February 27, 2017

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, 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 is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher 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 doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked this up. I have been hearing about Maggie Stiefvater for years now (with that unforgettable name) and somehow thought of her books as vaguely Twilight-esque. So it was with pleasure that I discovered after a few pages in the caliber of Stiefvater’s writing. Her imagery is exactly what I needed when I set out for a reading escape. And having looked up her background and discovered her to be an artist, her painterly eye made sense. She has a strong and individual style that seduces the reader.

“April days in Henrietta were quite often fair, tender things, coaxing sleeping trees to bud and love-mad ladybugs to beat against windowpanes. But not tonight. It felt like winter.”

The writing enchants- but what about story? The framework of teens from opposite sides of the track is not new but – a group of boys from an affluent boys’ boarding school and the daughter in family of psychic women makes for a something intriguing. Lead me on, pied piper, tell me more. This is a quest book, about ley lines and a sleeping king, unexpectedly Celtic in its heart, wrapped in a young adult bow.

Stiefvater peopled her narrative with complex characters of depth. And it is these characters of Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah, as well as the fantastic “coven” of Maura, Calla, and Persephone that clinched it for me. Not only did I love hanging out with all of them, I want to know everything that happens to them stat. Before I even finished reading this one, I already downloaded the next.

Bonus: The Raven Boys has a quote after my own heart:

“Really, she didn’t know if she’d truly like to find out more about the pygmy tyrant. She just liked the name, because, for a five-foot-tall girl, pygmy tyrant sounded like a career.”    

February 20, 2017

Book Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Source: Vine

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

I had heard so many raves about I Let You Go that I immediately gravitated towards I See You, which promised to be a brilliant and intense thriller. 

I See You certainly had an intensity and edge-of-my-seat quality for much of the narrative. The premise centers around the fact that humans are such creatures of habit that we could easily be stalked without knowing about it. Like the women in the book, I take the same route to work, park in the same parking spot, walk the same paths and streets every single day. With some horror, I realized as I read that I could be one of these women – being watched without knowing it and vulnerable to stalking … or worse. I See You certainly touched a nerve in that aspect and yet I eagerly followed the dual narratives of Zoe, the victim, and Kelly, the cop. 

I knew there was going to be a twist at some point and I raced to the end, as one by one my hypotheses fell by the wayside. Suspense was at it’s highest and once I reached the twist, I stopped short with a big “Huh?” It was certainly unexpected but so much so that I just could not buy it. Then, just as I was scratching my head, another twist slammed into that one so you get two for the price of one. 

I’m not sure why I resisted the series of narrative surprises, only that it felt like it came out of nowhere and did not flow with the rest.  However, I am sufficiently intrigued by the raves for I Let You Go, the author’s first book, to pick that one up and see if it lives up to the hype.

February 13, 2017

Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Source: Netgalley

Publication Date: February 14, 2017


Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I tried to steel myself from expecting too much of Gilded Cage – despite being drawn to its irresistible premise of an alternate England where the aristocrats had magical gifts and the commoners did not – thus leading the un-magical to serve as slaves for 10 years.  Any skepticism I had for this world was vanquished by the prologue, which intrigued and tugged at my emotions so much that I made quick work of the rest of this book. It took me two days, mostly because it was during the workweek but I did tear through it nevertheless.

I most emphatized with Luke, who was ripped from his family to serve his slave days in a terrible industrial town of backbreaking work. There, despite the utter bleakness of his situation, Luke comes into his own as a rebel against an unjust society. Abi, I wanted to shake sometimes, as she predictably, too-quickly fell in love with one of the aristocrats she served. Her storyline did not interest me as much until the very end when she does something completely unexpected --- and left me hanging, wanting the next book so badly… 

To balance the slaves’ perspectives are some of the aristocrats’ points of view, one of whom was so perplexing and ambiguous that he was easily a dark horse character – is he a villain? A good guy? Arghh, when will I know?!

As you can tell, this book swept me away and riveted me at a time when I sorely needed an escape. I had tried and discarded half a dozen other books but somehow, Gilded Cage was the one which caught my imagination and would not let go. Eagerly anticipating the sequel!

February 6, 2017

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Source: Vine

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it…or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is my first Sarah J. Maas novel - and it has been a captivating experience. This novel is a wonderful addition to my collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings. Feyre is a huntress fighting for her and her poor family's survival when a fateful choice in the forest forces her to live with a powerful fairy lord beyond the world of humans. Maas has created a rich fantasy world with some traditional fairy lore, as well as weaving in the legend of Tam Lin, yet her retelling has its own magic. Fast-paced, with some chilling and anxiety-inducing scenes, as well as some heated, sensual ones, I eagerly devoured page after page. While I was dissatisfied with the explanation of the curse/blight, and groaned at the foreshadowing of a love triangle, I would love to see what lies in store for Feyre and Tamlin. Although it is the first of a series, do not let that stop you from enjoying A Court of Thorns and Roses. There are no cliffhangers, just a richly satisfying ending.