Review: The Raven Boys

Raven

  • Author: Maggie Stiefvater
  • ISBN: 9780545424929
  • Genre: Fantasy

Since June is Audiobook Month, audiobooks.com has been giving away a selected audiobook every day of the month to its members.  The Raven Boys was one of those books.

The Goodreads synopsis for The Raven Boys (click on the book cover) is what kept me from reading this book prior to audiobooks.com giving it away for free.  I assumed that it was the stereotypical YA story that centers on a romance and all that is ever different is the setting and the characters’ names.  While there’s nothing wrong with a good romance story, particularly one in which the characters’ relationship is met with an obstacle of some kind, there is much more to life than finding someone to fall in love with and I prefer my stories to reflect that.

However, The Raven Boys is so much more than what the synopsis makes it out to be.  Most of the story has very little to do with romance.  Instead, it’s more about magic and mythology and all the very real issues that teenagers deal with besides who they want to date.  All of the characters are struggling to find their place in the world, none of them is perfect, and they don’t always make the best decisions.  This isn’t an afterschool special, though.  I never got the sense that the author was trying to pass down some lesson about the consequences of making poor choices while having it all work out for the best in the end.  Rather, Maggie Stiefvater is showing a slice of reality through the lives of teenagers who could easily be you, me, or a high school friend while bringing to life a world filled with magic.

This book is exactly the kind that I’m always on the lookout for; the kind that says magic exists alongside all the things we take for granted as being real, and as with everything else, it is neither wholly  benevolent nor truly evil.  It is also the kind that is full of complex characters who live lives that are never cut and dry, and it is the kind of Fantasy story that reflects reality more clearly than Literary Fiction ever could.  I’m looking forward to reading the next “Raven Cycle” book, The Dream Thieves.

Review: Nightfall Gardens

Nightfall

  • Author: Allen Houston
  • ISBN: 9780615804453
  • Publisher: Flycatcher Books
  • Genre: Fantasy/Cozy Horror

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

While Nightfall Gardens is a very different story, many of its elements reminded me of the Chimera books by Phil Gomm, which is why I classified it as Cozy Horror.  In addition to this, one of the characters, Deiva, instantly made me think of Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.  On top of that, the Blackwood family curse begins with the Greek myth about Pandora, and Lily Blackwood, who is primarily affected by the curse, isn’t perfect.  Her character flaws become apparent right from the start, and she makes mistakes.  She makes the kind of mistakes that almost get her killed several times.  Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this book.

My one problem with it, however, is that it just ends.  There’s no cliffhanger or any other event to make a good stopping point for the 1st book in a series.  To make it worse, the story has only just begun.  It’s really more of an introduction than anything else, and there’s still so much that is left unknown.  In other words, there’s no real resolution to anything.  Had I read this first book when it was originally published, I would have had to wait to read the 2nd book.  Chances are, I wouldn’t have bothered, because, while the story is great, I’m not invested in it yet.  I’m not left worrying about what might happen.  A cliffhanger isn’t necessary to cause that feeling, but there needs to be some kind of ending that makes me want to pick the next book up.

Luckily for me, and any of you who haven’t yet read the book, the 2nd and 3rd books are available.  We don’t have to wait.  Like a 2nd episode of a never before watched TV show on Netflix, I’ll likely read at least the 2nd book, not because it demands to be read, but because it’s available, and why not?  It has the potential to be even better than the 1st, since the story can get under way now that the introductions have been made.  I recommend giving Nightfall Gardens a chance.  It’s not a long book, and so, if you decide it’s not worth continuing, you’ve only lost a couple hours of time.  I don’t think you’ll feel that way, though.  If it weren’t for the ending, I would give the book 5 stars.

 

Review: The Paper Magician

Paper

  • Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Publisher: 47 North
  • ISBN: 9781477823835
  • Genre: Fantasy

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ceony Twill wanted to be a Smelter, but she’s placed in a Paper apprenticeship with Magician Emery Thane instead.  Emery’s past comes back to literally rip his heart out, and it’s up to Ceony to save him.  Along the way she discovers more about Emery than anyone else knows, and that sometimes Paper is the strongest of the material magics.

I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but it grabbed me and didn’t let go.  The writing, pace, plot, and characters were perfect.  I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this book.  I had a difficult time putting it down to go to bed, and if it weren’t for the fact that I had an exam first thing in the morning, I would have finished it in one night instead of two. The book’s version of early 1900’s England comes alive, and I wanted to be there and become a paper magician.  This isn’t Harry Potter though, not even close.  In fact, it didn’t remind me of any other Fantasy story I’ve read.  On top of that, there are two events that occur towards the climax that made me gasp and cover my mouth in shock as well as cry.

Adding all of that up equals to The Paper Magician being one of the best Fantasy stories I’ve read this year, and quite possibly in my life.  I’m adding it to my “Through the Magic Door” list of all-time faves, and I recommend it for anyone who loves Fantasy in general, and especially for those who love Urban Fantasy.  I’m giving it all the stars!

Review: The Nightingale Bones

HorrorOctober2014

Nightingale

  • Author: Ariel Swan
  • Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
  • ISBN: 9781611944990
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller

This is a haunted house story that also involves witches, so it was a perfect choice for October.  Alice has a strong sense of smell.  The trouble is that when she smells something, it brings about the memories of whatever spirits are lingering wherever she happens to be.  She sees this ability as a curse, despite her mother’s insistence that it’s a gift.  After separating from her husband, Alice finds herself house sitting in a home that has a lot of horrific memories involving the deaths of a child and a woman.  In an attempt to give the woman peace, Alice begins digging into the history of the house and the small town it’s in to figure out exactly who the woman was, and what happened to her and her child.

