The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater

•November 15, 2017 • 2 Comments

the dream thieves

Synopsis

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

My Thoughts

As with The Raven Boys, I don’t really think I have anything new to add to the overall discussion of The Raven Cycle series, but I’d like to add my thoughts anyway.

I love the focus on Ronan in this book. With this book, we get background, back stories, and build up. Something big is happening in Henrietta. But first, Ronan has a few things that he needs to take care of.

As he comes to terms who who he is – and what he is – Ronan softens a little. He’s less caustic with Blue, and teases her with more care and fondness. Blue, of course, gives back just as good as she gets.

Ronan’s vocabulary is vast and multi-lingual. (Which reminds me, I need to brush up on my French.) I need a dictionary in order to fully comprehend this book. Which is a good in an interesting way. Not only am I improving my own vocabulary, but I’m learning more and more about Ronan the more new words I learn.

What makes this book so fantastic to me is the ferocious focus on friendships and relationships. Blue has found a place she wants to belong. She’s found a family adjacent to 300 Fox Way. She wants nothing more than to be part of The Gansey. And each one of the boys needs her in their own ways.

The search for Glendower is fast hitting it’s climax, and these kids – because they are still kids, no matter how many fancy words Gansey tries to use to convince us otherwise – are headed for the adventure of a lifetime. Hopefully, they make it through the other side mostly still in tact.

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The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

•November 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The Raven Boys

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.

My Thoughts

A lot has already been said, discussed, talked about, and mentioned about this book series. And I understand why, so far it’s a really great series! I don’t really think I have anything new to add to this discussion, but I’d like to share my thoughts anyway.

I was in a major reading slump a couple months ago, and these books brought me out of it. The Raven Boys sets the stage for a mystical adventure-mystery. There is so much history and mythology to unpack, it’s incredible. I think this book taught me more about Welsh history than any history course I took in university. What I love most about this book is the dynamics of all the relationships.

All of these relationships are so fascinatingly intricate, as they should be. The foundations between Blue and her raven boys are based on building friendships – and maybe a little bit more. Blue is a force to be reckoned with. She is self-assured, feisty, and spunky. All of the boys are important to her in such different ways. They’re just as much a part of her as she is of them.

Adam, Gansey, Ronan, and Noah make up her raven boys. Where Gansey goes, the others are sure to follow. Not because Gansey is a leader of a pack, but because they’re all naturally drawn to each other in one way or another.

Adam desires the freedom he perceives Gansey to have, while relying on Gansey’s unwavering emotional support. Ronan – angry, angst-ridden, mourning Ronan – desires something bigger, yet at the same time simpler, than the entitled world Aglionby has to offer. Noah wants them all to have their own happy-ish endings.

Blue and her raven boys embark on one hell of an adventure. Where mystic and magic simply exist and are accepted as fact in their group. They all have things to discover along the way, but they need each other to get there.

The Sweet Far Thing – Libba Bray

•November 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

the sweet far thing

Synopsis

It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances.

Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds. The Order – the mysterious group her mother was once part of – is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.

My Thoughs

Oh man, what a finale to a trilogy. The Sweet Far Thing offers a brilliantly wrapped up bitter sweet ending to a mystical trilogy about a girl trying to find her place in the world – a world which keeps telling her who they expect her to be.

Like most coming of age stories, and most teenagers in general, we’re all just trying to find a place to fit, somewhere to belong. Gemma has longed for this since arriving at Spence, and it’s greatly impacted some of her decision making. But she has changed – or is in the process of changing. Where she once fought tooth and nail to appease everyone around her, she’s now making tough decisions. And if that means pissing people off, well, that continues to make her uneasy, but she holds steady to her convictions. Gemma isn’t going down without a fight.

Boy howdy, Gemma is a bloody fighter. She faces her anxieties head on, and charges forward. By the mid-point of this book, Gemma has hit her bullshit meter limit, and is more or less done trying to play by the rules – rules being imposed on her by morons, I might add. She figures herself out, fights back, and delicately rolls her eyes at anyone who finds her contrary.

