Short Review: Slam by Nick Hornby 

I started reading this a few years ago and then I stopped for some reason.  I recently picked it back up.  Its the story of a skateboard obsessed teen with a young mother is messes up and ends up a teen parent himself.  In usual Hornby fashion the narrator has an obsession that shapes the narrative and pushes it forward.  16 year old Sam’s obsession with Tony Hawk provides a framework inside which Sam’s life comes together and then spins out of control.  Tony Hawk’s memoir apparently has advice for every occasion in it, if Sam is to be believed.
This is an interesting exploration of teen pregnancy that had many likable characters.  It was also a pretty quick read.  It’s not Hornby’s best work but it was still pretty interesting.

Review: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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I did not expect to binge read Dream Thieves on Thanksgiving. But, I did and now I have to slow my roll down because the fourth book doesn’t come out until Spring. The Raven Cycle is about a group of teens who are looking for a medieval Welsh King rumored to be sleeping somewhere in America. If you wake him, he will grant you a wish.

From here there are spoilers for The Raven Boys.

This novel picks up where Raven Boys left off. Ronan can pull things from his dreams and make them real. Adam woke the ley line and is now its hands and eyes. Noah is still dead and Gansey is still Gansey. Blue is still a not-psychic in a family of psychics. Adam and Blue are kind of together, as together as you can be when your kiss can kill. There is a lot of pain in this novel. Adam doesn’t get why Blue keeps him at arm’s length. Blue can’t help that she’s falling for Gansey. Ronan is still broken from losing his father. None of them understand why Adam went off on his own and, as he grows into what the ley line needs him to be he feels isolated. Gansey is beat up over feeling like he’s losing Adam and he’s at a loss for what to do with Ronan at times. Oh, and Noah keeps reliving his death.

And, now some spoilers for this novel.

In addition to all the growing pains, we learn more about Blue’s family. Persephone has a connection to Adam, we find out. We also meet the Gray man who is there as a bounty hunter to collect whatever allows Ronan to steal things from dreams. I really enjoyed the subplot with the Gray man and Maura and I hope that he continues to be part of the next book. We also learn a little more about Gansey’s and Ronan’s families.

A lot of this novel really focused on Ronan, his ability and its connection to the ley line. I liked Ronan a lot as a character in the first book but he was a little one dimensional. He was Gansey body guard and enforcer. So it was interesting to get some Ronan point of view in this novel. He’s got a lot of anger and also a lot of questions surrounding his father’s life and death. Unraveling the mystery of Niall Lynch not only pushes the narrative forward but also gives Ronan some much needed character development.

We also get a lot of point of view from Adam. We learned about his family in the first novel and we got to see a lot of fall out related to that in this one. We also got to see why this quest and the ley line mean so much to him. Some of the scenes where we see Adam and Gansey together actually lead to some much needed character development for Gansey as well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I needed to know what happened next. But, I have to say that Adam repeatedly broke my heart. That kid, man. He deserves better.

I am really looking forward to the next novel, Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Review: Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s been on our minds. It’s been in our posts. I’ve been re-reading. The Fourth book in the Raven Cycle comes out early next year and I want to get you as excited about the books as we are.
I am here to pump you up.

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via GIPHY

The Raven Cycle is about a quest to find a sleeping King.  Like all quest stories, it involves a band of merry companions who all have their secrets, their desires and their heartaches.  Our Quest Squad contains the Raven Boys: Richard Campbell Gansey III, Ronan N. Lynch, Adam Parrish and the on-again, off-again Noah Czerny who are accompanied by the not-psychic Blue Sargent.  They are searching Henrietta, Virginia for a ley line that should lead them to a Welsh King that was buried in America.  A medieval Welsh king.  I am kind of a Cymruphile so that one little detail was really all my sister had to say to sell me on these books. A Welsh king buried in America and prophesied to return to unite the Welsh and end English tyranny? Sign. Me. Up.
The first installment of the books brings the team together.  Blue Sargent is the only non-psychic in a psychic family and a townie in Henrietta, Virginia home to Ivy League Feeder School Aglionby Academy. Blue’s family run a tarot card reading business and a psychic phone hotline. The Raven Boys are students at the fancy college prep.  Adam is a scholarship kid, Ronan Lynch appears to be the son of a gangster, Noah is quiet, unassuming and fuzzy around the edges, and Gansey is Old Virginia money and the driving force behind the quest for the Welsh King.  Blue keeps crossing paths with the boys in ways that make their teaming up seem fated and inevitable. They have to wake the ley line before someone else gets to it and harnesses its power. Of course, no quest for long forgotten item would be complete without opposing teams questing for the same thing.
This book was a lot of fun to read.  I enjoy all of the characters and I particularly like how they all have their definite strengths and their weaknesses.  Ronan is violent where Gansey is diplomatic.  Adam is thoughtful where the other boys are thoughtless. Blue is grounded where everyone else has their head in the clouds.  On top of the main story of Blue and the Raven Boys, there is a subplot involving Blue’s family that is also complex and interesting.  I cannot wait to see how the series plays out.
So, you should get in on this.  Quests, Kings, Psychics, ley lines, treasure maps, bad guys, flawed good guys, and, I can’t believe I’ve waited until now to mention this, trees that speak Latin!

