December 1, 2017

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 6:07 pm by suebe2

all the crooked saintsAll the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

The Soria family doesn’t exactly welcome visitors to Bicho Raro, Colorado.  But still the visitors come, drawn by the promise of a miracle.  And visitors aren’t all that’s drawn to Bicho Raro.  So are owls of all kinds who gather whenever a miracle is imminent.  Good or bad, it doesn’t much matter to the owls but it does matter to the Soria.

Whenever Daniel Soria, the handsome teen who is the family’s current saint, performs a miracle for a pilgrim, it always does more than expected.  The first miracle addresses the pilgrim’s problem but it also unleashes their inner darkness.  A predatory priest who loves the ladies just a little too much finds that he now has a coyote’s head. A pair of twins who can’t quit bickering are joined by a cantankerous snake. Until they resolve this darkness, they are stuck with it and cannot leave.

But a Soria who tries to help may unleash his or her own darkness and Soria darkness is something to be feared.  This means that the family refuses to speak or interact with the bizarre cast of characters with whom they share their ranch.

And, as is always the case in a Stiefvater novel, the characters are amazing.

Daniel seems sweet but he was a hell raiser as a teen.  His cousin Beatrice has a scientific mind but believes she has no emotions.  Joaquin spends his nights running a renegade radio station with the help of his cousins.  His parents don’t know about his radio personality – Diablo Diablo – and would be horrified given the power of Soria words.

Stiefvater’s latest novel is set in Colorado in the 1960s.  It is a world of ranches, rodeos, and radios.  I’ve only touched on the characters because I don’t want to retell the entire novel and, as is always the case, it is hard to talk about a Stiefvater novel without giving too much away.

All the Crooked Saints is magical realism at its finest.  Magical things happen and no one bats an eye.  Unless, of course, the particular event warrants a reaction.  Out in the larger world, there may not be any magic but in Bicho Raro, miracles rule, a spirit owl can hold onto a person’s eyes until they need them again, and a radio DJ from back East becomes a towering giant.  And the desert is a character as influential as any human in the book.

This is a story, and a land, where magic and love are equally strong and capable of doing both great and terrible things.

I plan to add this one to my Christmas shopping for a particular niece who loves fantasy.  Share it with the readers in your life who love adventure but aren’t afraid to step beyond the world of the ordinary.

–SueBE

November 17, 2016

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:21 pm by suebe2

the-raven-kingThe Raven King
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

I’ll admit it.  I started this book 2 or 3 times before I could make myself read it.  No, it wasn’t a bad beginning.  It wasn’t slow or sluggish.  It was engaging and gripping like Stiefvater’s books always are.  But I also started it knowing that this was book #4 in a for book series and throughout the series one of my favorite character’s, Gansey, has lived with the prediction that he will die very soon.  Quite frankly I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be there when it happened.

Take a deep breath, readers.  The ending is inevitable but it is also satisfying and not sad.  How can it be all three?  You’ll have to read the book and find out.

Gansey’s quest has pulled him forward throughout his life as he searches for the lost Welsh king.  As he’s traveled on this journey he’s pulled others into the quest as well.

Ronan is a dreamer.  That isn’t to say that the hard-edged boy has an airy-fairy way about him.  Nope.  He’s all bluster and rage and noise. But when he dreams he can pull things, and even people, back into the waking world.

Adam is a wizard.  Not only can he keep tricky, temperamental cars running, he also manipulates magic.  Working together he and Ronan can do great things.  Unfortunately, there’s an uneasy energy between the two and they’ll have to work it out for great things to happen.

Blue doesn’t have her own magic but she amplifies the efforts of others.  She helped predict Gansey’s death before she fell for him.

Henry walked briefly through the other books but he is pulled into the group of friends in Book #4.  It is only then that Gansey discovers the connection between Henry and Ronan — a magical, quasi-mechanical bee.

As the group finally learns to work together, something dark moves into Ronan’s dreams and into the forest.  Unlike Ronan, a maker, it is un unmaker. It is working to unravel not only the group but the individuals in it, starting with Adam and Ronan.  The question is whether they will discover what it is and how stop it before it is too late.

As always, Stiefvater’s books are hard to describe without simply retelling the entire book.  Her plots are deliciously complicated and she creates a range of characters that are believably flawed and wholly appealing, even dark, surly Ronan.  Share this book with the teen fantasy fan in your life and be prepared to discuss Good vs Evil as well as what it means to be a Creator vs a Destroyer.

