Disney Song Book Tag

Y’all. This tag. The Disney Song Book Tag was created by Aria’s Books, and I picked it up from Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

1. “A Whole New World” – Pick a book that made you see the world differently.

A Whole New World

This may not count, because I barely saw the world at all prior to reading these books. However, I’m still choosing the Chronicles of Narnia. My mother read these books to me and my sister starting when I was three, so there’s not much in my life that didn’t get put through the Chronicles of Narnia goggles. I still experience quite the frisson when I see a lamp-post. Esp in the snow.

2. “Cruella De Vil” – Pick your favorite villain.

Gotta be the other mother from Coraline. In case she’s been missing from your nightmares lately, permit me to refresh your memory: SHE HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.

Coraline

3. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love – Pick a book you didn’t want to admit you loved.

Honestly, as I get older and older, I am less and less closety about reading non-prestigious things. I’m going to say P. C. Wren’s Beau Geste and its sequels. They are those Edwardian-era adventure novels that are ideologically troubling on, like, a lot of levels? My fave is problematic.

4. “Gaston” – Pick a character that you couldn’t stand.

The thing is that I love Gaston. Instead of picking a character I couldn’t stand, I shall pick a character who I would hate in real life, but because they’re fictional, I get a huge kick out of spending time with them. And I choose Henry Winter from The Secret History. That dude is creepy? Yet so plausible that he’s capable of convincing people to commit legit murder.

5. “Part of Your World” – Pick a book set in a universe you wish you could live in.

actual footage of me reading Harry Potter

OBVIOUSLY HARRY POTTER.

6. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Describe what the book of your dreams would be like.

Gosh. What would it be like. It would probably have a boarding school. Maybe there would be a dystopian situation? Like a boarding school in a dystopian universe? Plus with lady characters forming bonds and showing up for each other?

7. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – What book character would you marry if you could.

This gif does not match this song. I don’t care. Snow White sucks and Ariel is amazing.

Sherry from Greensleeves. Greensleeves is an amazing book by Eloise Jarvis McGraw that people do not appreciate enough even though it is now available for purchase through your favorite online retailer. Sherry from Greensleeves is curious about everything, reads constantly, and pays attention to other people. Best.

8. “I See the Light” – Pick a book that changed your life.

Oo tough one! Let’s say, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They at least changed my reading life. Prior to reading Sandman, I was not a comics gal. If you’re not a comics gal, I do not recommend making Sandman your gateway drug. It has kind of a challenging panel structure. However, if you do make it through ten volumes of Sandman, you will come out the other end a legit comics gal. So it was with me.

9. “When You Wish upon a Star” – Pick a book you wish you could reread for the first time.

Jane Eyre. Of course, Jane Eyre. No, it’s not my favorite book of all time, but it’s not not my favorite book of all time, and reading it for the first time was, and would always be, an incredible experience.

10. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – Pick a book with some kind of monarchy in it.

How about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall? I read this last year and was surprised to find that it’s wonderful! Mantel is brilliant at bringing historical figures to life, even ones who are larger than life in the first place like Henry VIII. WHY MUST ANNE BOLEYN DIE IN THE SECOND BOOK WHY OH GOD.

11. “Colors of the Wind” – Pick a book with a beautiful colorful cover.

Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily Lily Blue. All of the books in this series actually! But Blue Lily Lily Blue has to be the most beautifulest one of all!

Blue Lily Lily Blue

GLORIOUS. DISNEY SONGS.

The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater

The first part of this post will not contain spoilers for The Raven King, or indeed for any book in this series. I will clearly mark the end of the non-spoiler-y part of the post, so that you can bail before I start shrieking about specific, spoilery things. I mainly want to tell you what I love so much about this book and this series.

The Raven King

The Raven Cycle is about figuring out how to be a person. Or more specifically, how to be a person when your world as it stands is not — is nowhere near — enough. One of our protagonists, Richard Campbell Gansey III,1 is looking for a Welsh king. Everyone else — Adam Parrish, who’s trying to be someone different; and Ronan Lynch, who’s looking for true things in a world full of liars; and Blue Sargent, the only non-psychic in a house full of psychics, who desperately wants something more — finds “looking for a Welsh king” to be a viable means of also searching for what they do want, so they are along for the ride. Mostly what they are all looking for is How To Be.

