Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater

raven cycle

 

The Maggie Steifvater series, Raven Cycle, has to be my most favourite feel-good read. As one of my all-time favourite authors, I’ve never disliked a book she has published, this series is possibly her best offering. The series has four books, which are: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King.

A hidden Welsh king that can grant you one wish if you wake him, a group of boys from the prestigious Aglionby Academy (perhaps that attended at different times depending on how you look at it), and a girl from a house full of psychics who has the misfortune of knowing that if she kisses her true love, he will die. How can you go wrong really?

Blue has no psychic abilities herself, but can amplify other people’s psychic energies. She hates the boys from Aglionby Academy, until she meets a group that she doesn’t. Well, almost doesn’t. My favourite character, and written so that you couldn’t help but visualise her quirkiness and strength.

Gansey is our hero (depending on how you look at it) – and his quest is to find Glendower, a Welsh king who is fabled to grant you one wish if you wake him. Gansey is obsessive about the hunt for him and along the way has found a group of friends that will stand by him no matter how strange the going gets. He is also my favourite character, and one that I can see with such vividness, I could almost think of him as a friend I had in high school.

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Ronan is a dreamer, a snake, a weapon, and a live personality that brings a violent edge to their strange friendship group. He also has a full heart, hidden away after he found his father beaten to death. His character is so visceral in description, and his actions always show his real side compared to that he shows. I love this about the writing, because you get both without it being pointed out blatantly.

Adam comes from Henrietta, but gained a scholarship to Aglionby. He struggles with many aspects of his life, and must make a deal with strange forces for their adventure to continue. I love Adam on a different level to Blue and Gansey, because I understand his struggles, and he is the element of realism in the series that is so full of magic and otherness – a hard place to hold in any case.

Adam

Noah rounds them off, holding them together despite the secret he holds. Noah is special, and I will leave it at that.

We do have another character that I wish had been introduced earlier in the series, Henry. Henry is a fabulous character that has brilliant dialogue, but we only meet him in the final book, The Raven King. It’s a shame because his presence throughout the ending is real, yet I don’t include him in the core set of characters. It was an interesting choice to place him where he was.

Our group of kings and magicians, are based in Henrietta, a town on a ley line that is full of possibilities and futures. We meet a lot of other characters along the way, and the author brings them in and tells each story in a way that doesn’t overcrowd in the least.

The author has a beautiful writing style that captures the ambience, the setting, and the telling, in one motion. It’s a style that resonates with how I enjoy reading and imagining the story play out, and I’ve really only ever found one or two authors whose style gets me like that.

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I don’t want to give away too much of the story as it’s such a joy to read! I will say that the quest for their King takes them through magical forests, different times, various dreams, caves, and has many delightful enemies that are fun and outrageously horrible too.

The Greenmantle’s and the Gray Man are examples of fantastic baddies, their dialogue and perspectives are captured with brilliant writing that makes them so terrible that you can’t help hoping they keep appearing, yet also get taken out.

It’s also difficult to describe how such a simple tale, becomes a complex twist of storylines that continue to come back to that one simple thread without being confusing. Yet it does manage this so well. Each instalment bringing with it different elements that create such a rich story, the ending feels so deserved when we get there.

Yet, the ending I’m a bit ambivalent about, and I’d love to know if that was the author’s plan all along, or whether the cult following and followers changed that up a little. I don’t know if it’s possible to love the ending of any series that you love – as that’s exactly what it brings with it, an ending of something you love. So, there’s that that might be playing on my feelings too.

I can’t recommend this series enough. It certainly has a cult following in the older YA, New Adult audiences – and for good reason. If you’ve liked books within that type of area before, then you definitely need to read these.

 

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the TreesThe People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t realise that this was the debut novel of Hanya Yanagihara, I had read A Little Life two years ago, and hadn’t seen this on the shelves at the time. The fact that this is the debut novel only makes it better for me.

I cannot understate how moved I was by this novel. There were parts where I felt my heart actually hurting, I was angry, I was confused, I was frustrated, and I was devastated. It is supreme writing to get me to feel all of those emotions, and still completely love what I’ve read.

The story itself sounds absolutely fantastical – a doctor, Norton Perina, sets out on an expedition with an anthropologist, Tallent, finding what could be the secret to immortality in a lost tribe. The fallout, and the sheer amount of children Norton adopts from the country is extreme – writing it now, it seems even more fantasy than I thought when reading it.

It is the writing that takes this almost ridiculous storyline, and creates a masterpiece with it. Written as Norton’s memoir, with an incredibly biased editor, it takes the story into a clinical, scientific point of view. There is no doubt that these events could take place when it is written with such realism. Norton’s memoir shows him to be a terrible person, but the real question that lingers over the story is whether he is terrible enough to have committed what he is accused of. Because Norton is writing from jail, where he was convicted of a crime that we are almost at odds to know if he was capable of or not.