While the realms are still in peril, Gemma has to prepare for her debut into society. For a seventeen year old girl, that’s quite a lot to handle. While book two got a little daunting with the social graces and what not, book three shifts that focus more onto Gemma’s disenchantment with it all. She can’t be bothered while magic is running amok. Gemma does acknowledge that a social debut is important for some of the Spence girls, but she’s realizing that a difference in priorities isn’t always a bad thing. She’s growing up, and that’s a very good thing.

Gemma makes hard decisions this book – about her friends, the realms, and her life. She asks herself, and those around her, very difficult questions. She comes to terms with her own answers, and chooses to do what she sees fit for herself. She fights for it. She earns it. Society is changing, and she wants to change with it – with or without the support of her family or peers.

Her relationships change a lot in this book, mostly for the better. Watching her interact with Kartik is a delight in this book. She finally admits – to both Kartik and herself – how much she truly wants him, and she makes it happen. And it’s glorious.

The Sweet Far Thing is bitter sweet in its completion. All loose ends are tied, and for the most part things are set right. Gemma’s attitudes and decisions by book’s end reflect the historical social shift of the late 1890s. This finale seems to embrace change – the good and the bad. And it gives us hope. Hope that change isn’t always a large, looming cloud of fear and anxiety. Hope for better things. Hope for a peaceful future.

Rebel Angels – Libba Bray

•October 11, 2017 • 3 Comments

rebel angels

Synopsis

Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain…

The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.

But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.

My Thoughts

With as much promise as the first installment of this trilogy had, part two falls a wee bit dry for me. While there is drama galore to keep things moving forward, much of the drama revolves around traipsing through English society.

Gemma meets a seemingly lovely gentleman (Victorian England’s version of the “nice guy”), must be seen and act accordingly around all the “proper” people, and most important of all she must not under any circumstances be anything other than what is expected of her. Was it important to the overall plot and character growth? Absolutely. Did I find it rather boring? Also absolutely. The politics of society ladies is just not my thing. To be fair, it seems it isn’t Gemma’s either.

Gemma is stuck somewhere between being a proper lady, and needing to free herself of her imposed expectations and properly mend the damage done to the realms. She works overtime trying to find Circe and keep both her family and friends pleased with her. It’s a delicate balancing act.

Gemma is not all that good at balance – but what sixteen year old is? She’s barely just grasped proper etiquette and manners befitting a proper English lady. And now she’s tasked with – essentially – saving the realms. It’s a lot for anyone to handle. Gemma does it with as much grace as she can, often proving wiser than anyone expects her to be.

This is where I have to remember that being sixteen in 1896 is VERY different than being sixteen in the 21st century. Teenagers were more or less expected to be grown adults, and act accordingly with barely any time to go through puberty let alone mature emotionally and psychologically. The pressure is a brick wall that Gemma keeps running into.

Slowly and surely, Gemma stands her ground more often than not – she puts herself first in some cases (how utterly unthinkable!) and does what needs doing, even at the risk of, well, pissing everyone else off.

The pieces of the puzzle start fitting themselves together with the arrival of a new teacher at Spence. Gemma, paranoid and suspicious due to her circumstances (if not by virtue of her personality) is immediately on edge. And rightly so. Time and again, Gemma proves that her instincts are quite spot-on, even if she can’t quite grasp the initial reasoning. This teacher proves to be wholly untrustworthy and dangerous. Gemma putting her in her place is one of the best moments of the book.

By the book’s end, Gemma has grown and matured almost beyond her years, and is so much stronger for it. She has very clear goals, and knows what she must do in order to accomplish them – the Order, the Rakshana, and Circe be bloody damned. Things are changing, and Gemma is set to watch them change. And her first step – changing things with Kartik.

There are a couple steamy moments between the two – very brief, yet charged. Gemma needs Kartik in ways I don’t think she realizes yet. He is, first and foremost (in her mind) her friend. As such, he is necessary, and welcome, in her plans and goals. The finale of this trilogy is going to be explosive – and I can’t wait to watch all the rubble fall.