(how to be free, how to be happy, how to be a friend, how to make your life matter)

That they are sometimes phenomenally bad at these things makes it all the more satisfying as, over the course of the series, they get better and better at being who they want to become. Compare, for instance, the chats about relationships Adam and Blue have in The Dream Thieves versus in The Raven King. Compare the way Gansey is with Blue the first time they meet to the way he is with her — well, any time else, really, I just wanted to remind you of that whole President Cell Phone snafu because it remains one of my favorite scenes in the series. The lovely thing is that Adam and Blue and Gansey are fully themselves in all the versions of all these conversations; they are just getting better at it as they go along, in a lovely organic way.

It’s funny that I started with a spoiler warning, because in fact one of my favorite things about these books is how unspoilable they are. Or conversely how eminently disappointing it would be to go into them spoiled. Maggie Stiefvater’s maybe-best trick as a writer is that she always tells you the spoilers herself, probably more than once, but when the big reveal arrives, you’re still surprised, because she told you what was going on, but you were too distracted by something else she was doing at the same time.

(It makes rereading fun! You reread and you’re like “Oh she told me this exact information in Chapter 4.” “Oh, Ronan has been saying this all along and nobody was paying any attention.”)

Also, there’s magic and creepy trees. If magic and creepy trees are things that interest you. Or Latin. Or Tarot cards.

ONWARD TO THE SPOILERS.

Are you ready now? For spoilers?

Okay. Here they come. In no particular order.

NUMBER ONE. I cannot, and it is unfair for you to expect me to, handle a situation in an already emotional book in which a character I love walks into a creepy forest to meet his own death. You know perfectly well that gives me Harry Potter flashbacks. I had to put the book down for a minute because I couldn’t face the possibility of Gansey being alone when he died, even though I knew from previous visions that at least Blue was going to be there with him.

NUMBER TWO. I love it that Glendower was dead, and there was no favor, and the search brought them to a dead (ha ha ha) end. Mostly because I’m nihilistic that way, but also because it wasn’t ever really about Glendower in the first place (see above). It was about these people and their friendship and what they were growing into. Even Ronan knows that Gansey could have found Glendower any time he wanted, if he’d wanted to. It actually was the journey, and not the destination, that mattered.

NUMBER THREE. Everything about everything relating to Blue and Gansey, and Adam and Ronan, was perfect in every way. But my favorite thing, probably, was this:

He said, “I thought this was a night for truth.”

“Ronan kissed me,” Adam said immediately. The words had clearly been queued up. He gazed studiously into the front yard. When Gansey didn’t immediately say anything, Adam added, “I also kissed him.”

I don’t know why that amuses me so much. It’s just such an Adam thing to add, while he is talking to Gansey about, basically, how best to be careful of Ronan and what to do about it all.

Relatedly, I love Adam the best. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ, which if you take a gander at a few of those “Which Harry Potter/Star Wars/Marvel Universe character are you?” Myers-Briggs charts, you will find is the personality type of mainly fictional psychopaths and life-ruiners. So it was nice to have such an exceptionally INTJ-y INTJ character like Adam to who was neither a psychopath nor a life-ruiner.2

NUMBER FOUR if I may make one tiny criticism. I am not sure we and the other characters had enough time to deal with their losses. Gansey is dead for like two seconds before they bring him back to life, and even though I find the manner in which he is brought back to life quite satisfying, I would have liked that emotional beat to matter a little more and a little longer. Like maybe if Henry Cheng hadn’t been there for it? And if they’d had to take Gansey home and once they got home he said the thing about them being magicians?

Also, and mainly, nobody got a chance to grieve Noah. I guess it’s fine that they never knew he’s the one who saved Gansey — I actually like it when there’s important pieces of the story that important characters never find out — but I’m sad we didn’t see them recognizing that he was gone gone, and having the chance to grieve. And after he was so sweet to Ronan.

