DNF I read about 150 pages before I put this aside--not because it's a bad book by any means, but because I mostly felt indifferent to it.
Firebrand s...moreDNF I read about 150 pages before I put this aside--not because it's a bad book by any means, but because I mostly felt indifferent to it.
Firebrand starts off with a great scene: a boy named Seth watches as his brother and his brother's lover are about to be put to a painful death, and he's helpless to stop it. All he can do is choose whether to end their lives to spare them the pain. The book then takes us back to Seth's childhood, where his history with his brother and his troubled relationship with his parents shape who he becomes.
I really liked some of the writing, and found the story engaging enough at first. The strongest and most interesting part of the book is definitely the relationship between Seth and his older brother Conal, whom he idolizes and resents at the same time. But eventually it felt as though too many characters were randomly introduced as an afterthought, and there wasn't enough transition between scenes. Power struggles, evil queens, kingdoms at stake--that's all old hat, you know? It's the human interplay that makes the most difference to me.
I peeked through the last couple of chapters and did find it interesting how the author handled the way Sithe's relationships play out versus those of humans. (view spoiler)[Seth's lover Catriona eventually gets old and dies. Which is an interesting choice to include, and obviously sad in theory, though not written to incite nearly as much heartbreak as someone like me would wish. (hide spoiler)] It wasn't really enough to keep me going, however, though hardcore fantasy fans might like this more than I did.
PS--This is definitely an adult book, so don't be misled by the age of the protagonist.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
3.5 stars Confession time: as someone who is still suffering from Archer withdrawals a big fan of the first two Hex Hall books, I was a little nervous...more3.5 stars Confession time: as someone who is still suffering from Archer withdrawals a big fan of the first two Hex Hall books, I was a little nervous about the prospect of a spinoff series. I'm happy to report that School Spirits finds the author back in fine form, this time with a character that was introduced in Spell Bound.
Remember the girl who talked to the Torin, the guy stuck in the mirror? Izzy Brannick is now fifteen, and her family has a long history as hunters of supernatural creatures. After she and her mom move to a new town in Mississippi, she starts to investigate mysterious hauntings at her high school under the guise of membership in the PMS (hah!) or Paranormal Management Society. The problem is, this case is more complicated than it initially appears--and it doesn't help matters that Izzy has no idea how she's supposed to fit in and be a "normal" teenager.
Written with the author's signature bouncy prose and effervescent humor, School Spirits is presented with more of a traditional mystery framework than the Hex Hall series, which really helps with driving the story forward and keeping the plotting clean. Izzy's Nancy Drew shenanigans are well-balanced with her family life, her relationships with her new friend Romy, and her relationship with her mom. I also liked Dex, a highly amusing fellow who charms Izzy with his witty quips and flamboyant personality. He makes for a rather unconventional love interest, and it's going to be interesting to see where that story arc goes next with the various complications thrown in their way.
You will have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief with how things end with the two of them, by the way; and after setting up such a good pace for the story, the ending also felt a bit rushed to me. But this series is definitely off to a fun start, and Izzy is a heroine who's easy to root for. Will she find out what happened to her sister Finley? What's really going on with Torin? I MUST KNOW. It's vexing to have to wait a year or more to find out these answers, but with such a cheerfully brisk narrative and colorful array of characters, you can be sure I'll be among the first in line for the next installment in this series.
This is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven Boys...moreThis is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven Boys, the students of Aglionby Academy are still on the hunt for a legendary sleeping Welsh king. This time, while we continue to get perspectives from multiple POVs, the story primarily focuses on Ronan Lynch, a troubled and angry 17-year-old who pulls dark objects out of his dreams. But when ley lines running through their sleepy town are awakened, incredible power is unleashed, and none of the boys are prepared for the ordeal that awaits them.
I liked The Raven Boys so much that I was nervous going into this one--but I think this book actually surpasses its predecessor, in no small part because of its sharp-eyed character sketches. Adam still worries me. I feel tremendous love and pity for poor Noah. I'm eager to learn more about the entire Lynch clan. And I'm finally starting to feel something for Gansey, as well as to feel the lovely pulse of connection between him and Blue. Add to that a pair of compelling, nuanced antagonists in The Gray Man and one willfully destructive Joseph Kavinsky, and this world is filled with a host of unforgettable players. The author has the ability to create such fierce depth of feeling towards her characters with a single phrase such as "a teddy bear of a boy," in reference to Ronan's younger brother Matthew, whom you immediately want to cuddle and protect all at once.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. I have so many crazy theories about where this quest will lead, and I desperately want to know what happens to everyone. Aside from thrilling, nightmarish scenes, gorgeous prose, wild revelations, shocking deaths, and clever humor, there are also delicious layers to this novel that you may not fully appreciate until after you're through, including distinct symbolism (both subtle and powerful), sly hidden jokes, and a deep complexity of thought and plot and emotion. It's such an interesting meditation on the power of dreams and how hidden desire can influence our actions, from Ronan's waking nightmares to his mother and father's unusual relationship to...more yearnings that I won't spoil for you.
I could also write an entire essay about how The Dream Thieves contains one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking kisses in the history of kisses. (Yes. The ENTIRE HISTORY of kisses.) It's a delicate moment that's suffused with the breathless wonder of discovery, and it's all the more poignant because it's entirely unexpected, and because you are well aware of its context for both parties. Tears are literally welling up in my eyes again as I write this, because that type of longing and sadness pulls so deeply at my heart.
