To say this book was delightful would be an understatement. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows blends the perfect mixture of fantasy and fiction with history. History will tell you that Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England for nine days before Queen Mary took the throne and beheaded her. Well, not in this book. Lady Jane Grey was the cousin to King Edward, the son of King Henry VIII. She was named the successor to King Edward because Mary was too Catholic and Elizabeth was a wild card. Edward’s advisors were afraid that either one of his sisters would take England back to the Catholic church and away for the recently established Church in England. Well, in this account the fight is over religion but over magic. King Henry was an Edians, or a person who can turn into animals. Before his rule, those who had this ability were hunted down and burned at the stack by the Verities or those who couldn’t change into animals. Mary is very much in the Verities, who blamed Edians for the death of her mother. Jane at first just a pawn in game of thrones but she soon turns the tables on those who try to control her. This book is very funny, charming and just plain clever. I often find myself laughing while riding on the train to the annoyance of my fellow riders. And it’s a real hoot when you find out what animal Jane turns into. You will not find a more clever book with horse puns anywhere. So do yourself a favor and go read it.
**I was granted a digital ARC of this book and read it a month ago. Thank you Harlequin Teen for the advance**
Four books in and we finally learn what makes Ember so darn special and it’s creepy. I won’t spoil it but let’s just say I look forward to seeing the leader of Talon being taken down. She’s a real piece of work. I also think she’s another argument as to why immortality or really Really long life spans are not a good idea. It makes people do some really crazy insane things. Anyways, fans of this series will be happy with this installment. It picks up right where the cliffhanger ending of Soldier ended. The stakes are higher now that the truth of the Order of St. George and Talon have been exposed. The Order is complete disarray but Talon has a secret that we as readers know about but the characters don’t. So while, it was a good idea at the time to expose the leader of the Order, it also played right into Talon’s hands. Talon has become the real big bad of the series. The Order, while not at all innocent, has been played just as much as everyone else. Their own prejudices and inability or willingness to try to think differently was their ultimate undoing. As for our heroes. They all do some growing up. Constant near death experiences will do that to you. The biggest lesson they have learned is if they are going to defeat Talon, they are going to have to work together and reach out to new allies, even if that means reaching out to old enemies too. I believe there is only one more book left which is good because the ending really seems to have set up a potentially epic final battle between our heroes and Talon. It’s been a fun ride. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
April 2016 was our most successful month page views wise. We had 589 views, which beat our previous record of 552 in December 2015. It made me wonder what were we writing about a year ago to get so much traffic. Well, The Raven Cycle and Maggie Stiefvater. It’s hard to believe that the The Raven King came out a year ago. That it has been a year since we found out if Gansey, Blue, Ronan and Adam would find the sleeping Welsh King and If Blue and Gansey would kiss and if Gansey would die. Those mysteries have been solved. Thankfully, we know that we haven’t read the last of the Gang as Maggie is working on a trilogy about Ronan. Whee!!!
My editor is going to hate me, but I just outlined three books for a Ronan-centered trilogy.
— Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater) August 7, 2016
And we have another Maggie book coming in October. So we have a lot to look forward to but let’s take a moment, in honor of the 1 year anniversary of the release of The Raven King and the end of the The Raven Cycle, to look at everything we have ever written about the series.
If you are not immediately charmed, heartbroken and uplifted after reading this then you should check your pulse. This is the perfect blend of romance, coming of age story and social commentary. It centers around a day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers on the cusp of major changes in their lives. It also touches on the minor interactions that seem meaningless at the time but how that connection could and some times do change someone’s life. Natasha and her family are illegal immigrants from Jamaica who are being deported at 10 o’clock that night. She is trying to stop their deportation when she meets Daniel, a Korean-American boy who has the day off so he can prepare and meet for an interview for admission to Yale. From the moment they meet there is an immediate connection. They both share the immigrant experience of being from two places at the same time. Even, though Daniel was born in the US, he is often assumed to be from someplace else. He’s never Korean enough or American enough. Natasha was born in Jamaica but now has lived most of her life in the US. Her friends are here, her future is here she doesn’t want to leave. When they meet though, their futures couldn’t be different. Daniel’s life has already been planned out for him while Natasha’s is now unsure. Daniel’s parents are dead set on him and his brother to have a better life then they did, which means, Yale and becoming a doctor and marrying a Korean girl. Natasha, was planning on going to college and was going to be a data scientist and now all of that is uncertain. Anyway, they meet and while they don’t know anything about each other they know they have a special bond from the beginning. Daniel is a poet and romantic. He’s convinced that their meeting was fate. That they are meant to be. Natasha is a scientist and a realist. She doesn’t believe in love is real or anything that can’t be scientifically proven. As Natasha tries to kill time before she meets with an immigration lawyer Daniel convinces her to spend time with him to prove that love can be scientifically proven and so they go allover New York, getting to know each other and becoming first friends and then falling in love. They meet each other’s parents and face each other demons. While the story focuses on them, we get glimpses into the lives of the people around them. From their own family but the random people that they briefly come in contact with. The security guard that scans Natasha’s bag, the secretary of the lawyer. They all paint a picture of how we all relate to each other and how our decisions big and small can change a complete strangers life. It’s something to think about. It was talks about how racism presents itself in other communities. Daniel’s Korean parents own a black hair care store in Harlem but when his father and his brother meets Natasha they treat her in their shop. They own a shop that caters to black shopper and yet they can’t even hide their own negative biases. This was a beautiful novel that not only tells a perfect story of two kids struggling to figure out who they are while dealing with the forces outside of their control but also doesn’t shy from taking on tough issues of racism, immigration, depression and even family. You need to read this book is all I’m saying.