The descriptions of the island where Norton and Tallent discover a tribe with unnaturally long lifespans are stunning, and his account of his own actions are in their own way, stunning as well. It was impressive that the author managed to keep the tone of the memoir the entire way, because at some points it is hard to read what Norton did, even as he is writing it as if it were nothing, or necessary.

Don’t skip the footnotes, they create their own little story, that then adds to Norton’s.

You must read until the very end, because I still haven’t gotten over the final couple of pages. I can’t decide if I wanted that to happen or not, and I can’t say too much more without hitting spoilers territory.

This is a brutal read, and I struggled at some points to read what was coming next. I liked feeling uncomfortable, and thought it was great that I hated Norton, even though it was his story. I like the interesting way the story was told, and I have never read anything written in that style before. Really clever and masterful writing style.

I loved this novel. Loved it. But it is not a read for the faint-hearted.

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The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray

The Mark and the VoidThe Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find it remarkable that this author can take something so complex and boring to me – finance – and make it this entertaining. I now understand so many economic things that I had heard of, and read up on, but could never quite grasp.

Ireland is a fantastic setting for this story, and it was hilarious – so many laugh out loud moments. Great characters, absurd situations that somehow end up being normal.

As a huge fan of Skippy Dies, I was a little scared this would be terrible – luckily it didn’t disappoint at all. The author has a way of describing each scene in such a way that I can see it without him having gone into much detail at all. I feel like I know each character in the same way I do JK Rowling’s characters, they are so familiar to me in their mannerisms – but they are much more exaggerated in Murray’s book. Great writing style and insightful moments.

Very enjoyable!

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage (The Passage, #1)The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an amazing ride! Couldn’t get enough of this book – I couldn’t even pick it up to read unless I had at least half an hour free as I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down. Amazing characters, amazing story – intriguing and completely take it as-is.
I have to say I was jolted when the first part ended and I was thrown to such a long time later, the characters I loved reading about being so abruptly changed. But, I got used to it and grew to love the next set of characters and next part of the story.
It was all told so well, the action sequences were written perfectly in that they weren’t too long, had just enough detail and left you with a sense of being involved. The ending was not exactly necessary though!

Really enjoyed this book and I would definitely read it again.

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The Cartographer by Peter Twohig

The CartographerThe Cartographer by Peter Twohig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not anything at all like what I was expecting. Really enjoyed the voice of this story – I never felt that it wavered, it was consistent the whole way through which is very impressive. This may however have contributed to my one problem which was that it was a little long and seemed to have too much happening. I liked the tie-ins at the end, but we seemed to have one too many things happen before getting there.
I enjoyed the story itself. Every character was put together so well, and the voice of the narrator was a great mix of fun and funny – with just the right amount of sadness.
Highly recommended!

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Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

Keepsake (True North, #3)Keepsake by Sarina Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zac and Lark’s instalment is just as delicious as I expected it to be.
I found Zac’s character to be an interesting choice for the author from the start of the series. Being a kicked out of a cult is a pretty out-there backstory. Zac’s emerging story is written so well, and his thoughts and misgivings are sweet and insightful. His lack of knowledge around relationships and love aren’t corny or naive either, it is truthful and a little sad. His life with the Shipley’s is lovely, and I liked that Isaac and Leah have more air-time in this story as well.
Lark’s trauma is also well-written. Bowen puts a lot of effort into her research of subject matter, and it shows in her portrayal of PTSD in Lark’s life since returning from her abduction. I like an author that puts in that type of effort, as the writing reflects real knowledge, and so is that much more readable. Her old and new self war with each other, and as the story progresses we get to see so much of what it’s like to live as two people after a life-changing event.
May’s behaviour was a little radical, and sort of came out of nowhere for me. This was the only jolting part of the book, as it was clear that at some point May will have her own instalment and this was setting up for that. There had been no conversations in the previous two books that would indicate that May’s character was having the issues she was in this book.
Apart from that, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Despite how sad I am at having to write this, I did not finish this book. I love, love, love the author so much – and I tried so hard to enjoy the story and keep going. Unfortunately, there were just too many things I didn’t like, and couldn’t move beyond.
The stuff I did like – our young protagonist, she was written really well. Her understanding of things, and the thought processes were amazing. Her mother, and even step-father, were written well too.
I liked the sense of the housing, where she lived, and where her grandmother lived. It was described so that I knew exactly how everything fit together.
I didn’t like the Britt-Marie of this story, she was grating and annoying, which made me question my like of her own novel (which I did like, but not if she was as annoying as in this story). I didn’t like the constant referral to Miamas, and all the characters in it – a little bit was alright, but after awhile, it was too much and I was too confused.
I also didn’t connect with Granny, who was great in her outrageous qualities, but then too extreme.
I liked a lot about the writing, and I loved the neighbour, but I wasn’t able to get beyond the fantasy-land and real life merging together in a confusing fairy-tale language.
This wasn’t for me, but I would absolutely recommend any of the other books written by Fredrik Backman!

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