NUMBER FIVE, Adam borrows Ronan’s car to go see his family at the end. (I assume his Hondayota finally bit the dust?) That Adam let Ronan lend him a car, and that Ronan let Adam go do this scary feelings thing on his own, says everything about how much these two characters have changed over the course of the books. What a great series.

You may now feel free to squeal at me in the comments about any and all of the books in this series.

  1. I like to call him RG3, even though the overlap between Raven Cycle readers and minor quarterback carers-about is probably not that huge so there are probably very few people who would find this amusing.
  2. My mum doesn’t like Adam. I identify strongly with Adam. Does this mean she doesn’t like me? Who knows.

It’s Monday, April 25th. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, and I had a smashing weekend! A good friend came to town so we got to break bread (and have some drinks) together and shoot the shit on Saturday. The bookstore had a surprise for me which I will share with you in a moment, although if you know me well or follow me on Twitter you can probably guess what it was. And I made French onion soup for the family on Sunday, and it came out excellent.

Oh, I went to the library too. We don’t need to talk about that. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.

So, what am I reading?

monday4-25

Well, I am plowing my way through my mother’s copy of HAMILTOME, in the hopes that I can finish it before she notices I swiped it. My local bookstore put The Raven King out on the shelves a few days early, which I confess was the outcome I had hoped for, and I purchased it feeling very wicked indeed and expecting at every moment that the booksellers would say HEY THAT BOOK IS NOT OUT YET and take it away from me. I’m trying to make it last because I’m going to be well sad when this series is over. And finally, I’m reading Jowhor Ile’s And After Many Days, which despite my casting it in the position of “vegetables to eat because I cannot eat dessert Raven King all the time,” is quite, quite excellent.

I want to quote like sixteen things from The Raven King, because I love what Maggie Stiefvater is doing with this world and these characters, but I will spare you. I will just say, for now, that there are some triplets in this book who are the light of my life.

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

Waiting on Wednesday: Spring YA

You know what’s happening in my neck of the woods, team? Stinging caterpillars is what. They are a pernicious blight upon the land. They fall from the sky onto your head when you are just trying to catch your bus, and their fuzzy tops sting your fingers if you try to brush them off. The spring is wet and full of terrors.

LOOK HOW GROSS

All that consoles me in this trying time is the evergreen wellspring1 of YA fiction, of which there is a plethora this spring season. Here are three that I’m particularly looking forward to, in celebration of Waiting on Wednesday.

Chasing the Stars, Malorie Blackman

Chasing the Stars

Perhaps you read the Noughts and Crosses series when they came out a million years ago, and perhaps since then you have wondered what Malorie Blackman was up to, since she evidently wasn’t writing any more books. You have been played for a fool, I’m sorry to say. Malorie Blackman has been writing books this whole time, and America has not been goddamn publishing them.

Well may you shake your fist at the heavens. America still isn’t publishing Malorie Blackman, but on April 21st, a new book of hers comes out in the UK that is genderswapped Othello in space. I’ll repeat that for the people in the back: GENDERSWAPPED OTHELLO IN SPACE. You may repair to the Book Depository for your copy.

Places No One Knows, Brenna Yovanoff

Places No One Knows

Admittedly I have been up and down on Brenna Yovanoff, but I feel great about her new book. It’s about an overachieving girl and an underachieving boy and the small bit of magic that brings them together. I have been promising a heaping helping of darkness and emotional honesty, with a splash of fantasy. This one drops in late May, by which time I dearly hope the goddamn caterpillars will all be gone.

THE RAVEN KING THE RAVEN KING THE RAVEN KING

The Raven King

Note: The actual title of the book is The Raven King once. I just said it three times because I’m very, very excited to read it. Will Gansey die? Probably but I don’t believe it’s permanent. Will birds do things birds don’t normally do? Almost certainly.

If you got excited the other day when I said “sociological speculative fiction,” then your luck’s in because I stole that term from Maggie Stiefvater, who used it to describe these very books. Start with The Raven Boys and work your way through the sequels, and then you won’t even have to wait very long to read the fourth one. LUCKY YOU because I have been waiting all this whole year and on April 26th at last my wait will be at an end.

Tell me, friends: What are you looking forward to this season? And also, what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about spring?