The first half of this book scared the bejeezus out of me.  I took a short break from reading because I was afraid to read it at night, and that was the only time I had the chance to sit down long enough to read anything last week.  After I picked it back up, though, the story became a bit predictable, and no longer scary.  Also, a slightly implausible romance was introduced, and I started to lose interest.  What kept me reading was the wonderfully detailed descriptiveness of everything, the believable small town characters, and wanting to know, without a doubt, how the mystery was solved.  The only thing I didn’t like about the level of description was the brand name product mentions.  They felt too much like the advertisements that are in the backgrounds of movies, and they didn’t add anything that was necessary to the story.  I didn’t need to know the brand of stereo Alice was using to listen to Billie Holiday, or the brand of cigarettes Kyrie was smoking.

Also unnecessary was the scene in which Alice and her mother, Josephine, do a tarot card reading.  It didn’t carry the story forward, and it didn’t have the spooky element of any cards having one meaning for the characters, but another meaning from the perspective of the reader.  If that was the author’s intention, it missed the mark.

Overall, I have to say that I would have enjoyed this book much more when I was in my 20’s.  It’s not a bad book.  I’m just no longer into stories in which the primary goal is to end with two characters falling into a “Happily Ever After” kind of love.  At least it passes the Bechdal Test.

Review: Chimera Books One, Two, and Three

HorrorOctober2014

Chimera1 Chimera2 Chimera3

  • Author: Phil Gomm
  • Publisher: Troubador
  • ISBN: 9781784628116, 9781784628123, 9781784628130

Though the Chimera books are Fantasy, there’s enough creepy and sinister characters and events to put them in the Children’s Horror category as well, which is why I’m reviewing them for Horror October Fortnight, hosted by Oh, The Books!

Kyp Finnegan, finds himself in Chimera, where all lost things end up, including children.  If you’re looking for a comparison, it’s The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland as a nightmare.  Everything is out to steal his Elsewhere Light (what will allow him to get back home), or kill him out of hatred for all “blood and bones”, and he never knows who he can trust (mostly no one).  His primary quest is to return home, but that becomes his last goal as he comes across other lost children and finds out exactly what Madame Chartreuse is up to.  Each book ends with a cliff hanger, but at approximately 100 pages each, you could easily go directly on to the next book to satisfy your need to know what happens next.  Let me tell you, it’s a roller coaster ride with very short breathers between the mishaps and scrapes Kyp finds himself running into.  One thing is for sure, I will never look at dolls the same way again *shivers*.

I highly recommend these books for all ages, especially for lovers of Dark Fantasy, and those who prefer “Cosy Horror”.  I can’t wait for the next book(s) in the series, which will have Kyp starting a new quest.

 

Review: The Time Roads

Time Roads - Dominick Saponaro

I have to say that The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich is a DNF book for me.  It’s my nomination for the Worst Book of the Year award.  I forced myself through 50 pages before I moved on to my next review book.

The first thing that annoyed me was the use of names that have so many letters and accent marks they were nearly impossible to pronounce.  They seem Celtic in origin, but I’m not sure.  Regardless, it jars the reader every time a name is stumbled over.

I was further annoyed at the repetition of a character’s whole name every time he was mentioned, even when the main character was thinking about him.  I understand why she used his whole name in their interactions since she is the Queen, and he’s her bodyguard.  However, we’re supposed to believe that she’s enamored by him (more about that next), so why the whole name in her thoughts?  If you do decide to read this book, make it more interesting by taking a drink every time you read “Aidrean Ó Deághaidh”.  You might get drunk enough to enjoy the book.

Next, the “love interests”.  Yes, there is more than one.  First, she falls in love with her bodyguard.  It’s not explained other than as time passed he was loyally at her side, and she’s suddenly in love with him.  However, she couldn’t possibly take him as a lover because he’s a servant.  This happens over approximately 2 pages.  Even if I could get past the “forbidden love” trope, I could never get over the vagueness and absence of a reason for falling in love.  The second love interest happens even more suddenly with even less explanation.  One moment she’s talking to her scientist about his experiments, and the next they’re ferociously making out in his laboratory in front of his assistants.  I was so stunned that I went back a couple pages to reread because I thought surely I had missed something.  No, I didn’t miss anything, not even a look of longing or a flirtatious comment from either one of them.

Somehow I continued to read, in the hopes that it would just as suddenly get better, but no joy.  I can’t recommend this book to anyone.  I’ve read trashy paperback romances better than this book.

What I’m Reading Monday #5

Currently Reading: Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans, one of my books for review;  Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood, chosen for reading on my phone when I’m out and about and have to wait on something; Villette by Charlotte Bronte, my pick for The Classics Club’s month of the Romantics, and The Hobbit and Philosophy.

Bone

Bliss

Villette1.52.qxd

Hobbit Philosophy

Finished: Justice in a Dead Land by Emma J.R. Hawk.  This was also for review, and I will be posting the review a few days before it’s published (Oct. 13th).  Until then, all I’ll say is that I’m really excited about it!

Justice

Total pages read for the week: 208

Total number of books for the year: 43.  My reading is picking back up again, mostly because I found myself with 4 books to read and review by mid-October.  I’ve decided to put aside Villette until I finish the review books.  Some time this week, I’ll be adding a section of books that I’ll be reviewing in the future to my Reviews page, along with the date I’m planning on posting the review.  Once it’s reviewed, I’ll move it to the section of reviewed books and link it to the review, as I’ve done in the past.