Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Reviews

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

Library Copy

(****)

cover, young adult, series, fantasy books

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

The Raven Boys, like every other Maggie Stiefvater novel, was highly anticipated by librarians, readers, and booksellers alike. I knew next to nothing about it, but requested it at my library nonetheless. I hadn’t liked her last book, The Scorpio Races, very much even though the premise was wonderful. With The Raven Boys I enjoyed it far better, as the pace wasn’t muddled and the plot lines were much clearer.

As with all of Maggie Stiefvater’s writings, again with this one I felt “something” was missing from the prose. I have yet to pin down exactly what that “something” is, but I had noticed that it was missing when I read the Shiver series, and again with the Scorpio Races. The closest that I could possibly say that “something” would be is a fullness of character, and character settings. Like there are only four or five characters in the entire world throughout each book, and no other life exists outside of this little world inside the book. Where in their world there are no grocers or bankers, or families or other friends in school, or secondary characters that might add a fuller sense of place.

The one book of hers that I noticed had a bit more fullness than the others was Linger, and mainly that had to do with Cole St. Clair’s storyline adding to the Grace and Sam storyline.

The premise of The Raven Boys was unique, and not something you usually see in today’s Young Adult Fiction market. With that being said, I cannot wait for my copy of The Dream Thieves, the second book in the Raven Cycle.

Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Reviews

 Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Original Publication Date: July 13, 2010 

Library Copy 

Scholastic Press

Overall Grade: 5 out of 5 stars (*****)

Under the barrage of werewolf/supernatural romance that is seen in the Young Adult genre today, The Wolves of Mercy Falls series is a refreshing new package on an old thing. In Shiver, I was intrigued by the aesthetics of the book—the midnight blue ink on the pages, and the cut paper silhouette cover where the the wolf in the foreground was barely discernible from the blue leaves. Inside, at the beginning of each chapter, the author listed the temperature for each character’s point of view. It was something I had never seen before, so Shiver had to be read. An interesting, scientific take on the “werewolfism” disease…

Linger continues Sam and Grace’s storyline, with the interesting addition of Cole and Isabel. I felt in Linger, that Sam and Grace fell a little flat, except toward the end. Cole however was an amazing character. He was just the kind of person that sucked you into his world, and shut you out of it again when it got difficult for him. He was lifelike, and enthralling. Maggie Stiefvater did a fantastic job of giving him a believable personality, and with the link he has to suicide and the music industry paints a fairly accurate picture of the life of a musician—minus the werewolf bit.

It has been quite a long time since a book like that has pulled me so desperately into its world, and wouldn’t let me go until I was on the other side of the story. Linger was definitely more interesting than Shiver, in spite of the presence of Sam and Grace’s uneasy romance.

Vampire Deluge: Surviving the YA section

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I recently came across this vlog from a friend of mine and it is an honest (if swearing-laced) view of the YA section at her local bookstore. She comments on the literal deluge of vampire books in the teen market.

Note: This video contains slight cursing.

Do you think the YA market should move on to a new topic of interest? Is everyone through with the Twilight-copycats yet?

So you want to be a writer: Living in the written word 25/8.

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I get asked this question a lot:

“I’ve always wanted to write a book but I just can’t finish anything I start! What should I do?”

Well, before I dispense of my answer to this question I would like to impart the wisdom of Ron Dakron on how to be “Zen” with your writing.

“Samurai Poet Rules (Go Forth Grashopper)”

Ron Dakron

1. Write like you’ll live forever — fear is a bad editor.
2. Write like you’ll croak today — death is the best editor.
3. Fooling others is fun. Fooling yourself is a lethal mistake.
4. Pick one — fame or delight.
5. The archer knows the target. The poet knows the wastebasket.
6. Cunning and excess are your friends.
7. TV and liquor are your enemies.
8. Everything eternal happens in a spare room at 3 a.m.
9. You’re done when the crows sing.

 

The first thing I can tell you is: get comfortable with yourself, because honey, you will be spending a lot of time by yourself if you choose to go the road less travelled and become a writer. Writers live lonely lives, but fascinating ones at that because all of the greatest adventures in mankind…happen in their head. 

Ask yourself if you are willing to be a walking contradiction. Why? Because as a writer you have to be both an introvert and an extrovert, able to read people easily and shut them out completely when necessary. You have to be in the “in” crowd, yet revel in the “out” crowd. See what I mean?