Discussion Posts: Re-reading series before the new installment comes out

This month has seen the announcement of the next book in the Raven Cycle series’ cover announced and the next book in the Cinder series released. Both of these things prompted much excitement here at SxLx because we’re into these series. Beth struggled with the decision to re-read the whole series before diving into Winter. I took the new cover art as a signal to re-read the Raven Cycle. In my case, the decision was easy because I haven’t finished Dream Thieves and at this point I’ve probably forgotten more than I remember. But, I know that not everyone feels this pull to revisit the older installments before getting to the new one. So, the comments section is open! What are your thoughts on re-reading a series before the new book comes out? Are you for it? Against it? Do you do it?

Are you a re-reader?

Review: Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

In Zoey Redbird’s world, humans are made into vampyres after they are chosen by the Goddess Nyx. They leave their families and go to live at the local House of Night which is a training ground/school for fledgling vampyres. But, that’s just background noise because she has to deal with whatever her best friend is babbling about, and her ex-almost boyfriend, and her mother’s new husband who is a elder in the People of Faith and who has taken over her mother’s life (and subsequently destroyed her relationship with her Mom.)

Did I say it was background noise? I meant it was exposition. Zoey Redbird is marked in the first chapter and has to go to vampyre school. She is visited in a dream by Nyx and she is asked to be the Goddess’s very own eyes and ears in the school. Talk about responsibility.

The rest of the book is taken up with typical school story narrative. People are terrible and fledgling vampyres don’t buck that trend. There are mean girls, there are the cool kids, there are the people you are lucky enough to have as friends. And, there is a mystery of dead or maybe not-so-dead fledglings. Zoey has to navigate the halls of the school and investigate the mystery.

This is the first book in the series, and as discussed in my Saturday Reads I liked Zoey Redbird very much. The second half of the book involved a lot of description of ritual, and while I liked that, it felt a lot using non-Christian cultural practices as a way to make the vampyre world seem exotic and interesting and special instead of pushing the plot forward by character development or by divulging more about the mystery. And, that’s lazy at best and appropriative at worst. Also, a lot of the references felt really dated or forced. Zoey and her friends make a lot of pop culture references.

Even with the low points, I liked the characters and I’ll probably read at least the next one in the series.

Pop Culture Extra Credit: Playlist

A huge part of Eleanor and Park is the music that Park shares with Eleanor throughout the book. I started making notes of songs while I was reading. It seemed like it would be a great playlist, even if the book was breaking my heart. In the end, I compiled a pretty long list but it was in multiple places. Some of the songs were written on a post-it that got rained on. Some were on a bookmark that got left someplace. Some were in a note on my phone. Some were on a receipt. Apparently, I read everywhere and write on what I can get my hands on. So, I compiled this playlist from the pieces of paper, etc. that I could still get my hands on and read. Enjoy!

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is the story of Cath, a first year college student who is super awkward, in love with characters in a teen series, and a writer of fan fiction. She moves into her dorm room with her new roommate (after her twin sister tells her she doesn’t want to room with her) and then proceeds to try and make it as far as she can without interacting with anyone. Her roommate, Reagan, and her roommate’s friend (boyfriend? friend? boyfriend?) Levi force her to interact with them. Levi forces the issue by snooping through Cath’s stuff and eating most of her supply of protein bars (forcing her to ask where the cafeteria is) and Reagan forces the issue by making Cath eat with her in the cafeteria. They slowly become friends. Cath and Levi realize that they have feelings for each other and the story spirals from there. Additionally, there are story arcs that involve both of Cath’s parents. Cath’s father has raised her and her sister from when they were very young and now her mother would like to have some involvement. Cath’s father also has bipolar disorder. Cath’s interactions with her parents were beautiful and at times heartbreaking.

I love Cath. I love her so much.

This book has beginning of school drama. It has tension between sisters (ugh, her sister drove me crazy!). There is romance. There is friendship. There is at least one douche canoe of a bro tryna take advantage of a young woman. There’s some really satisfying comeuppance for said douche canoe of a bro. There’s an awesome professor who gets it…but also doesn’t get it. And, there’s the fan fiction. Oh, the fan fiction. I finished this book in two days and I read it on my phone because I couldn’t get enough of it. I read it in every spare minute that I had. This was by far my favorite of the books that Beth assigned me this summer. I cannot wait for Carry On!, Cath’s fan fiction, to be published this Fall!