Waverly is perfect except so can’t sleep so she spends her nights running. Marshall is loser burn out, who spends his nights drinking and smoking pot. They have nothing in common and since they don’t run in the same social circles they have no reason to interact, until Waverly decides to try an experiment to help her sleep and ends up in Marshall’s room. I’m wrong they do have one thing in common. They both have terrible coping habits. Waverly has created this kind of ice princess persona. She is the perfect student, the perfect social butterfly, the perfect daughter and the perfect citizen. Since junior high, she has planned her and her best friend’s ascent up the social hierarchy. Now that she is there, she is trapped in this persona she has created and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Her own fears of people seeing through her carefully crafted facade keeps her up all night. She runs, she does homework, she watches horror movies late at night. Marshall is the opposite, he’s almost too open. He cares too much. His home life is a mess. He’s parents were going to get divorce but then his dad gets sick so they decide to stay together even though it makes them unhappy and everyone else unhappy. To deal with it he does everything to know the pain. He drinks until he gets sick. He smokes until his stoned. He makes out with a girl that he knows he doesn’t like but that she likes him. He rarely goes to class because what’s the point? He’s not going to college. Things start to change when Waverly magically appears in Marshall’s room. It’s weird and uncomfortable and awkward as neither of them know what’s going on and Marshall is the only one who can see her. To Waverly it’ a dream that helps her sleep but when she wakes up their remnants of the dream remain. She has leaves on her feet from walking outside or a gigantic hickey from last night’s make out session. At night they can be open and honest with each other but in the bright of day they can barely acknowledge each other existence. Marshall wouldn’t fit in Waverly’s world. However, they are just want each other needs. Waverly shows Marshall that he matters, that he could be so much more then what he is right now. And Marshall shows Waverly that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. I was really drawn into these characters and I wanted them to find a way to each other. It was satisfying when they both stood finally stood up for themselves to their various bullies. For them to both realize what was truly making them feel unhappy and finally doing something about it. At times I found myself identifying with both Waverly and Marshall. There are times in my life that I felt I had a certain ways to fit in with my friends, especially in high school. You say and do things that you know the other person wants to hear and do because it’s just easier to go along. I also know the feeling of just trying to numb the pain instead of dealing with it. I like to think that I have good coping mechanisms but not always. This book is just a reminder that sometimes the biggest obstacles to being happy is ourselves. Literature is great like that. It’s entertaining and full of life lessons.
So let’s talk the controversy. I was excited about reading this book because I thought it sounded interesting and was curious how Veronica Roth would follow up her Divergent series. That was until reviews started to come in and people began talking about the racism surrounding the plot. Now, I don’t necessarily think it is intentionally racist but it is definitely problematic. So the plot revolves around two different races of people who share the same planet. The fair-skinned, peaceful Thuve people and the dark-skinned warrior race Shotet. Right there raised flags for me. That the more violent people are described as being dark in skin, eyes and curly hair versus the more light skinned, blue eyed, straight hair peaceful neighbors. Everything about the Shotet’s is described violently from their language to their tradition of marking their arms with every kill. It brings up images in our society about we are programmed to think that those with darker skinned are more dangerous then those of us who have lighter skin tones. That the lighter skinned people are somehow inherently just better people. And that is why at first I felt a little uncomfortable reading it. However, it didn’t turn me off either. As the story continued, I became more invested in the characters Akos and Cyra. I don’t think ever really got past the uncomfortableness of it but I did want Cyra to best her abusive brother and Akos to rescue his. They compliment each other really well. Cyra has a gift for pain. Pain that she inflicts on others but also lives in her while Akos gift is that he nullifies the current. In this world, everyone has a gift granted by the current. Each gift is different depending on the person. Cyra brother is the ruler of the Shotet people and has been using her as his own personal torturer. She has gained the reputation of being cruel when she is only doing what she is told to do but deep down she knows that she deserves the pain she feels thanks to her painful history. Akos is kidnapped by the Shotet with his brother when their fates clash with the Shotet ruler. Both Cyra and Akos really grow throughout the novel. They both see in each other that they don’t have to be what they raised to be. That they can choose their own paths. The ending was a little meh but it did pose one interesting question that makes me at least interested in the sequel. It might be too late for Veronica to fix the unfortunate world building choices in the sequel but I do hope that in the future she takes more time to ask herself, why she is making these choices in her writing. Is it because this is who the character really is or something that has been internalized in herself coming out on the page.