  1. YOU’RE a mixed metaphor

#BBAW: Book Recommendations

Today is the hardest topic of all the topics for Book Blogger Appreciation Week (hosted, again, by me and Ana and Andi and Heather, over at the Estella Society); or I should say rather, the very easiest. To wit:

Day 3 What have you read and loved because of a fellow blogger?

What haven’t I read and loved because of a fellow blogger? Before blogging, my reading life was on its way to becoming a tragic wasteland. I had exhausted the recommendations of my friends and relations and was reduced to — this is not a joke — examining college syllabi for various English classes, under the assumption that they would contain recommendations for New Classics.

Since then, all my newly acquired favorite authors have been by way of fellow book bloggers, and I am basically dead from gratitude. Perhaps I would one day have discovered Helen Oyeyemi, because she wins the prizes and is a literary darling (in a minor way); but who can say if ever I would have discovered some of the, for instance, YA authors that I now cherish? Maggie Stiefvater, Kekla Magoon, Patrick Ness? Would I only have discovered them when movie adaptations of their books were made?

Not to mention (but oh, I shall mention it) the curating of comic books done for me by my fellow book bloggers! Where would I have learned which Marvel comics to read? Would Paper Girls be on my TBR list now? (Doubtful.) Would I know about the Tamakis? Princeless? WOULD I?

Stop by the Estella Society to see what else people have been reading because of other book bloggers! And as usual, I love you all. Kisses!

 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater

Note: I received an electronic copy of Blue Lily Lily Blue from the publisher for review consideration.

Second note: Of necessity, I’ll be talking about some of the events of the first two books in this series. If you haven’t read those yet, the short version of this review is that Blue Lily Lily Blue is an excellent third installment in an excellent series. But you probably shouldn’t read on unless you want to be spoiled for the first two. Spoilers for Blue Lily Lily Blue occur only in the bottom, bullet-pointed section, and I’ve marked it that way.

ETA third note: Alice has rightly pointed out that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, this review makes no damn sense. So you should probably skip it. And go read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. That is probably a better use of your time. My reviews of those two books are here and here.

Maura Sargent has been missing for over a month, and Blue and her raven boys are spelunking in Cabeswater, hunting for Glendower and Maura both. The man who hired someone to retrieve the Greywaren has come to town to do the job himself, and he’s brought backup. Blue does not pay reliable enough attention to whether Gansey is or is not wearing a rain-spattered Aglionby sweater at any given moment, and the answer to everyone’s questions seems to be in a mountain cave, which sings into Adam’s deaf ear and whose owner insists that it’s cursed.

Two processes are befalling the characters in the Raven Cycle. First, they are growing from variously broken teenagers into the working-order versions of themselves they have the capacity to become. Second, they are developing into powerfully magical people you don’t want to fuck with. Stiefvater knits these two things so tightly together that they become component parts of one and the same process: As Blue settles more comfortably into the feeling of belonging to her group, she’s also evolving a better and better sense of the value of her particular gifts and the ways she can usefully deploy them. [Adam example redacted for spoiler reasons]

They’re also discovering what readers knew all along: that they’re stronger together than apart. You see this particularly with Adam and Ronan, the two who have tapped into the fierce, unpredictable power of Cabeswater, and who can do some truly remarkable things when they’re working together. There’s a nice symmetry between Kavinsky’s shitty, amoral tutelage of Ronan in The Dream Thieves and Ronan’s clear-eyed confidence in Adam throughout Blue Lily Lily Blue. Both boys are pushing someone else to be more than what they’re currently being; but where Kavinsky was telling Ronan, Be more like me, Ronan’s telling Adam, Be more like you. It is super lovely.

Blue and Gansey are still in the throes of Doomed Love. Maggie Stiefvater does her best to get to me by having Gansey give Blue his coat and then teach her how to drive stick shift, and look, I am not made of stone, standard transmission cars are amazing and nothing says love like making sure the other person is warm enough, but still, so far I like Blue and Gansey separately more than I like them together. Or rather, I like them together fine when they are joking about faxes from hell, and less when they start getting all Doomed about their Love. It’s not them; it’s the Doomedness of their Love.

