Joint Rev-Up Review: “Fallout”

23110163Though we do tend to read different genres, there is sometimes overlap in the books that we pick up and devour. When this happens, we decide to do a joint review, giving our thoughts through our own personal lenses of what we look for in reading material. In anticipation of the new Lois Lane book, “Double Down”, we go back to the first in the series, “Fallout”.

Book: “Fallout” by Gwenda Bond

Publication Info: Switch Press, May 2015

Where Did We Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

Kate’s Thoughts

Does this book sound familiar to you? Well it should, because it was one of our recommendations on our “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” review. And you probably remember that we both love Lois Lane and will stand for her until the end of time. Given that I’ve been a Lois fan since I was a child, I was really really REALLY excited to see that the roving reporter was getting her own YA series set in modern day Metropolis. Because if anyone needs her own series, it’s Lois Friggin’ Lane! Especially given how the New 52 Comics have treated her character….

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Seriously. Screw you, DC. (source)

So I will just get one thing out of the way right off the bat: if this book hadn’t been about Lois Lane, and had just been an original character getting into a strange undercover reporter position, I probably would have found it pretty meh. The main character is snippy and snappy in an aggressively quirky kind of way, her friends are tropes, and the story isn’t really anything new or original when it comes to YA mysteries. But since it’s Lois Lane who is being sarcastic and slick and since we’re in a DC universe with ridiculous storylines abound, I am FULLY ON BOARD! Lois is portrayed as an intelligent and ambitious teenage girl without being a mean girl, which is a very nice thing to see. I think that it would be tempting to equate ambition with cruelty and coldness (especially when that ambition is coming from a female), but Bond makes her kind and caring as well as filled with a drive to succeed. And she isn’t perfect, either. She does have a bad temper at times, and she is impulsive to the point of being dangerously reckless. And as a teenager this totally works, as so many teenagers think that they are completely invincible, so why not teenage Lois? Especially when ADULT Lois goes through life feeling the same.

It’s also nice getting a bit of insight into Lois’ home life and personal life. We get to see her sister Lucy, her mother Ellen, and her father Sam, and really the only other memorable portrayals of these three characters, for me, were on “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”. And in that Lucy disappeared after half a season, Ellen was a vague narcissist, and Sam was introduced when he showed up to Christmas celebrations with a sex robot (they say fiancee, but we know what she is). So seeing Lois have a more at home and healthy relationship with both her sister and her parents helped make her feel like a real teenage girl. Her friendships, specifically the ones with Maddy and “SmallvilleGuy”, also really add to her character as well. While Maddy is kind of the typical ‘rebel girl’, her friendship with Lois fleshes her out, and their compassion towards Anavi (the girl getting harassed by the cartoonly evil Warheads) is also very humanizing. Lois is a character who has never, within the canon, made friends too easily, and that makes her nice relationship with Maddy all the more sweet and satisfying. Her friendships with the other reporters at The Scoop are fine, with kind and geeky Devin and snooty and broody James rounding out the group. I was worried that one of these guys would be presented as a possible love interest for Lois, which I wouldn’t be on board with in this story. It’s mostly because I think that Lois is a strong enough character to stand on her own, and doesn’t need a love triangle to make her life more complicated. “SmallvilleGuy” is complicated enough. And as for “SmallvilleGuy”, well……

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(source)

As a Lois and Clark shipper until the day I die, it was great. Plus, by having him be an online pen pal, Clark doesn’t steal any spotlight from Lois, and the two of them can have their wonderful interactions without changing their origin stories too much.

Though the plot is a little predictable and the villains kind of boring, overall “Fallout” is a great intro story to this new Lois Lane series. “Double Down” will be next, and hopefully Lois Lane will go on to shine again. She deserves that.

Serena’s Thoughts

While my heart will always belong to Teri Hatcher as the one, true Lois Lane from “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” I did plow my way through all 10 seasons of “Smallville.” And, in many ways “Smallville” is the YA version of “Lois and Clark,” dealing with highschool/college age Lois and Clark (I like to pretend that the early seasons of Lana don’t exist). For all the other silliness and angst-ridden nonsense of the show, I always liked Erika Durance’s Lois. She had the same spunk and independence that I came to associate with Lois Lane, while also dealing with issues that would confront the character at a younger age. So really, “Fallout” plays the same role to the more classic examples of an adult Lois Lane from the comics.