On Disappointment, Let Downs, and Self-Care

•August 30, 2017 • 1 Comment

Long time no talk. Remember my last personal post, when I was so excited for all the good things this year was supposed to bring? Yeah. Just about all of them blew up in my face in a very short period of time. Also, warning for language – I’m not holding anything back.

I had to leave school due to a very personal tragedy that hit my family like a tonne of bricks. While I don’t want to go into the details of that, what I can say is that there was a long grieving and acceptance process that accompanied my own personal disappointment at quitting school. There was a solid month where everything was up in the air – I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to take off at a moment’s notice or not. Then it happened, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come home for some time. Thankfully, that settled, but it left a very large, very empty hole in my heart. And the uncertainty about my academics.

If there’s one thing I hate admitting to myself, it’s that I can’t do something. And, well, I couldn’t do school. It was not an easy decision to make, and I was faced with a lot of negativity. In trying to take care of myself, and prioritize what was more important, hearing your best friend say “I knew you’d quit, you’re not cut out for this” hurt like a motherfucker. That comment overshadowed a lot of the support I did receive, and clouded my vision for weeks on end.

I have since severed ties with this person. Again, not an easy decision to make, but in the face of his toxicity, I realized I needed to move on, and nurture friendships that were more mutually supportive, kind, and fruitful. This person had been a very dark shadow in other ways – ways that were detrimental to my wellbeing and mental health.

Cutting ties with a person is never easy – it’s never fun, and it always hurts. But in the few weeks that I haven’t been in contact with this person (whom knows why I needed space and separation – again, not an easy conversation), I’ve been piecing my confidence and self-esteem back together. I’ve been healing. And that’s exactly what I need at the moment.

It took time, work, and effort, but I got back to a healthier headspace, and began going on, working hard, and putting my all into my work again. And for a while, things were good – great even! And then I was told that a project I had put my heart and soul into for the last year and a half had been scrapped. Now that was a fucking hard pill to swallow.

I spent a year working with a great team of individuals. We got to know each other, and trust each other. I have yet to receive a reason for the termination, but I am angry, sad, and still very sore about it. I had put book reading to the way-side for this project, as it was picking up steam and reaching a potential end point. And now, nothing.

I have options, I know I have options. It doesn’t make the rejection hurt any less. Any contact I get from these individuals wishing me well, and wishing the best for my endeavors elsewhere feel shallow. I know they’re not – I know they truly do sincerely mean these things. But at the moment, my emotions are clouding that. (Hey, at least I realize it, right?)

I’ve put a lot on hold this year, and I’ve been a shell of who I used to be. And none of this includes the anger and despair I feel over world events, politics, and discourses. I don’t even want to get started on that – I don’t have the energy to be this angry anymore, to be honest.

While I’ve been reeling, what I’ve realized is that to give the best of myself, I need to care for myself as well. And that’s what I plan on doing for the next little while. My book reviews and writing need to fall to the side for the moment while I get myself back.

I still want to learn as much as I can about anything I can, but I want to do it on my terms. Which, to me, means reading anything and everything. I still do read a lot – I just don’t review everything I read. So, while I’m taking care of myself, I’m hoping to get back to my usual pace in time. And yes, it will take time – and I need to be okay with that.

All of that being said, hopefully I will be back, and see you all soon. Good vibes all around!

xoxo – Aubrey.

A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray

•July 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

a great and terrible beauty

Synopsis

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy—jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions “for a bit of fun” and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the “others” and rebuild the Order.

My Thoughts

I remember reading this trilogy well over 10 years ago in high school, but I remember very little of it. Now, as an adult, I thought I’d give it another go. I was not disappointed.