In terms of plot advancement, quite a lot of important events occur, and some mysteries are solved while many more are raised (including a pretty big one about Gansey’s past). Whether you came for the characters or the search for a Welsh king, there are so many reasons to leave this book feeling satisfied. Stiefvater’s writing is as lovely as ever, with her weird and perfect metaphors, and it has been an extremely long time since I loved any fictional characters the way I love these ones.

Miscellaneous, spoilery observations (this section will include both plotty and emotional spoilers. Big ones. Look away.)

  • Adam and Ronan should always team up to do magic and iniquity together. It is the best.
  • Actually, the real, legitimate best is when Gansey says “Wake up.” I got chills.
  • Why is everyone in the visions switching places? I don’t like that! At least when it was clearly Gansey who was supposed to die, I knew where to focus my worry. Now it just seems like anyone could choose to sacrifice themselves to save anyone else. Adam sees a version of his Gansey-dying vision where it’s Ronan dying instead; the vision Blue and Gansey share in the vision tree swaps two lines of dialogue when it happens in real life.
  • The reveal about Matthew is the Maggie Stiefvaterest reveal ever. She has this brilliant gift for making you not notice that she’s told you a secret several times in a whisper before she tells it out loud. It even feels crazy to call it a spoiler. Of course Ronan dreamed Matthew. It’s been obvious all along, but I just didn’t notice. (Cf. Noah being dead.) (You guys, that is rough for Declan. I feel bad for Declan.)
  • My head knew that there was no chance at all that Ronan and Gansey weren’t going to show up to Adam’s court date, but my heart could not bear the suspense. Maybe it is too Hollywood and too facile a resolution of what Adam has been trying to learn about himself all along, but it’s such a good moment that I don’t care. “Behind him was Ronan Lynch, his damn tie knotted right for once and his shirt tucked in.”
  • “Why me?” “I hear if you want magic done, you ask a magician.”
  • The cliffhanger ending everyone was going on and on about: Piffle. That is not a cliffhanger. They spent the whole book saying Whatever we do we must not wake up that one sleeper, oh man, that would be a terrible catastrophe if that one sleeper got woken up. If you didn’t know that someone was going to wake the sleeper, you must have never read a book before. A cliffhanger is like when the protagonist has just defeated his human foe and then he turns around and there’s a whole alien army bearing down on them all. It is not a cliffhanger if it surprises you zero.

Review: Sinner, Maggie Stiefvater

Note: I received an electronic copy of Sinner from the publisher, through NetGalley, for review consideration.

Coming down from a book hangover after reading The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves was tricky. As of this writing, I think I am mostly okay; I just need to really figure out what my next read is going to be. Alternating Maggie Stiefvater books with unreviewable academic texts is probably not a sustainable direction for the blog (though very fun for me).

Anyway, part of my hangover recovery process was binge-reading The Lesser Works, i.e., Shiver, Linger, and Forever, which are about a girl who falls in love with a wolf. (Luckily for her mental health, the wolf turns out to be a person.) I wasn’t terribly interested in Sam and Grace, but I quite liked the newly made werewolf who shows up in Linger, a drug-addicted suicidal musician called Cole, and I quite liked Grace’s angry friend Isabel, who got impatient when anybody acted wistful and accomplished many helpful deeds in an extremely angry way. Sinner is about them.

Still a werewolf, but generally able — for reasons that aren’t terribly interesting or important — to hang onto his human form, Cole has come to L.A. after Isabel. He’s also there to record a comeback album and be part of a reality show about recording the album, which he hopes will pay him well enough to save him the financial necessity of going on tour, which he’s leary of doing as an addict and also as a werewolf. Isabel is working in a store that pays her not to give a damn and living with her mother and her meek younger cousin Sofia. She is furious with whoever happens to be around, which for much of this book means Cole, about whom she has very very mixed feelings.

I only knew that my heart was galloping so fast that my fingers were numb. Logically, I knew it was just from surprise [at seeing Cole], but I didn’t know if it was like Surprise, here is a cake or Surprise, you’ve had a stroke.

I love reading about angry women. I love it. See also The Woman Upstairs (this is possibly the only Maggie Stiefvater–Claire Messud comparison you will read today).