Like Kate said, all in all there’s nothing super special about the plot. If anything, I spent most of my time wondering how exactly the mechanics of the video game they were all playing really worked. Some type of virtual reality World of Warcraft? It sounded fun, if anything. But yes, the characters were nothing special. The bullies were typical bullies, most of the friends fell into fairly predictable roles, and the adults were often as ridiculous as one comes to expect from much of YA fiction these days.

What made the whole thing special were the connections to the comics. As a longtime fan, it was so exciting seeing familiar (and often very overlooked side characters) finally get a time to shine. Not only Lois, but her father, mother, sister and Perry White. My fangirl heart was all a-flutter each time a new familiar face made an appearance.

And Lois herself was great. She reminded me a lot of the Lois character from “Smallville,” modernized but still familiar with her drive and often insane recklessness. And, obviously, any interaction between her and “SmallvilleGuy” was too previous for this world.

The story was predicable, and the ending had many convenient pieces falling into place in just the right way at just the right time, but the novelty alone really saves this book. All Bond needed to do was get Lois and Clark right, and I would be sold. And she succeeded at that. I’m exited to see where “Double Down” takes these characters!

Kate’s Rating 7: The plot itself is a bit contrived and the original characters have some room to grow, but Lois Lane shines in this teenage origin story. It’s a solid start to what could be a very fun and satisfying series.

Serena’s Rating 7: Samesies.

Reader’s Advisory

“Fallout” can be found on the following Goodreads lists: “Ladies of DC”, and “Superhero YA!”.

Find “Fallout” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Never Ever”

22840374Book: “Never Ever” by Sara Saedi

Publishing Info: Viking, June 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Wylie Dalton didn’t believe in fairy tales or love at first sight.

Then she met a real-life Peter Pan.

When Wylie encounters Phinn—confident, mature, and devastatingly handsome—at a party the night before her brother goes to juvie, she can’t believe how fast she falls for him. And that’s before he shows her how to fly.

Soon Wylie and her brothers find themselves whisked away to a mysterious tropical island off the coast of New York City where nobody ages beyond seventeen and life is a constant party. Wylie’s in heaven: now her brother won’t go to jail and she can escape her over-scheduled life with all its woes and responsibilities—permanently.

But the deeper Wylie falls for Phinn, the more she begins to discover has been kept from her and her brothers. Somebody on the island has been lying to her, but the truth can’t stay hidden forever.

Review: My unfortunate streak of disappointing reads continues. It always seems to happen like this, you’ll be on a roll and then BAM! A few books just fail to live up to expectations and it is very disappointing. I included this title in my “Highights” picks for June based on two things: 1) a pretty cover (my first mistake) and 2.) a Peter Pan retelling! a Peter Pan retelling! And sure, the cover lived up to its hype and is very pretty in person. The Peter Pan retelling itself, not so much.

So, first off, a Peter Pan retelling has a lot of things going for it, in theory. The fantasy set up is all there, the adventure, the story of friendship and family, and depending on the route you take, the romance. All the ingredients for things I like in my fantasy stories. And pros first, the author did have a creative take on how adapt what is a story about children into a young adult novel. It was entertaining to see the nods to the originals (though the on-the-nose naming conventions were a bit much at times. Wylie is a coyote, not a teenage girl protagonist. There’s even a bit where she talks about how much she likes her name as if, very secretly, the author could see my eyebrows raising into my hairline…). The close sibling relationship between Wylie and her brothers is sweet and reminiscent of the original, as well.

Sadly, that’s about it for things I liked from this book. My biggest problem was the writing and plotting of the story. Listen, I have read a good amount of fanfiction in my day, and there is a lot of really great stuff out there. But this? This read like the worst kind of generic, stereotypical Peter Pan fanfiction: clunky dialogue, the author’s hands all over the plot which you can spot from outer space, the worst kind of tropes. Tinka (these names!) is everything you’d guess for a Tinkerbell-like character in this type of story. At one point, Wylie, out loud in her own head, admires Tinka’s “perky breasts.”

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And the story never recovered from the very first few chapters where Wylie made repeated decisions that earned her a too-dumb-to-live badge of honor. At a party, Wylie meets a strange boy who has been staring at her from across the room. And then what does she do? Immediately leaves the party with him! Sure, she tells her friends that’s she’s leaving, but I’m awarding her zero points for this as it is still inexcusably dumb. She later consumes a very sketchy plant that he just  casually offers her at McDonald’s (where he took her, which should have been her…well, not first sign, that was much earlier…how about tenth sign to get the hell out of there). And then, after convincing her brothers to also take this plant-drug (it allows them to fly, you’d never guess!), it turns out the plant also, conveniently, knocks them all out cold when it wears off. And they wake up being born away on Phynn’s super sweet sail boat. So…Phynn pretty much rufied them all and then kidnapped them. But don’t worry, this doesn’t hinder Wylie’s insta-attraction to him.