If, after a lot of soul searching, you find that you are willing to have no social life, essentially consider writing as a job, and never get a tan from all of the time spent indoors… then welcome. We’re glad to have you. 🙂

Writing is a very hard job to do, and it requires focus and thought 25/8. Which means, thinking about characters and plotting your story 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Here are a few things that I like to keep in mind whenever I’m working on a project:

1. Writing is my priority.

2. Keep your voice and writing genuine.

3. Writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process.

4. Editing is the hardest part of the process.

5. Don’t pull my hair out if I find something in the plot or character isn’t working.

6. Always have pen and paper. No matter what!

7. The Internet is my best friend and worst enemy. It is a major asset to my research but distracting when I watch Lady Gaga videos on YouTube when chapter 7 should be edited.

8. Finish the project you are working on and don’t get distracted when a “new” book  idea pops into your head. Write the idea down in a seperate notebook, then keep plugging away at your current project until it is finished.

 All in all, you have to love the written word in order to spend 25/8 on it. So, for those of you who want to know, “Okay, but how do I start my novel?”

It’s simple.

1. Relax. It is easy to be overwhelmed with plot ideas and character names, etc. but a relaxed brain works way better than a tense, worrying brain.

2. Read a lot. Read books that inspire you to follow your dreams, favorite books from childhood, new bestsellers and anything you can get your hands on from Harry Potter to Pride & Prejudice.

3. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas. The more you daydream and think, the more ideas you will have.

4. Find out where you feel the most comfortable to write. Some writers like to do the cliche thing and write at a busy cafe, while others hole themselves up at home with their Macbooks. Nothing is ever wrong if it gets you results. Write where you can be at peace with yourself and concentrate.

5. Find out what you are comfortable writing with: typing it on a computer or writing it long hand a la Virginia Woolf. I prefer to do the latter, but unlike Ms. Woolf I actually don’t need to stand and walk while writing. I feel my writing is more organic that way, plus a notebook never needs batteries or disk space.

6. Find a subject that excites you, preferably something you know nothing about. Writing is a journey, and if you know all about a subject you will get bored quickly.

 Writing is therapeutic, and if you devote yourself to the characters in your head then I promise it will be a rewarding experience when you have your finished manuscript in your hands.

And darling, the rest is up to you…

Send in your writing questions and I will be more than happy to answer them!

 

 

Enter to Win Advance Review Copies of “Linger” by Maggie Stiefvater!

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Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love — the light and the dark, the warm and the cold — in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie’s blog.

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

 
 
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Review
“Shiver” is the story of Grace, a girl who is entranced by the wolves appearing at the edge of her backyard and has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her life when she was attacked by that same pack years earlier. She discovers that these are no ordinary wolves, and were once humans themselves, lost in the cold months as lupine beasts in the woods of Mercy Falls, Minnesota.
A classmate of Grace’s disappears and is assumed to have been killed by the wolf pack, although no body was ever found. Through the hunt for these beasts by the townspeople, Grace meets Sam Roth, and she suddenly realizes that he’s the same wolf that she’d watched on the edge of her yard for the past six years, his yellow eyes bright and feral. He struggles against the “shiver”—the state he goes into before changing back into a wolf if his body turns cold.
“Shiver” is classified as a paranormal-romance, a genre that largely did not exist ten years ago. Although this kind of YA fiction book is a bit overused in the wake of the Twilight Phenomenon, the cover drew me in and I gave it a try.

Werewolves and their perspective have been used in Stephenie Meyer’s series before, but Maggie Stiefvater gave the werewolf a different twist, so I felt that I wasn’t reading the Twilight Saga all over again.

At times, the characters draw the reader in with their first-person narratives in alternating chapters. I felt the cold that Sam feels upon his skin and his desire to stay human for Grace. I sensed Grace’s urgency for spending time with Sam before it’s too late, and her need to find him a cure. Throughout several sequences however, the author’s voice was too present, and the characters were held at arm’s length, marionettes instead of “real” teenagers.

The characters had moments when they were a bit idyllic and used “teen speak” more often than necessary, in turn jolting the reader from the storyline to focus on the cheesy descriptions or metaphors.

The storyline at its base is a love story, and though it has honest flaws in its execution, I was entranced by the struggle for Sam to stay human. I rooted for him to triumph over the obstacles that he faced, and hoped he would have his happily ever after in the end. Grace’s character could have been stronger, but love drove her forward and heightened the pace of the novel.

The cleverness of the temperatures at the beginning of each chapter were a great addition to this new work by Maggie Stiefvater, and the next book in the series “Linger” will surely be on my to-read list.

Maggie Stiefvater is a Young Adult fiction author residing in rural Virginia. Her other published works include “BALLAD” and “LAMENT“.
 
 
 
For more information on Ms. Stiefvater, please visit her blog
 
 
 
 
and website