Gemma is your average teenage girl. She longs to find a place to belong, to fit in, to be a part of something. Oh, she’s a part of something alright – but this something is far bigger, and far more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Sometimes her emotions get the better of her – and that’s okay. This happens to everyone – teenagers and adults alike. She’s especially anxious at being thrust into an unfamiliar situation, with slightly unfamiliar expectations being thrust upon her.

Spence Academy really is just a Victorian reflection of any other high school – you have the cliques and the popular crowd, the bullied and the demeaned. However, much of that is exacerbated by the fact that many of these girls come from money; prestigious families looking to better their names. These girls are nothing more than a mirror with which to reflect back forced indoctrination befitting families of a certain status.

As Gemma says herself, the girls of Spence are “hollow vessels of girls to be rinsed of our own ambitions, wants, and opinions, just waiting to be filled with the cool, tepid water of gracious compliance.” I realize this is a common enough sentiment of the treatment of women in Victorian England, but a lot of those sentiments still ring true today – women are expected to be certain ways, and if they’re not, they’re told to expect less than humane treatment from men around them. Pardon my language, but it’s fucking bullshit. Gemma sees this loud and clear and is quite intent to rebel. The other three in the clique see and experience this in varying degrees – choosing to rebel in their own ways, as well, though maybe not as brazenly as Gemma. (Well, brazen for Victorian days, I suppose.)

There is also a mystery that Gemma is set on solving, and boy howdy did she get the shock of a lifetime as she solves it. Though a tough pill to swallow, Gemma marches on and tries to do what she thinks is best. This world of realms that she’s discovered – this magic that is live within her – is tricky, difficult, and dangerous. She’s intent on mastering it, despite the Rakshana – the guardians – being dead set against this.

As Kartik keeps a watch over her in order to keep Gemma’s visions from getting stronger, she’s drawn to him just as much as she rebels against him. This tiny bit rebellious will-they-won’t-they romance is very well balanced, as it doesn’t take over the entire plot. I quite like that. Their acquaintance is dark and steamy, and just the right amount to push forward, without being overwhelming. Gemma’s main objective is still learning about the magic, and finding out what happened to her mother.

Gemma is trying desperately to learn as much as she can, from as many sources as she can, to better understand her role in this entire endeavor – and do avoid the wrath of Circe at all costs. Her adventures have just begun as she must balance being an exemplary lady of Spence, as well as one of the new Order. Hopefully, this is a balancing act that doesn’t cost her any more than it already has.

The Diamond Conspiracy – Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

•June 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

mpo - diamond conspiracy

Synopsis

For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment…

Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself…

My Thoughts

Warning for strong language – HOLY SHIT.

That, dear friends, was my very last thought reading this book. It is a perfect summation of my feelings throughout the majority of the events that transpired within these pages, because, holy shit, I could not let my guard down for a moment! (I do apologize for such strong language, but sometimes it’s necessary [my partner says I curse like a pirate, anyway.])

We left off with Books and Braun finally – FINALLY! – getting their act together and properly becoming a most charming, and sassy, couple. Watching them work through problems, and never once faltering in their utter devotion to each other was a treat! They’re in this for the long haul, and it’s apparent that neither would have it any other way. Huzzah!

Amidst the Ministry falling, the Queen losing her marbles, and the most devious manipulation I’ve seen in a while, there is never a dull moment. The Ministry finds allies in the most peculiar places, and secrets that were safeguarded for decades come to light. There are moments where it takes a second to wrap your head around everything. It felt rather like someone had dumped everything on my head and stated “Here, have all this information, see what you can do with it, yeah?” and sauntered off into the sunset. Nevertheless, clues come together to form one brilliant twist after another.

The manipulation and trickery orchestrated by the puppeteer is extremely intricate. Without much fuss, he’s managed to get to the Queen, as well as her most loyal aides and allies. The ending blow-up is such cacophony, one would think there are no surprises left. One would be dead bloody wrong. This cliffhanger sent such a shiver up my spine, my teeth started chattering.

The Ministry still has to pick itself up, and rise from the ashes as they set to right what this puppeteer attempted to annihilate. It’s going to be an interesting ride getting there.