What we all wanted from a Peter Pan lead:

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What we got from Phynn:

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I won’t bore you with a review for the rest of the book. There was a decision towards the end of the story that did finally bring a bit more creativity to the novel, but nothing could save it from what was, sadly, very poor writing. Of course, there will be sequels. I won’t be checking them out.

Rating 3: A ridiculous heroine, a creepy hero, and writing that did the story no favors.

Reader’s Advisory: This is a very new book, so it isn’t on many lists. But, as it happens, I have read some Peter Pan fanfiction in my day and much of it was lightyears better than this. One of the best Peter Pan fanfic authors I’ve found is “weezer42.” Here is her page of Peter Pan stories. “Whither by Moonlight” is probably my favorite.

 

 

 

Serena’s Review: “Unmade”

18309803Book: “Unmade” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Publishing Info: Random House, September 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

Review: I finally got around to picking up the last book in the “Lynburn Legacy” trilogy. And, while I was left a bit cold by the second book in this series, I am happy to report that “Unmade” pulled the series back from the edge and ended on a solid note.

But first, before I go into any details about the book itself, can we take a moment to be aghast together at this cover? For the sake of discussion, here are the three covers in the series:

 

Obviously there was a huge shift between the first book and the second. My guess is that the first cover was coming across as “middle grade” and the publishers thought to “age it up” by switching cover art. But to this? Generic back-of-girl-walking-into-distance artwork? At least the first was interesting and unique. The second two just look like every other book on the shelf. I’ve never been a fan of the titles of these books, either. They say next to nothing about what the story is (what genre is this? what time period? what’s unique here?). And this problem is only exasperated by these generic covers. And what’s worse, by the time we get to the third one, the generic cover actually makes no sense! There is absolutely zero reference to the ocean or to Sorry-in-the-Vale even being anywhere near the ocean in these books. While the second cover at least draws feelings of mystery and suspense with a creepy woods (there is at least a creepy woods in the story), the third cover looks like something from Spring Break: Hawaii!! It’s truly awful. I have many feelings re: book covers, and usually I’m good at tamping it down, but this time…

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(source)

But, enough of that, on to the review! Kami and co. start off this book in a pretty low spot. Rob Lynburn has taken control of the town, Jared is missing, presumed dead, and Kami sharing a sorcerer/source bond unwillingly with Ash. It’s all very awkward and uncomfortable. First off, I commend Brennan for “going there” with the darkness in this book. It doesn’t pull any punches with the horror of what the Lynburn legacy of magic and might stands for, and the type of rule that Rob hopes to usher back in. With that, however, comes a challenging hole to be dug out of. I was concerned that some type of magical out was going to appear, but for the most part I was satisfied with the direction this story took in its final third. While I’ve always wished for a bit more explanation into the magic system (it seems like people just “have” powers and can then do anything. Harry Potter has spoiled an entire generation to fantasy reading where we expect to hear about our characters “learning” their magic!), over all I the expanded ideas with regards to connections between sorcerers and sources was entertaining and interesting.

As I’ve said in my previous two reviews, the characters are what drive this story and the reason I kept returning to the series. Kami is such a healthy, balanced teenage girl protagonist. She struggles with not only the fantasy elements of the story, but problems that many teenagers face: shifting relationships with parents, connections with siblings, evolving friendships, and, of course, romance.

The romance is probably the weakest element of this story for me. By the end of the second book, I thought things had been largely resolved in that area and I was looking forward to a story more closely focused on plot than on the romance angst. Unfortunately, it is made a thing again. And really, because it had been seemingly resolved in the second book, it felt like hoops and out-of-character behavior had to be used to create drama in this department, a writing trope that I never appreciate. At this point in the story, especially when there were serious events going on in life, the relationship angst felt contrived and I almost was rooting for Kami to just slam the door in Jared’s whiny, mopey face once and for all. Alas, she did not. Ultimately, this also resolved itself in a surprisingly satisfying manner by the end of the book, but I feel like a lot less page time could have been devoted to the whole plot line to begin with.

There are moments of this story where the dialogue is laugh-out-loud in its witticisms, but I’ll be honest, there were a few parts that were cry-worthy as well. All in all, it was a very satisfying conclusion to a solid trilogy in the YA fantasy genre. If any of these elements are up your alley, I definitely recommend checking out this series!

