Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“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.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Oh, how I loved this book. There's the Practical Magic-esque house full of eccentric female female psychics (Blue, her mother, Maura, outspoken cousin Calla, and odd, dreamy Persephone), a heroine who stands out from the crowd, a well-developed cast of believable and non-stock characters, mystery, spirits, folklore, RAVENS! 

This could easily have been an angsty, sloggy tale of woe and star-crossed lovers. Instead, it's a story of a group of friends coming together to unravel a centuries old mystery. Some characters take longer to get to know than others (Noah is a bit hard to pin down until about halfway through), and some I was surprised by liking, like Ronan. A pretty rich boy with rage issues? Yeah, no thanks. I've never been one to swoon over the Logans and Tylers of the teen scene.

....Oh, wait, he rescued a baby raven? And... is Irish? And likes Celtic folk music? And stands up for his friends when it counts? 

Damn it.

The action kicks well into gear towards the end of the book, and there were some solid surprises and welcome twists along the way. Despite the summary, there wasn't much romance in this one, which is fine with me. I think too many YA authors give the mushy/swoony/broody stuff too much time in the spotlight, when they could really spend more time developing plot, fleshing out characters and world-building. Besides, there's a good reason for it- would you be feeling especially romantic if there was a prophecy looming over your head?

 I do wish that a few more questions had been answered, but there is at least one sequel planned, so I won't quibble about that too much. Book 2, The Dream Thieves, is slated for a September 2013 release. Hurray!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

BAMF Girls

This webseries is too great not to share. The premise: Hermione, Buffy, Katniss, Bella, Lisbeth and Michonne sharing a house in a Big Brother-esque reality show. The ladies who write and act in this are hilarious and smart and fun. Check it out now!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Immortal Rules

 The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

"In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity."Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of "them." The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked--and given the ultimate choice. Die...or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend--a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what--and who--is worth dying for." -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Hmmm.... Ok, I'm still not sure about this book. There are plenty of things to love: a tough as nails Japanese-American vampire heroine (with a katana, no less), a well-developed and intriguing post-apocalyptic setting, vampires that are depicted as monstrous (yes, even the "good" ones), and a set of vampire rules/logistics that make a good amount of sense and haven't been seen in this combination before. Oh! And a human/vampire relationship where the vampire is female. It makes for a very nice change of pace.

But on the other side of the coin, there's the bland and Too Good Male Lead, the fact that Allie is basically Supergirl, especially when compared to the Lesser Females in this book, a sometimes dragging pace, and the length. 500 pages. Oof.

Is this one worth your time? Well, that depends. If you like vampire stories more along  the lines of Vampire Hunter D, Blood the Last Vampire, I Am Legend, and Daybreakers than Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, and don't have a "to read" pile one hundred books deep, then, sure, go for it. It's a pretty solid adventure and hits a lot of popular notes (dystopian, post-apocalyptic survival, vampires, etc). Speaking of which, I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a film/tv adaptation of it sometime in the Not Too Distant Future.

If, like me, you've just got too many things to read already, you can safely give this series opener a pass.

Lips Touch: Three Times

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim DiBartolo

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

-Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

-Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

-Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

*Swoon!!!!!* This book is gorgeous and lovely and thrilling and, in every sense of the word, FANTASTIC. A friend recommended this to me after I read (and fell completely, madly in love with) Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It sat on my "to read" list for almost a year-mostly because I thought the cover was really underwhelming and I was afraid this wouldn't live up to my internal Taylor hype. I was very wrong.

Each story is unique, but each is full of lush details, inviting/exciting settings, and fascinating characters. I would love to see a whole novel in the setting from "Goblin Fruit"- think Appalachian gypsies. And the world-building of the novella-length Hatchling blew me away. When it comes down to it, some of the aspects of that story were familiar (children snatched by fey creatures, an icy queen, wolf men), but everything still felt new and magical. 

This would be an excellent collection with "just" Taylor's prose, but as an added bonus, you get her husband's illustrations as well!

If you are also counting down the days until Days of Blood and Starlight is released, this will be a great way to keep busy in the meantime.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Madness Underneath Preview

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The much-anticipated sequel to The Name of the Star will be released February 26th, 2013. If, like me, you're going a little crazy waiting, please enjoy this preview!!