Unlike Shiver and Linger and Forever, which go into fairly deep detail about the mechanics of being a werewolf, Sinner is light on the supernatural elements. You could swap out Cole’s changing into a werewolf in his bathroom to doing drugs in his bathroom, and the story would carry on in just about exactly the same way. It’s more of a straight romance, as well as a love letter to Los Angeles. Isabel and Cole are each damaged in their own right, and Cole in particular represents aspects of Isabel that she wants to put behind her (the messy lives of the werewolves, the loss of her brother). They are both people who want to get away from who they have been, and be some better version of themselves, and it’s not at all clear that that’s something they can accomplish together.

Though I wouldn’t put this on nearly the same level as The Raven Boys, Stiefvater’s writing has not stopped being wonderful. She’s clever and funny, and she’s also brilliant at producing simple, evocative descriptions that make her settings and characters pop. Like this:

He generally appeared famous and not true and not really present in any given moment. There was always a dissonance between him and his surroundings, as if he were being smoothly and handsomely projected from a distant location.

And this:

But I knew Isabel, and I knew that every single one of her emotions looked like anger from the outside.

Plus, sexual agency! I appreciated this in Shiver as well — teenagers have sex, and Stiefvater isn’t wringing her hands over it. I’m not sure exactly how to phrase this, but basically: Before I had sex for the first time, I had conceived of it as a much bigger deal than it was in some ways, and a much smaller deal than it was in other ways. I think Stiefvater does well here, and in Shiver, at writing about the ways in which sex is and is not actually a big deal in real life.

If you haven’t read the Raven Cycle books yet, go do that; but if you have and you’re just counting down days on your calendar until Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Sinner is a good book to while the time away. I should have maybe read it more slowly, actually. Now I am right back where I was before. Oh when will it be October?

Review: The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater

Note: There will be some spoilers for The Raven Boys in this post, but I will try to steer clear of spoiling The Dream Thieves.

After finishing The Raven Boys, I wanted to go out to the bookstore and buy The Dream Thieves in hardback. But since I almost never buy new hardbacks, and some people didn’t like The Dream Thieves as much, I instead put a sensible hold on the ebook copy at my library. The hold came in (blessedly promptly), and I read twenty pages of it, then the end, and then I went to Barnes & Noble and bought it in hardback. So, ten million stars.

Ronan, the mean one of the raven boys, confesses to his friends at the end of The Raven Boys that he took his pet raven, Chainsaw, out of his dreams. The Dream Thieves is about what else Ronan can learn to take from his dreams. A year and a half ago, Ronan found his father’s body; afterward he and his two brothers were given a few million dollars apiece and a command never to return to their home, where their mother has lived in perfect silence since their father’s death. Now a hit man has come to town to find whatever is making dreams survive, and the ley lines in Henrietta have been fluctuating madly since Adam’s sacrifice in Cabeswater.

[redacted: extremely long treatise on Niall Lynch and his bullshit]

Ronan ends The Dream Thieves with his emotions in slightly better order than he begins, but the opposite thing happens to poor old doomed Gansey. We are starting to see messier sides of him. There’s something tremendously unsympathetic about him picking a fight with Adam at the rich-people party they attend together and then doing this business:

Gansey glanced over his shoulder, furtive. His mouth made the shh shape, but not the sound.

 

“Oh, what?” Adam demanded. “You’re afraid someone will hear? They’ll know everything isn’t perfect in the land of Dick Gansey? A dose of reality could only help these people!”

That last bit is a very teenager thing for Adam to say, I will grant you. However, this is not a nice move on Gansey’s part! Enormous parties where people’s futures are being decided are not good places to initiate serious conversations about emotionally fraught issues! Especially if you are comparatively more at home at rich-people parties than your interlocutor. And also, once you have initiated the emotional conversation, you can’t then shush the other person. It is too late! If you didn’t want to have the conversation, don’t start the conversation. Good heavens.