Rating 7: A satisfying conclusion full of witty and fun characters!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Unmade” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Diversity in Young Adult and Middle Grade” and “What a Wonderful World – A Celebration of Imaginative World-Building.”

Find “Unmade” at your library using Worldcat!

Previous review: “Unspoken” and “Untold”

 

 

 

 

Kate’s Review: “Girl Last Seen”

27070146Book: “Girl Last Seen” by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown

Publication Info: Aw Teen, March 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The Library!

Book Description: Kadence Mulligan’s star was rising. She and her best friend, Lauren DeSanto, watched their songs go viral on YouTube, then she launched a solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal chords. Everyone knows Lauren and Kadence had a major falling-out over Kady’s boyfriend. But Lauren knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. And nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with the disappearance. Or the blood evidence As the town and local media condemns Lauren, she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the truth herself. Lauren slowly unravels the twisted life of Kadence Mulligan and sees that there was more to her than she ever knew. But will she realize she’s unknowingly playing a part in an elaborate game to cover up a crime before it’s too late?

Review:  Sometimes I take a chance on a book that I have never heard of. Working at a library means that I see a lot of books pass by me, so I get tempted to be spontaneous fairly often. “Girl Last Seen” is one of those books that I decided to take a chance on. I had a long plane trip ahead of me, and something fluffy and easy sounded really good to me. However, I didn’t want it to be THAT fluffy and easy. And unfortunately, “Girl Last Seen” fell very much into that camp. It was kind of like the idea was ‘what if we took “Gone Girl” and made it for teens?’ I have news for you. Teenagers could just read “Gone Girl”. And I didn’t like “Gone Girl” either. So you know that this isn’t looking good for this book.

First of all, none of the characters were very interesting. You have Lauren, a musician and lyricist who is part of a musical duo with her best friend Kadence. But of course the moment that Lauren lost her voice semi permanently due to a nasty infection she contracted, Kadence dropped her and went solo. Lauren is your typical victimized best friend, who did crappy things to become popular, like dropping her old best friend Nathan. Then there’s Nathan, who became a pariah after he lost Lauren, so much so that he left school for awhile. He’s back now, though, and conveniently hot. And he’s going by the name Jude. He’s also kind of stalkery and hell bent on revenge against Kadence and Lauren, but not really Lauren because he’s still madly in love with her. This is normally a trope that I’m on board with, but in this case he wasn’t sympathetic enough for me to pledge my alliance to him. Then there is Kadence’s boyfriend Mason, the guy who put another wedge between Kadence and Lauren by kissing Lauren in the heat of the moment. Which is just another reason that people in their community think that Lauren has something to do with Kadence’s disappearance. All tropes that we’ve seen before. I’m fine with tropes, but only if they are made into their own well rounded characters and plot points, and none of them are.

There was also a strange choice in writing with this book, in that it tried to take an epistolary approach for the chapters that concerned Kadence. But instead of using written things like texts, or emails, or instant messages (is that still a thing?), the authors try to write out what is happening on web videos or news reports. When trying to write out something that is so visual, it comes off as very stilted and strange. I didn’t understand why that choice was made, when it could have been something like a blog post or a bunch of tweets. Instead we got a lot of things like ‘she looks away from the camera and looks upset’, which is the EPITOME of telling and not showing!!! That is a huge pet peeve of mine. If this were an actual web series, sure, a girl looking away from a camera and looking upset may show instead of tell, but in this case it just was awkward and irritating.

And there wasn’t really any big mystery to this whole thing. I pretty much knew what was happening from the beginning, and while the authors tried to throw some red herrings in there, it didn’t really fool me. That said, there was one final big twist that I didn’t see coming, which I do have to give them props for. It was much better than what the initial explanation was, and I did take that at face value at first. So kudos in that regard, as not only was it surprising, but it did end up being the most satisfactory of endings that I could get from this book. But one small twist that shocked me didn’t make up for lots of other things that didn’t quite add up in my eyes.

Seriously, teens could just read “Gone Girl” and get basically the same gist. It’s a shame because the summary was intriguing and I like being spontaneous, but when my spontaneity isn’t rewarded I feel more of a need to stick to planning out what I’m going to read.

Rating 3: This one just didn’t do it for me. The characters were flat, the mystery has been done, and most of the twists were predictable.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Girl Last Seen” is included on these Goodreads lists: “YA Music Books”, and “2016 YA Contemporary”.

Find “Girl Last Seen” at your library using WorldCat!

