact that Susan Ee’s version of angels are in accordance with the mythical cannon, which means she knows her shit and she knows it well.

All in all, this book has now landed itself a place in my shelf entitled BEST BOOKS EVER and Penryn Young has just secured herself a spot in my ALL-TIME FAVORITE BAD-ASS HEROINES list. Did I mention that Susan Ee is joining the exclusive club of my favorite authors whether she likes it or not? Well she is and she can’t do anything about it now. But you know what else is great about this book? It only costs $4.99 for paperback and $3.99 for Kindle. It’s so unbelievably affordable for a book of this caliber. I honestly think it should cost like, $20.00 or something.

To cap it all, I am just so glad I opened Angelfall when I did because otherwise, I would have deprived myself the opportunity to read something that is just plain excellent. You, too, should do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this insanely brilliant book now.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

5coconuts