[redacted: extremely long treatise on Gansey’s character]

[redacted: even longer treatise on that thing in books and movies where one person is like “I don’t want to have this conversation right now,” and it’s totally fair because the place where they are right now is not at all the venue for that conversation, but then the other person is like, “No, we’re talking about it! We’re talking about it now!”, and then they have a big fight, and how that is, like, not at all a constructive way of managing tense issues in a relationship, but everyone thinks it’s okay to do that in real life because they’ve seen it on TV so many times]

In case it’s not clear by this time, I’ll just state for the record that I loved this book as much as I loved the previous one. (Maybe more? Can’t decide.) It’s a huge cliche to say that the characters feel like real people to me, but they do — I keep wanting to gossip about them although they are not real. The redacted treatises were no joke. I had A LOT of things to say. Good to know it’s not just me though:

from Maggie Stiefvater's Tumblr
from Maggie Stiefvater’s Tumblr (click to embiggen)

In closing, that sexy dream Ronan had about Adam undoubtedly launched 1000 slashfics, and that is one of the things about the internet that makes me feel enormously fond of it.

Gin Jenny Becomes a Cog in the Maggie Stiefvater Propaganda Machine (a review of The Raven Boys)

One time a while ago, Anastasia tweeted at me “OMG THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA IS SO GOOD SEND HELP” (The Queen of Attolia is indeed so good you will definitely need help to be sent). While I was reading The Raven Boys, I wanted to take that whole tweet, substitute The Raven Boys for the title, and tweet it approximately every twenty pages. After a rocky start in which I engaged in some cranky grumbling about all the times Ana and Memory and Anastasia and Jill had been simultaneously wrong about a book (NB this has never happened), around page 60 I fell crazy in love with The Raven Boys and could not figure out an appropriate outlet to express the strength of my feelings. That situation is ongoing.

It’s this part, when Gansey, a rich-kid protagonist searching for a Welsh mythological hero, is a prat to Blue, the only non-psychic daughter in a family of psychics, that got me. (He’s just offered to pay her manager back if she takes time out from waitressing to come talk to them, and she’s gotten mad about it. As you would.)

To his credit, the Aglionby boy didn’t speak right away. Instead, he thought for a moment and then he said, without heat, “You said you were working for a living. I thought it’d be rude to not take that into account. I’m sorry you’re insulted. I see where you’re coming from, but I feel it’s a little unfair that you’re not doing the same for me.”

“I feel you’re being condescending,” Blue said.

In the background, she caught a glimpse of Soldier Boy [Ronan] making a plane of his hand. It was crashing and weaving toward the table surface while Smudgy Boy [Noah] gulped laughter down. The elegant boy [Adam] held his palm over his face in exaggerated horror, fingers spread just enough that she could see his wince. . . . Neeve had to be wrong. She’d never fall in love with one of them.

Then Gansey, having attained the peak of unpleasantness of which Gansey is capable, goes away to think about what he has done and try to be better in the future. What can I say, y’all? I am a sucker for characters being successfully schooled on how to be a better person. And also for characters who really want to be a better person.

So the story is this: Blue has been told her whole life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. And this year, she knows from her psychic mother and aunt, the boy who calls himself Gansey is going to die. As much as Blue knows that she should stay away from Gansey and his three prep-school friends, she finds herself drawn into their quest to track down and awaken the sleeping Welsh hero Owen Glendower. But the five of them aren’t the only ones who are looking.

Basically, this story is a conglomeration of things that I hate. When I described it to my sister with the crazed eyes of an evangelist, she said, “Wait, why did you even read this book?” I hate Welsh mythology. I hate doomed prophecy romances, or indeed any doomy prophecies whatsoever. And I hate rich privileged kids who spend their days basking in their privilege and taking helicopters to remote locations. Absolutely nothing about this book appealed to me, yet here I am with the evangelist crazy eyes, trying to formulate words to describe its wonderfulness.

“How do you feel about helicopters?”

There was a long pause. “How do you mean? Ethically?”

“As a mode of transportation.”

“Faster than camels, but less sustainable.”

The heart of it is the characters, Blue and Gansey, and Gansey’s friends: Noah, painfully shy and introverted; Ronan, perpetually angry since the brutal murder of his father a year ago; and Adam, poor and ferociously proud and trying to get away from his abusive father. Put any two of those characters together (well, maybe not Noah so much, but any of the others), and the scene absolutely sings. Particularly if one of them is Gansey, whose friends love him in approximately equal measure to how much they resent him. These are friendships complicated by class, by money, by accents and damage and helicopters, and when these friends have an argument, you are simultaneously on everyone’s side at the same time. It is the BEST.