Reader’s Advisory for “The Raven Cycle”

Thank you for reading our joint series review for “The Raven Cycle” by Maggie Stiefvater. As promised, here is our longer, in-depth Reader’s Advisory post for the entire series now that we have completed it. On to the picks!

Serena’s Picks:

Series: “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series by Laini Taylor

This book is right up there as one of my newer favorite young adult fantasy series. If you liked the combination of fantasy and horror that you got with the “Raven Cycle,” this series is right up your alley. Also, if you liked anything about Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”…don’t want to give it away, but yikes! Taylor also introduces a strong cast of characters, and while the romance is probably a stronger element in this series than it was in the “Raven Cycle,” it never overpowers what is otherwise an incredibly creative and unpredictable fantasy story.

518848Book: “Sabriel” by Garth Nix

This is one of my all time favorite fantasy novels. I wasn’t as aware of it as a teenager reading the story, but man is it dark as well! I guess there are necromancers in it, so I should have been aware as a kid, but for some reason, as an adult reader who regularly revisits this book, I’ve come to appreciate how well Nix handles the dark fantasy elements in this book. It also features a kickass heroine in Sabriel herself, a slow-burn romance that doesn’t overtake the story, and snarky cat. So, it’s pretty much the perfect book. It can also be read as a standlone, but Nix has written several sequels in the years since it was first published. I still prefer this one above all and so am only highlighting it here, but if you do read it and enjoy it, I did enjoy the others, too.

10626594Book: “The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater

Maybe this is a cheaty answer, but I don’t care! Obviously, if you like Stiefvater’s writing for this series, you are likely to enjoy her writing in this book. Mythology in the modern day, this book is simply a beautiful imagining of an only slightly alternate world where horses can come from the sea and are as beautiful as they are dangerous. The writing is exquisite, the two main characters are sympathetic and strong, and, it’s a stand alone that leaves the reader fully satisfied. Regardless of anything else, if you love horses or books about horses, this story is perfect for you.

Kate’s Picks:

Series: “Locke and Key” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

A dark fantasy comic about family, magic, friendship, and demons, “Locke and Key” by Joe Hill (one of my favorite authors writing today) and Gabriel Rodriguez (Illustrator) is a dark and fantastical story. It follows the Locke Family, who has moved back to the childhood home of the recently murdered patriarch. Inside the house the three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, find many magical things, such as magical keys, a door that once you cross you can leave your body, and a magical crown. But there is also a demon inside the well on the property that wants the keys. The tone is both frightening and coming of age, and it is a wonderful adventure filled with action, metaphors, and heart.

22535489Book: “Bone Gap” by Laura Ruby

The town of Bone Gap has an entertaining set of citizens, including a man who treats his chickens like they are people, a hippie lady who makes honey and honey based products, and the O’Sullivan brothers, Sean and Finn, who took in a mysterious woman named Roza. But then Roza disappeared, and Finn saw a dark and mysterious man with her whose face he cannot remember. “Bone Gap” is a story about evil beings that are seeking beautiful princesses, teenagers falling in and out of love, and a very odd town with very odd characters. I picked this because of the town Bone Gap itself, which, like Henrietta, has a feel to it that makes it feel like it’s very own character.

Book: “Far Far Away” by Tom McNeal16030663

Noah Czerny is one of my favorite characters in “The Raven Cycle”, the ghost who is still walking this earth because of the magical Ley Line. “Far Far Away” deals with a ghost as well, but this ghost is a familiar one: Jacob Grimm, of the Brothers Grimm. “Far Far Away” is a story about a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson, whose closest confidant is Jacob, who is there to watch over him and protect him from an unknown evil. The friendship between Jacob and Jeremy is a sweet one, as is the friendship between Jeremy and a free-spirited girl named Ginger. And the horror elements of this story are also solid, involving a mysterious entity that is threatening Jeremy, taking fairy tale’s darkest points and making them even creepier.

And this wraps up our week long retrospective of “The Raven Cycle” by Maggie Stiefvater. If you have read “The Raven Boys” or any other books in the series, what books do you think are similar? 

Joint Review: “The Raven King”

17378527This week we’re bringing to you a special, all-week review series of Maggie Steiefvater’s “Raven Cycle” books. Containing both fantasy and horror elements, we’ve both been independently reading this series, and with the release of the fourth and final book earlier this spring, we thought it was about time to share our thoughts! So each day check in to read our thoughts on the next in the series. To round out the week, on Friday we’ll be posting a more extensive list of other books/series that we recommend if you enjoyed the “Raven Cycle.” Today we review the fourth and final book in the series, “The Raven King.”