**Spoilers I was lucky enough to receive a Advance Copy back in September. There will be Spoilers**
It was worth the wait. I really love Lish McBride’s writing. It’s fast paced and full of humor and just so wonderful. Pyromantic begins a month or two after Firebug ended. Ava and Cade are trying to figure out their relationship now that they know they are daughter and father. Ava is still smarting from turning down Lock for a date. Ava is still coterie but she can’t quite figure out her new boss, Alistair. Like, when is he going to start killing people for no reason because that’s what Coterie does, right? Let’s just say there is a lot to get used to. That’s when this strange and unpredictable things start happening that Ava, Lock, Ezra, Sid and Bianca now must investigate.
I love Ava. She’s funny, sarcastic and a little cynical. She is full of insecurities and considering everything that she has been through it’s not surprising. She lost her Mom after years of being on the run. She is forced to work for Venus and the Coterie like an indentured servant. She doesn’t have many friends outside of her team Lock and Ezra and Sylvie, who works at Cade’s bookstore. When Lock asks Ava out it throws her off. What if they break up? How will that effect that their friendship? So she avoids them both Lock and Ezra. When the strange a disease ravages the area they are forced to work together. After all the twists turn it makes for a great book. It’s so different. I mean who doesn’t love Kelpies who wear sweaters? Or Werehares who knit and in a biker gang? I love it all. But most of all I love the friendship between Lock, Ezra and Ava. They is a true sense of family with them. They love each other and they are there for each other. They tolerate each other faults and support each other when they are down. I’m also loving the friendship of Ava and Sylvie. They are both polar opposites. Sylvie is all sunshine and rainbows and Ava is just fire but it works. I’m know vague on the plot points but this was a wonderful sequel to a great book. I really hope you all go out and support Lish because she really writes some amazing stories that are weird and funny. I’m not sure what else to say but go read!
For a Matriarchal society, Fennbirn is kinda a violent place. For example, how they pick the Queen that will rule them is a bloodbath. Three Queens, triplets, who all a special power shall we say, Katharine is a poisoner, Mirabella an elemental and Arsinoe is a naturalist. When they turn 16 one of them will ascend to the thrown by using their powers to kill the other two. They are raised together until the age of six and then separated to be fostered by families who share their powers. The families teach them all it takes to master their powers so when the yearly festival of Beltane comes in the year of their 16th Birthday, they will be ready to impress their people, their suitors and imitate their sisters. It’s the first time they are to see each other in years and probably the last time they will see each other until one comes to kill the other. It’s blood thirsty but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Three Dark Crowns is only the first book in the series so it spends a lot of time introducing us to our Queens and the world they live in. Katharine (so nice to have it spelled correctly) is a poisoner that has trouble building her immunity to the many poisons her family feeds her. Arsinoe is a naturalist who can’t even make a flower bloom. Only Mirabella powers is strong. She can make fire, bring down a storm with wind and lightning and control water. The Temple and it’s Priestess have put all their power behind Mirabella to gain control over the island from the Arron family who run the Black council. The Council rules while the Queens come of age. I said that it’s a Matriarchal society as the head of the household are women. Men come second. Whatever sister wins, they will marry one of the suitors from the Mainland but will only ever be the King-consort. A ceremony title and nothing else. His only job is, when the time is right, knock up the Queen so the next set of Triplets can be born. I guess not a bad gig if you can get it. The part is, this book is filled with female characters. It passes the Bechdel test and themselves. Not to say there isn’t male characters but they take up the roles usually for the girls. They are the love interest and the supporting friend or teacher. Nice little swap there. Anyway, Mirabella is the strongest of the three and assumed to easily win the crown but of the three of them she is also the kind-hearted. She remembers her sisters and how that once upon a time they loved each other. She doesn’t think she can kill them. Katharine on the other hand, so wants to prove that he is as strong as the poisoner queens that have come before her. The last few Queens have been poisoners and the Arrons are hell bent on keeping their power. Arsinoe is a little bit of a wild child. She knows that she is weak and hears what people say about her. Her best friend is also the most powerful naturalist in hundreds of years. Only making Arsinoe look even weaker. After their 16th birthday, the sisters do everything they can to prepare for Beltane and find ways to make themselves stronger to give them a chance to survive but threats to their lives might come from outside of their sisters. The