I accept that by writing this post, I have contributed to raising your expectations about The Raven Boys to levels that may not be reasonable, like that time Aarti finally read the Chaos Walking books but by then we had all raved about them way too much for her to enjoy them. (Still super sorry about that, Aarti!) I’m sorry if because of me you read The Raven Boys and don’t like it. I accept responsibility for that if it happens. But you should still read The Raven Boys, because I bet you will like it a lot.

More than anything, the journal wanted. It wanted more than it could hold, more than words could describe, more than diagrams could illustrate. Longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition. There was something pained and melancholy about it.

Coming soon: I rave about The Dream Thieves and bewail the long days that stand between me and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and the even longer days that stand between me and the fourth-and-final book.

Review: Lament, Maggie Stiefvater

The beginning: The beginning of Lament (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) is not promising, dear friends. A teenager called Deirdre (Dee) meets a mysterious and handsome boy called Luke at a music festival, and they play a stunning duet together. There is some mysterious magical stuff going on, and then Dee and Luke are madly in love forever.

American cover
American cover
British cover
British cover

Cover report: Ooo, this one’s tough. Aesthetically I think the British cover is better, but I hate the tagline, and I think the American cover says more about the contents of the book. I’m giving it to the American cover in a squeaker. I will accept counterarguments.

The end (here there be spoilers so skip them if you don’t want them): The faerie queen who is so awful gets deposed, and Luke something soul something something. (I don’t know, I was bored with Luke’s whole quest to regain his soul.) And James doesn’t die. Hooray. I like James because the faerie all call him “the piper”, which makes me think of Fire and Hemlock and have consequent warm fuzzy feelings.

The whole: I love and trust y’all so I am giving Lament the benefit of the doubt, and I’m going to read Ballad to see if things improve from here. I read it at a slightly unfortunate time, having just made a list of love story fails for the Eleanor and Park podcast, and Lament fell into a lot of those traps. Stiefvater included just enough pleasing details to keep me interested — like the four-leaf clovers that kept appearing on Deirdre’s clothes — and just enough subverting of gender norms to make me curious about the subsequent books. (Further details on this would be spoilers, but suffice it to say that a lady is called upon to rescue a gentleman, rather than the other way around.)

That said, there is a dreadful power imbalance in the central relationship because Luke is a hundreds-of-years-old faerie assassin and Deirdre is a human teenager, but this isn’t addressed. Important question: Doesn’t Luke feel icky about this? Because I would feel icky dating a teenager now, and I am much fewer than hundreds of years older than a teenager.

Also: Insta-love rears its ugly head. There are so many ways to make insta-love suck less, and I don’t understand why authors are too lazy to do them. For instance, the author could signal the reader that this is not as true a love as the starry-eyed teenaged protagonist thinks it is. Or the author could pay lip service to depicting a few reasons why these characters would want to be around each other. I can see why Deirdre would be intrigued by a handsome older guy who plays duets with her and thinks she’s amazing, but it’s not really clear why Luke is so into Deirdre, out of all the girls and women he’s encountered over centuries of work. What makes this one so particular? Is it just her way around a harp? (Because that’s all it seems to be.)

Also: Love triangle. Gag. Over it. I am particularly over it because of the thing where you can see a million sensible reasons why Deirdre would be into James, her age-appropriate joke-making best friend, and like two reasons she would be into Luke. I don’t mind if Deirdre isn’t into James, but if she’s going to be into Luke and they’re going to have James moping about on the sidelines, I’d like to know why. What’s good about Luke besides that he’s following Deirdre around? What’s stopping her from being with James? (Not into him is a valid answer, but say the answer. Westermarck effect is also a valid answer.)

If you are a Maggie Stiefvater fan, would you be willing to make some remarks in the comments about this book vs The Scorpio Races and the Shiver books and The Raven Boys? Is this an early effort that you can tell it’s an early effort and her later books are better?