–SueBE

February 19, 2015

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:43 am by suebe2

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

Trying to describe a Maggie Stiefvater novel is like trying to draw the facets of a diamond in two dimensions.  Here is the simple version:

The four Raven Boys and Blue Sargent are on a quest.  Somewhere along the mystic ley line that runs through their town, an ancient Welsh king lies buried.  Wake the king and win a favor.

It sounds pretty simple but the king isn’t the only “sleeper” buried along the line.  They have been instructed to wake one and not wake the other.  The third is, inexplainably, somehow in between.

Unfortunately, they aren’t the only one seeking this burial or these sleepers.  There are other people looking for ways to tap into this source of mystic energy.  Some are much more ruthless than others.

As always, Stiefvater has drawn a marvelous group of characters.

Blue Sargent is a local girl.  She lives wiht a group of a group of strong women at 300 Fox Way.  Born into a family of female psychics, Blue’s home life is unconventional in the extreme.  She lives with her mother and a group of aunts, cousins and friends.  The women are all psychics and one of them, working with Blue earlier in the year, has predicted the death of one of the boys. She believes she has no psychic powers, other than amplifying the powers of others, but is slowly coming to realize that she is a mirror.

Gansey is the one who is supposed to die.  The golden boy of the group, he holds them all together with his wit and charm.  When they win the favor, he wants to bring Noah back to life.

Noah may reside with Gansey and Ronan but he doesn’t live with them. He’s a ghost.  Normally kind, something in Noah is changing and he’s not always as human as he used to be.

Adam may be a local kid, like Blue, but he stills attends the same prestigious school as the other boys.  His father has been arrested for abuse and Adam has to get through the trial while coming to grips with his new abilities.

Ronan, an endless bundle of rage and furious energy, is like Blue in many ways.  Like her, he’s coming to grips with his psychic abilities — he can dream things into being.  He wants to use the favor to keep his younger brother alive.

As the five teens come to know each other better, their relationships within the group change as well.  If you’ve yet to meet these characters,

Don’t be confused like I was.  The book ended and I thought, “What the heck?”  The Raven Cycle isn’t a trilogy.  If it was Blue Lily, Lily Blue would tie things up nicely.  As it is, it leaves you wanting more as do all of the books in this series.  Series, as in more than three.  I’m not sure where I got the idea it was a trilogy because it isn’t.  This book is the sequel to The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves.  There is one more book to come.

I know I haven’t done these books justice but if you like gritty fantasy, give this series a try.  You will not regret it.

–SueBE

 

July 24, 2014

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:03 am by suebe2

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic

On the island of Thisby, cool temperatures bring a nip to the air and the ocean water.  But that isn’t all it brings.

Farmers count their stock every morning.  Mothers keep their children close to home.  And any business that takes a person to the beach is a bit more dangerous than usual.  The water horses emerge from the sea, sometimes hungry for a run.  Other times hungry for blood and flesh.

Riding a water horse is like nothing else — fast, breath taking and potentially deadly.  Sean Kendrick has won the race but if he can win it again this year, he will be the owner of the water horse that he himself trained.  Not bad for a poor orphan who owns little more than his boots and his coat.

But Puck Connolly needs to win the race.  The money is the only way that she can save her parent’s home and, if the rides, her older brother will stay on the island a few more weeks before he leaves to find a job on the mainland.

I’m not going to say much more about the plot.  Sean and Puck can’t both win but they strike up a friendship that builds into something more.  Sean is driven to win, it is the only way he will ever own this amazing horse, but he’s equally driven to keep Puck safe even if it means putting himself in harms way — more so than usually happens when you are riding a man eating beast of bone and magic.

As always, Stiefvater has pulled together an amazingly complex story with characters you will love and characters you will loathe.  The story is based loosely on the myths of the Celtic water horses but Stiefvater admits to discarding the parts that just don’t work for her story, or any story she could imagine.

The plot runs fast, tensions run high as the water horses pound their way down the beach of Thisby.

–SueBE

December 5, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:52 am by suebe2

The Dream Thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

It doesn’t take more than a look at Ronan and people know.  There are terrors in his mind.  Normally, they confine themselves to his dreams but then the Night Horrors follow him into the light of day.