Book: “The Raven King” by Maggie Stiefvater

Publishing Info: Scholastic Press, April 2016

Where Did We Get This Book: Both got the audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

Kate’s Thoughts:

I waited long and not totally patiently to get to this, the conclusion to “The Raven Cycle”. The book version taunted me on the shelf at work, because I was determined to hear Will Patton give life to these characters one last time, and that is what I did. And boy was it worth the wait. When early in the story some strange, ethereal beings that looked just like Blue Sargent came walking through the woods saying ‘make way for the Raven King’, in a weird, strange way, I knew that I was going to enjoy the end of all things. And all of our Raven Boys (and Blue) are so completely burdened during this book that the way that this all shakes out is going to be very, very important and consequence filled.

I was mostly happy and satisfied with how it did, which is the good news! Stiefvater had a lot of plots to wrap up, but I feel like she addressed most of them and gave them closure. The reality of their situation has started to take it’s toll on The Raven Boys and Blue. Blue is coping with the prophecy that has haunted her her entire life, now that she has found a true love in Gansey. Gansey knows that he’s doomed to die in a sacrifice, and is trying to make peace with this. Ronan is still creating things and creatures and pulling them out of his dreams (including a little girl with hooves he calls Orphan Girl), but the responsibilities with this gift are weighing on him. Adam is a powerful scryer, but the loss of Persephone in “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” is still haunting him, as is his abuse filled past. And Noah seems to be wasting away before their eyes. Seeing all of this was both very sad, but very good in the sense that it was a good reminder that they are all teenagers. If they weren’t as affected by these things as they were, it would seem very disingenuous on Stiefvater’s part. It felt appropriate that they were all in their own little angst bubbles in this book.

It was also fun seeing Piper Greenmantle again, newly teamed up with Neve and a really disgusting demon that looks like a giant wasp. The demon always felt like a serious threat, and Stiefvater’s descriptions of it and the hell that it wreaked upon the characters in this book were very scary and made me squirm. But I think that this could tie into one of the weaknesses of this book. While Stiefvater did a good job of wrapping up most of the storylines, there were a few that felt very rushed to wrap up. I don’t want to give spoilers away, necessarily, but there were a couple characters who were brought back just to be thrown to the side. I went in thinking that these characters were going to be there for the remains of the book, especially the ones that have been gone since early in the series, to give them a large send off. But then they would be over and done with after, like, a chapter. I didn’t like how rushed that felt, and I think that sometimes it was done to make room for the new characters, which didn’t seem too fair.

That said, I LOVED a few of the new characters, Henry Cheng especially. We hadn’t seen very much of him in the previous “Raven Cycle” books, but he was given a prominent role in this book as he gets closer to Gansey and Blue. His friendship with Blue was especially nice, since in the previous book he highly offended her without meaning to and it caused a lot of tension between her and Gansey. By the end of this he kind of felt like Carol Cleveland’s role in the “Monty Python” group: not officially a part of the gang, but important enough and there enough that he was totally a part of the gang all things considered. I also liked the introduction of his mother, Sun, a dealer in magical and antique items, a fact that manages to tie a lot of the realties of this world and the conflict that is in it together.

There was another thing that I was worried about in this book, and that was Gansey’s ultimate demise. I, of course, hoped that there would be a way to make this prophecy not so, as I love Gansey, I love his relationship with his friends, and I love his relationship with Blue. But at the same time, this Death Kiss had been so hyped and so matter of fact, that if Stiefvater did some sort of cheap cop out or cliched solution, I would only be disappointed. I was worried and very skeptical that she would muck it up in some way. I’m not going to say much else on the matter, except that this was NOT the case at all, and that she was able to reconcile everything together in a way that I really, really enjoyed.

And Adam and Ronan. Oh my gosh, Adam and Ronan. I love everything about their relationship, and there were absolutely beautiful descriptions about each of them through the other’s eyes that felt so achingly romantic and tender that I got choked up a few times. You wouldn’t think that describing someone as an oil spill would be breathtaking in this regard, and yet Stiefvater managed to do it. Both of these characters are filled with so much anguish and pain, and they understand each other so well and so fully that it always hits the mark in the exact way that it should.

Overall I enjoyed “The Raven King”. I’m going to miss all of these characters and this world that Stiefvater has created, but I am so happy that she ended it the way that she did. Fantasy fans need to check this one out..

Serena’s Thoughts:

And so it ends. I was so nervous for this book. For one, sticking the landing is notably difficult for any series. And for two, Stiefvater had seemingly dug herself quite the hole to dig her way out of. Beyond the obvious prediction of Gansey’s death that has hung over the series as a whole from the very first chapter of the first book, none of these characters have had an easy time of it.