Spiritual leaders of Fennbirn have lost influence of the years thanks to the Arrons stronghold on the Black Council. When they heard that Mirabella was as strong as they were the Head Priestess took over her training and are using her to regain power. When it becomes clear that Mirabella is not going to be able to kill her sisters to gain power, they hatch a their own scheme to win their throne. For fans of Game of Thrones or Falling Kingdoms this is one’s for you. While there are not as many deaths, yet, there are political intrigued, many characters and storylines to follow. There’s a twist ending but it’s pretty easy to see it coming. I’ll give you a clue, just look at their names. Which ones don’t really match up with their powers? All and all it was pretty good and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
**Spoilers. I was lucky enough to get an Advance Copy of this book back in December. Spoilers will happen in the review so be prepared.**
Well this is a game changer for the series. We are getting to the Prisoner of Azakaban territory as we begin to expand the world and up the stakes. Paige is now the Underqueen of the Unnatural Assembly but when Jaxon jumps over to the Rephaim side, she’s blindsided. Not only does she have doubts about her abilities, her mentor is working with the enemies, giving them all of their secrets. The Mime-Order’s partnership with the Ranthen is tenous at best. She must first prove to the voyants that she is worthy to follow and to the Ranthen’s that she worthy to be funded. After a disastrous mission to take down senshield, a device that can detect the auras of Voyants, Paige takes off to investigate leads in Manchester. Trying to stay ahead of the evil military mastermind, Vance. Nothing has been easy for Paige and that is definitely true but she really comes into her own. Paige very much wants to what’s best for the voyant community and end Scion but she has to combat so many things. She has to prove her worthiness to her people and to Ranthens. Making things complicated is Jaxon, who many people still support and don’t believe that went over to the Scion. Others see Paige’s youth as another drawback. When Paige makes the mistake of acting on unproven intel and that makes sensheild even stronger, she has to move everyone underground. Paige may not see it at the point but I think this was a pivotal point for her. It proved her willingness to make the hard decisions but also it outsmarted her enemies. Jaxon admits that even he couldn’t figure out where they disappeared too. As the story plays out, we see more and more of cruelty of the Scion and how it’s not just the Rephaim who are committing it. The introduction of Vance is an example of a human doing unspeakable things on other humans for advancement or for their own enjoyment. It almost seemed like Vance sees her role as more of a game then anything else. To me that makes her scarier then the Rephaim. Samantha Shannon is getting better and better with each book. It’s almost as a writer she is learning more about herself, as Paige is doing the same thing on the page. The ending leaves as many answers as it does questions but also opens us to even more possibilities. I will do my best wait patiently for book 4.
Let’s be honest. Sherlock Holmes is a dick. I haven’t read any of the books but every character based on the novels, whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. or Hugh Laurie they are all Grade A assholes. Charlotte Holmes is no different. And you know what, it’s kind of wonderful. Now don’t get me wrong. Charlotte may be a genius but she’s not a role model either. Too often, female characters in book, movie and TV shows have to be likable and often one dimensional. This includes when they are the main character. Male protagonists don’t have this problem. They can be a dick and still be the hero. Charlotte is cold and calculated. She doesn’t adhere to social norms and doesn’t try to fit in. She is also a recovering drug addict teenage girl that is less then a year removed from being sexually assaulted. In other words, she complicated and complex as her great great great great literary grandfather and that’s just fine. Like Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte is humanized by her Watson. Jamie keeps her from completely losing her humanity but he’s also her weakness as she is his. Jamie frequently asks why he continues to stay friends and be in love with Charlotte when she often ignores him, insults him and is constantly puts himself in danger but every time he has a chance to leave he can’t. Instead, he puts himself in the line of fire to try to protect each other. In their own way Jamie and Charlotte try to protect each other only to hurt each other even more. It’s complicated and complex. They are a powder keg ready to blow. Charlotte still dealing with the trauma of her rape and Jamie is respectful of that but he can’t deny his own feelings and wants. There is this thread of tension because you know they both want more from each other but unable to give it. There is always frustration and relief but also realism in it. One does not just get over something like that and one does not turn off ones feelings each other. Both Charlotte and Jamie are allowed to show all their faults. They are allowed to be unlikable. They complicated and complex and it’s wonderful.