There isn't any way for a single review to do justice to this book, but this line from The Dream Thieves sums up its own story rather nicely:
Magic was real, magic was real, magic was real.
And it runs deep and true through Maggie Stiefvater's veins.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S There's a huge spoiler-tagged discussion going on down below with theories on what everything MEANS, if you'd care to speculate. But please use spoiler tags!
I also participated in a rather epic chat with several authors about this book, including Sarah Ockler and R.J. Anderson--and let me tell you, there are no better companions to discuss a story like this with than a bunch of smart, passionate authors who are just as excited about the book as you are. One of the mind-blowing takeaways from that discussion: consider the characters as tarot cards.
"The Law of Suspects" by Maureen Johnson - 4 stars To my great surprise, this was my favorite of the short stories. I've always liked stories...more3.5 stars
"The Law of Suspects" by Maureen Johnson - 4 stars To my great surprise, this was my favorite of the short stories. I've always liked stories where people are trapped in a place with a crazy person a la The Shining, and this one was a great YA horror version. It captured the feeling of intense horror and was a bit twisted all at once. I haven't read anything by this author before, but I'm looking forward to doing so now. I liked the writing style and the feel of the French countryside as well.
Cassandra Clare's "The Glass House" 4 stars This is a lovely, haunting, gothic sort of a story, and a close second favorite. The writing is moody and evocative, and I liked the framework of the story as well as the resolution.
"I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" by Claudia Gray was pretty cute. 3 stars
"Crusin" by Sarah Mlynowski - maybe 3 stars. Pretty predictable and fairly shallow, with ordinary writing, but a decent read.
"Nowhere is Safe" by Libba Bray - 2 stars, maybe less. This story was far too busy with unimportant details and stuffed with characters and meaningless events for a short story. There's definitely an art to the short story, and I'm afraid this one didn't do it for me. I actually didn't even read the last 20 pages or so due to lack of interest, I just skimmed the ending to see what happened.
Overall, a quick, entertaining read for spooky nights...especially if you happen to be vacationing somewhere desolate.(less)
3.5 stars I love the way Amy Garvey writes. In the middle of a book about girl who brings back her boyfriend from the dead and here in its sequel, the...more3.5 stars I love the way Amy Garvey writes. In the middle of a book about girl who brings back her boyfriend from the dead and here in its sequel, there is a keen sweetness of emotion that swirls through the pages in a way that thoroughly pleases my sensibilities. Those who appreciated the surprisingly thoughtful, sad rumination on first love and sudden death in Cold Kiss will likely find this sequel to be just as appealing. While it offers a more straightforward paranormal story, its sincerity and prose still elevate it well above the typical YA fare.
She sees me, and even from all the way across the room, the weight of her gaze is a tangible thing. A touch, but not a heavy one--instead, it's sort of fond, fingers against the cheek of someone you love.
After the slow, somber mood of the last book, Wren is finally beginning to find some joy in her growing supernatural abilities. From the dizzying thrill of flying to the wonder of creating a lovely snowfall, she's testing both her abilities and her own courage. The problem is, her boyfriend Gabriel is uncomfortable with her powerful gift, and his seeming rejection of who Wren is sends her running to explore the more dangerous, untested side of her abilities with Bay and Fiona (who has a cotton candy cloud of hair), an alluring, mocking pair with secrets of their own.
Here are a few descriptions and passages that I really liked:
Being with Gabriel isn't like that at all. It's a taste of the cleanest, sweetest water you can imagine, cool and pure and addictive, rushing in to fill every crack, soothe every smarting, rough place inside.
Then he looks up and sees me, and his smile stretches out, warm and slow, the truth of it right there in his strange gray eyes. Happiness is a sudden star flare, so perfect it takes my breath away...I push my hair out of my eyes and let it come. It's nearly transparent, hovering in midair--a photograph, square and old-fashioned. The rippled edges make it look as if it's been torn from a sheet of paper. It flutters to the floor, and Gabriel, Jess, and Dar smile out at me from its face, soft and blurred like a wet watercolor. It's a picture torn right out of my head.
If you don't get the picture by now, this is a very romantic book and a very romantic author. I love the way Wren appreciates the many small details that make her boyfriend precious to her, the way Gabriel knows how to pick just the perfect gift for Wren, and how absolutely appealing their relationship is. (It's not all saccharine sweetness, though, there's definite humor and a bit of bite to the dialogue, too.) I also like the secondary relationships with Wren and her parents, though Robin got on my nerves a bit with her incessant complaints.
Like its predecessor, Glass Heart is fairly light on the paranormal aspects, however, and so it doesn't feel as well-rounded as I would have hoped. Just a little more time spent on the actual supernatural events and their aftermath would have been great, as many times we're brought to the brink of what promises to be an exciting moment, only to have the too-short chapter end and then we hear the event briefly recounted at a later date. Perhaps a stronger outlining phase and adding more detailed physicality would have helped with carrying the momentum and sustaining the reader's excitement.
I also think that in trying to expand the focus of the first story, this book takes on more relationships and issues without exploring most of them with enough depth, with the exception of Wren's relationships with Gabriel and with her parents. Those are, however, done very well, and I'm still love to see what the author does next.
There's a beautiful, sensitive heart in both of Amy Garvey's young adult books thus far, and that's the most elusive quality of all to capture in a novel. Finding a clearly defined, strong structure to carry that heart to us should be a fairly easy feat to accomplish.
Recommended for fans of Cold Kiss. An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
P.S. Isn't the cover gorgeous? So icy and pretty! It's one of my favorites of this year.(less)