Blue, with her struggles to find a place for herself in a world that she doesn’t seem to fit within all while carrying this heavy burden with regards to love and death tangled in such a way that would break most adults. Ronan, so powerful and yet so trodden down with the burdens of his gift and the losses that just seem to keep coming. Adam, who has come so far, but still carries the scars of his home life, and the internal struggle to accept the gifts of friendship that he has been given, and now has to contend with the full extent to which his promise to be Cabeswater’s hands and eyes will affect his life. And Gansey, now aware of his doom, who can feel the end coming but doesn’t know how to get there or even what role he is to play, now surrounded by such supernaturally powerful friends as Ronan, Blue, and Adam have become. How does to end all of these stories in a way that is true to the tone of the book?

It will be very hard to review this story without spoilers, but I will say that I was immensely satisfied with the ending. These are incredible challenges to face, and I think that Stiefvater handled them all with aplomb. Further, and I really shouldn’t even be surprised any more by this, she adds another character, Henry, who comes with his own baggage and gifts and was slotted in so seamlessly that by the end of the story, I was just as invested in his outcome as the others. Seriously, how does she do this??

The horror in this book also reaches its peak. There were pieces of imagery that were incredibly disconcerting, and often the scene-setting even played hand-in-hand with the type of story-telling you will find in the best horror/thriller novels. At one point, a scene is described through a character’s perspective who cannot see what is happening around him. In many ways, the scene was exactly like one you would come across in a horror movie, when suddenly a room is plunged into darkness and all you have to go on is scuffling and the random shout of dialogue to piece together what is happening. Stiefvater, just like a director of a film scene like this, understands perfectly that sometimes our imagination will make the unseen a million times more terrifying than anything actually presented. It was excellent.

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And, while I was satisfied with the ending, Stiefvater doesn’t fall into the trap of happily-ever-after. The villain in this story is a demon, and if that’s what you’ve got to fight against, a story can’t end with only rainbows and butterflies. A few villains from previous books make surprise appearances, and the background into Mr. Grey’s life as a hitman hired by an underground network of magical art dealers, essentially, is more fully fleshed out in a very creative manner. Sacrifices are made and there were times were I was definitely crying.

But like I said, it did end perfectly. The paths that are lain before the remaining characters were believable and true to the types of people they had all grown into by the end of the series. There was the possibility lain down for future stories for the characters, but I’m not sure how I would feel about a return to this series. This all felt wrapped up so neatly, and I am more than content imagining their future adventures without needing actual follow-up novels. But, at the same time, I’ve started out skeptical about how Stiefvater could pull of this series and live up to the hype, and she’s completely surpassed my expectations. Maybe I should be more trusting! Either way, this was a fantastic conclusion, and I highly, highly recommend this entire series to fans of young adult fantasy and horror.

Kate’s Rating 8: Some of the plot points are hastily tied up, but overall the characterization is spot on and the ending is very satisfying.

Serena’s Rating 9: Practically perfect ending.

Reader’s Advisory:

We’ll include a detailed Reader’s Advisory post for the whole series on Friday!

Find “The Raven King” at your local library using WorldCat!

Previous Reviews: “The Raven Boys,” “The Dream Thieves” and “Blue Lily, Lily Blue.”

Joint Review: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue”

17378508This week we’re bringing to you a special, all-week review series of Maggie Steiefvater’s “Raven Cycle” books. Containing both fantasy and horror elements, we’ve both been independently reading this series, and with the release of the fourth and final book earlier this spring, we thought it was about time to share our thoughts! So each day check in to read our thoughts on the next in the series. To round out the week, on Friday we’ll be posting a more extensive list of other books/series that we recommend if you enjoyed the “Raven Cycle.” Today we review the third in the series, “Blue Lily, Lily Blue.”

Book: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater

Publishing Info: Scholastic Press, October 2014

Where Did We Get This Book: We both got an audiobook from the library

Book Description: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Kate’s Thoughts:

And it is finally in this, “Blue Lily, Lily Blue,” that “The Raven Cycle” taps into its dark fantasy potential and runs crazy with it. I had been waiting, SO EAGERLY, for this book to become creepy and unsettling, and when things started getting real and  eerie stuff started happening I rejoiced. And then pathos set in, and my rejoicing turned to almost crying. Maggie Stiefvater ran me through the ringer with this book, and Will Patton was an accomplice. And I want to ask both of them, how dare you?