First look

Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life. -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I had meant to wait on this one until closer to Halloween, but I'm glad I couldn't wait because it was just SO GOOD. Cas is an immensely enjoyable narrator (he's got a very "young Dean Winchester" thing going for him), and I loved pretty much every other aspect of this book. It's got a great cast of characters (including his Wiccan online store owner mother, a completely atypical Queen Bee female friend, a crotchety old antique store owner/occult adept, and Anna, a terrifying ghost I dare you not to fall in love with), a seriously spooky atmosphere, some genuine scares, and plenty of humor. 

I've already got the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, checked out and waiting for me. I wonder if I can make it to October this time... 

I very much doubt it.

Dark Companion

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.

Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.

The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member.

Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I'm really torn about this book. For everything that irked me or made me want to just walk away and read something else, there was something that I loved. Completely. Argh.

-The cover is just gorgeous. But then, there's something about the book's construction that seemed distractingly cheap or hurried or something. 
 -The character portrays herself as smart, independent, and clever. BUT, she tells you that constantly, and then acts contrariwise.
-One of the love interests is sweet, unique, caring and genuine. The other is waspish, entitled, creepy, abusive and horrible- But guess which one Jane spends faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar too long of the book swooning over? While being unconvincingly dense and inexplicably harsh to the other?

Seriously, the romance in this book almost put me off completely. Imagine if Elizabeth had spent pretty much all of Pride and Prejudice being an absolute brat to Mr. Darcy, while following Mr. Wickham like a puppy dog, and that you, as a reader, know and understand more about these two men from their introductions than Elizabeth will know for 3/4 of the book. Argh.

On the other side, I loooooooved everything in this book that alludes to gothic novels- from the premise of the book (down on her luck but intelligent orphan is given a plum spot in a wealthy but mysterious place), to the swoony, gothic romance, to all the extremely well selected and placed quotes at the beginnings of chapters. These are culled from Shelley, Radcliffe, Byron, Polidori, Le Fanu, and, of course, Brontë. There's even a course taught at the school (Night Terrors, I believe. It's all very subtle) where these and similar works are discussed, which adds to the story. 

I wouldn't give this a whole-hearted recommendation, but I will say that if the idea of a modern day Jane Eyre with even more mystery and darkness appeals to you, this could be worth the read. It does get better the further you get into it, and the Big Reveals were actually pretty neat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I read so many books, and it seems like the majority of them are the first in a series. I don't have the time, patience, or interest to read all of these series all the way through, but here are some upcoming installments in trilogies/quintets/sagas that I am excited for.

Under Wildwood (Wildwood #2)- Colin Meloy

I don't think I reviewed the first book, written by the lead singer of The Decemberists and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis, but I did love it. Talking animals, adventure, SAT words and ever so slightly morbid tendencies. Hurrah!

This 560 page tome will hit shelves September 25th.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Fairlyand #2)

Regular readers may recall me waxing lyrical about the first book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I've been waiting for this sequel since I closed that first installment. September has returned to fairyland and her friends the Wyverary (half wyvern, half library) and Gleam, because her (September's) Shadow Self has run amuck. I cannot wait for this book, but apparently I will have to, at least until October 2nd. *sigh*

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

Eeeeeeeeeeee! Daughter of Smoke and Bone rocketed up to a spot very high up on my list of All Time Favorite Books, so I am so excited for the sequel. I don't want to even put a summary for this one in case it ruins something from the first book. If you are looking for some truly spectacular dark urban fiction, do yourself a favor and pick up these gorgeous books.

Seriously, the covers? How could anyone resist? Hurry up and read the first before Blood and Starlight flies onto (and off) shelves November 6th.

Flame of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters #6) by Juliet Marillier

I am cautiously excited for this one. I feel that most authors I read are pretty consistent in terms of quality (of course some books are better than others with any author, but usally in a pretty small range). Marillier on the other hand, is a bit of a wildcard. The first two books in this series had a profound impact on my life as a reader. Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows are most of why I love, love LOVE Celtic fiction/culture/beliefs, herbalism, folklore, and historical fiction told over generations, and I think Marillier's tone of writing certainly encouraged my love of magic realism, and the blend of the domestic and fantastic that I crave (and find in other books, like Diana Gabaldon's amazing Outlander series).