This is Book #2 in The Raven Cycle Trilogy.  Book #1, The Raven Boys, was a Printz Honor book and it is easy to see why.  The characters are gritty and real and 100% compelling.  Reading Book #1 first isn’t essential to understanding Book #2, but it is such a great read that you are going to want to read it.  Why not pick it up first?

The Dream Thieves again focuses on the Raven Boys — Gansey, born to a life of privilege; Adam, tortured by an abusive past and the possibilities for his future; Noah, an actual ghost; and Ronan, dark, dangerous and honest to the core.  Although the boys are still looking for the legendary Welsh King, Owen Glendower, this quest is often pushed aside for more pressing concerns.

The channel of energy, call it a lay line or a fairy road, that runs through the small Virginia town of Henrietta is fluctuating.  One minute, it is blowing the electricity.  The next, the power ebbs and Noah disappears.  What is causing this fluctuation and what does it mean for Noah?

Then there is the Gray Man, an assassin who has been sent to Henrietta to find something.  He knows it is something mystical, something that allows dream objects to become real.  What he doesn’t know, at least right away, is that it isn’t a thing.  It is a who.  Will this assassin turn kidnapper?

Adam wants to help his friends, but he has problems of his own.  He is seeing people who aren’t there.  First a scared looking woman.  Then a man in a bowler hat.  Then comes the morning that he wakes up alongside the highway.  How did he get there and why can’t he control what is happening?

It is incredibly difficult to summarize Stiefvater’s books because they are delicious complex.  One thread effects another and the two together impact yet a third.

Teens will love this complexity of plot as well as the complexity of the characters.  The good aren’t all good.  The bad have redeeming qualities and life is, in all honesty, a struggle no matter what your circumstances.

–SueBE

January 31, 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:10 am by suebe2

The Raven Boys  (Book one in the Raven Cycle)
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
AR 5.4

It’s that time again.  Time to spend the night in a graveyard.

That’s right.  A graveyard.

Once each year, Blue spends the night in a graveyard with her mother.  She’s there to watch the Corpse Road.  This is the night when the road is visited by the souls of the people from her town that will die that year.  Blue can’t see or speak to the spirits herself.  She’s there as a “booster” for the psychic who can.  But this year is different.  This year there is one spirit she can see and he won’t speak to anyone but Blue.  When she asks his name he answers “Just Gansey.”

It is only days later when her mother is visited by a group of boys.  One of them is Gansey.

All of her life, Blue has known that somewhere is a boy she will kill.  She knows this because every psychic she meets tells her the same thing.  After she kisses him, her true love will die.  Blue isn’t the most social person in town, a fact that is probably strengthened by the fact that she lives in a house full of psychic women.  She’s odd and she knows it.  So what?  But this also makes it easy to avoid kissing anyone.  There has never been anyone she wanted to kiss.

Until she meets Gansey and his two friends.  It isn’t Gansey she’s interested in but her mother has told her to stay away from them all.

Gansey is looking for the Corpse Road although he calls it by another name — a ley line.  Somewhere along this line, an ancient king is buried and whoever awakens him will receive a boon.

I can’t say much more about the book without giving way too much away.  I listened to this one as an audio book and it took me a while to warm up to it.  Most of the problem was with one character Ronan.  Ronan is the boy you will love to hate.  He is just that abrasive.  It’s hard to see why he’s one of Gansey’s best friends.

Yet, as you make your way through the book, you will begin to have some sympathy for Ronan and his miserable past.  You will also come to adore Adam who longs to escape his father, Noah who can’t ever seem to get warm and Gansey — the leader who hides behind what he thinks people expect him to be.  One of these boys will click with you and you’ll be pulled into the story.

Of course, I also loved Blue and her extended family.  I’m using the term family loosely here because the house is full of women who are psychics but not all of them are actually related by blood.  They are related by the fact that they can do something that science cannot explain — read Tarot, tell you about a person by touching something they own . . .

This is a strong choice for lovers of dark fantasy.  There is humor.  There is romance — kind of.  And there is mystery.  But mostly there is a really good story populated by compelling characters.  My son wasn’t interested in it.  I think his school librarian had tried to sell him on the book.  No go.  Then he heard part of the audiobook and is now waiting his turn to read it.  I predict that once he reads this one, he will be looking for the next two books.

–SueBE

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