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When the story begins, Maura, Blue’s Mom and ringleader of the psychics at Fox Way, has disappeared from the house, leaving nothing but a vague note. Blue, understandably worried about her mother, isn’t one to sit around waiting for her to come back, and she enlists her Raven Boys to help her out. The power of friendship is so very strong with this group, and Stiefvater writes them all so believably and gently and tenderly that I can’t help but love every moment of it. Poor Blue is in a situation where she has the most friends that she has ever had in her life, but now her mother has left with little explanation and may never come back. This horrible situation takes it’s toll on Blue throughout the novel, and her desperation is an undercurrent in this story. But along with being afraid for her mother, this is the book where Blue and Gansey finally (kind of) start up a romantic relationship between the two of them. There is, of course, the problem that Blue cannot kiss him, as she is, according to prophecy, doomed to kill her true love after she kisses him. But this kind of works out for the better, as Stiefvater has to portray great sexual chemistry between these two without going to the obvious kissing and make out sessions. The result is incredibly romantic.

Speaking of romance, as a firm shipper of Ronan and Adam, this book was a feast of delightful implications when it comes to those two and their relationship. While part of me was definitely like ‘JUST GET TO THE KISSING!’, I really appreciated how slowly and meticulously Stiefvater decided to build their relationship. Because of this choice, it felt very natural and not unrealistic for Adam and Ronan to start gravitating towards each other. Had Adam just fallen in head over heels, especially with everything going on and his comparatively recent break-up with Blue, it would have rung quite false and come off as patronizing. Adam is starting to understand the way that Ronan feels about him, but he still has aways to go to understand how he feels about Ronan. Seeing them work these things out for themselves is a good way to build to a very satisfying and realistic pay out, and Adam and Ronan are well on their way there.

And then there’s the horror elements that I really, really liked. There were scenes that involved possession (poor Noah, things just keep getting worse and worse for him), and very claustrophobic scenes in caves and forests and darkness. It was in these parts that we met one of very very favorite new characters of this series, Gwenllian. Gwenllian is the daughter of Glendower, and a very potent psychic who tied up and left in a cave beneath Henrietta, where she remained for thousands of years under magical influence. And boy oh boy, is she both super creepy and a super hoot. She has her own abilities, abilities that are similar to Blue’s, though that isn’t one hundred percent made clear in this story. Gwenllian merely says that she and Blue and both mirrors of sorts, and that because of this Blue is safe to stand between the magical (and dangerous) mirrors in the house that made Neve, Maura’s sister, disappear. And Gwenllian comes at just the right time, there to fill the void when shit gets super real and we lose one of the women at the Fox Way house. I won’t tell you which one, but I will say that it’s absolutely heartbreaking, and it was the first time that I felt like the stakes in this series were, indeed, very high. The moment that a recurring character is killed in a series like this, that’s when you know that no one is really safe.

Serena’s Thoughts:

Whew! I felt like I had been put through the ringer when I finished this book! The first two stories slowly built to their climax points towards the end of the novel, but this book was ON the whole time. Throughout it all was the feeling that they were always on the cusp of something, that just around the next corner, on the next page, something even more fantastical was going to appear. And given that we had thousands of cars and nightmare-griffons being pulled out of dreams in the last book, topping herself in the fantasy department seemed like it would be too great a challenge for the author. Nope!

What was notable about the fantasy elements in this story as compared to the first two, perhaps, was the tinges of darkness that prevailed throughout it all. I’m sure Kate was pleased with the increased horror, and speaking for the more casual (read: more easily freaked out) horror reader, the darkness was at just the right level to give chills without veering fully into horror with a capital “H.”

The villains in this book were my favorites so far. Piper and Colin Greenmantle were the exact sort of people you live next to for years, then it comes out that they were psychopathic serial killers, and you’re just like, what? They did yoga! Even better was seeing their bizarre relationship dynamic from within. Their own casual approach to villainy right alongside quaint discussions of domesticity was almost just as disconcerting as all the fantasy horror elements.

Kate’s Rating 8: The stakes for all of our characters are raised exponentially as “The Raven Cycle” takes its darkest turn yet. I was immersed in the story progression, sufficiently eeked out by the horror elements, and I had my heart pummeled. Bring on the end, Stiefvater! I’m ready.

Serena’s Rating 8:

Reader’s Advisory:

We’ll include a detailed Reader’s Advisory post for the whole series on Friday!

Find “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” at your local library using WorldCat!

Previous Reviews: “The Raven Boys” and “The Dream Thieves.”