That being said, her other books range from enchanting (Wildwood Dancing), to still really great (Wolfskin) to "yeah, ok, that was pretty good" (Foxmask, The Dark Mirror), to "arghhh when will this get good??" (Heart's Blood. Answer: never). Even the Sevenwaters series fluctuates. The third, Children of the Prophecy, was pretty solid, and I really liked the fourth, Heir to Sevenwaters, but the fifth, despite a potentially fascinating heroine and excellent setting was just kind of blah.

Anyway, I'm loving the cover and I haven't given up hope that this will be a return to Marillier magic at its finest. Either way I'll find out sometime after November 6th.

What's on my hold list?

Hey guys. I thought I'd post a preview of some of the books I'm waiting for. If anyone has read any of these so far, feel free to chime in with your thoughts!

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Cheerleading. Popularity. Competition. Intrigue. Suicide. Mystery.

Not my usual fare, necessarily, but who could resist that cover and reviews that call it "a fight club among cheerleaders" and that cover? I'm thinking it might be a bit more like The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler than Pretty Little Liars, but we shall see.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I've loved Brennan's work on Team Human, and her contributions to anthologies like A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls and The Girl Who Was on Fire. Now she's got a new novel all to herself, including promising bits like a small English town named Sorry-in-the-Vale, a sinister manor complete with Strange Goings On, and a general Gothic feel. Hurray!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I haven't read Stiefvater's famous Wolves of Mercy Falls series (I'm sure you're familiar with the gorgeous cover of the first: it's called Shiver and it's mostly white with blue leaves. More exciting than it sounds, actually). That said, I've heard great things. This one sounds really promising too: a girl with a clairvoyant mother, the mysterious Raven Boys, a prophecy/mystery- yes please!

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories

Hey look, it's Yovanoff and Stiefvater again, plus someone I've never heard of but is probably very good too! Apparently, these three authors have a site called where they have posted more than 250 stories since 2008. This book is a collection of some, including these three:

- A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.
- Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.
- A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream)

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron

Another anthology, this one with a witchy theme and contributions from authors including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Diana Peterfreund, Peter S. Beagle, and Garth Nix. Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't wait for this one. Look at that cover!


Above by Leah Bobet

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before. -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

If you're into urban fantasy by authors like Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Charles DeLint, and Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)  I would recommend you give this one a try. It has lots of elements I love from those authors- unique language, a dark/rich/strange setting filled with fairytale creatures alongside street kids, and moments of genuine horror.

Ariel, the bee-winged girl on the cover, is not the protagonist, which was slighlty disappointing. But that's ok, as it means this isn't the paranormal romance I had been kind of expecting from the summary, and Matthew is a good, somewhat meta narrator (he's the Teller, the keeper of stories for his people, so a great deal of the book has to do with the nature of stories we tell each other and ourselves). Also, I kind of wish this book had been called Safe, since so much time is spent on what that means. Eh, quibbles.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I really liked this one- not quite as much as I had been hoping to from a lot of the hype and glowing reviews on Goodreads, but it was still a really well-done high fantasy in an alternate setting, with dragons. This is definitely for fans of political intrigue, as court machinations, secret plots and assassins abound. I would also recommend it to fans of Patricia McKillip. Seraphina has that combination of glittering prose and rich settings that seem to hold you at a little bit of a distance that I've noticed in McKillip's books. That being said, there are some standout characters here, including Seraphina's uncle and cantankerous music master. The more I read the more I liked, and I am very excited to read the next installment.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins

When school lunchroom doors open, hungry students rush in, searching for tables where they wouldn't be outsiders. Of course, in middle school and high school, almost everyone is an outsider: the nerds, the new girls, the band geeks, the loners; even the "popular" cheerleaders. 

Alexandra Robbins' The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth takes us inside the hallways of real schools to show us how shifting cliques and permanent marginalization affect children. Following individual students over the course of a year, she tracks the plight and possibilities of self-confessed nerds, freaks, punks, Goths, and weirdos. Her central message is heartening: Our increasingly homogenized society ultimately needs and welcomes the cafeteria fringe. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

This should be required reading for all teens, parents, and teachers. There are so many great ideas to take away from this book: the things that make you a "geek" are actually strengths that will become more valuable as life goes on, appearances are deceiving, how double-edged popularity is, the dangerously subtle ways bullying happens, how important support networks are, and that things do get better. This book takes turns being informative, fascinating, heart-breaking and inspirational, and is full of practical advice to teens and those who live/work with them.