Book Bites – more to get your teeth into
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… anyone who wants a YA series that is totally unique and packs a real punch, this is it!
I was going to review just The Raven Boys, the first of Ms Stiefvater’s books that I had ever read, but it was only the first instalment in the series and the story didn’t finish there so I ended up reading the other three novels as well. In other words, I was hooked.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Stiefvater briefly at a book signing in London this summer and since I’d liked her a lot – she was charming, funny and very, very patient (there was a three hour queue!) – I wanted to like her book(s) too. And I sort of did. Well, I must have done as I couldn’t stop reading, right!?
That might sound strange, but I feel a bit conflicted about it because although the writing is excellent and you’re sucked into the story right from the word go, it wasn’t really my kind of thing. I like a bit of fantasy and magic, but this was very dark – almost too dark at times. At the same time it’s a bit confusing. You want to carry on reading to find out what’s going on, but there is just so MUCH happening, so much to take in. It’s a very complex story which spans all four books. And it’s not just one character’s tale, but lots of different ones that are all woven together into a whole (but none of them finished until book four). I have to admit I was expecting the usual YA story of magic, growing up, falling in love etc but that’s only a small part of it.
The heroine, Blue, lives in a house full of psychics (including her mother), but has no such abilities herself. Instead she seems to act as some sort of amplifier for psychic activity and energy whenever she’s near. These psychics have been telling her almost from birth that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die. Not a comfortable prediction to live with, but it’s meant that she’s stayed away from boys – until she meets the ones from a local private school, known as Raven Boys, and gets sucked into a quest they’re on. And then weird things start to happen.
So far, so normal, story-wise. But one of the boys she meets, Gansey, is obsessed with finding a long-dead Welsh king, who has supposedly been asleep for the last 600 years and if woken can grant a favour to the person who finds him first. Gansey knows a lot about history, ley lines and arcane rituals. He seems to have travelled all over the world (by himself, even though he’s only seventeen?) looking for clues and has ended up in Blue’s home town because it’s on a very strong ley line. Personally, I found it very odd to have these tales of Wales and long ago battles playing out in America, in Virginia to be precise, and not somewhere in the UK (although there is an explanation for it). And with all the many sub-plots involving the other characters – Gansey’s three friends, Blue’s mother and aunts, the villain and various other people – it was a bit hard to make sense of it all at first.
After reading book one, I felt I was left with almost as many questions as when I started, and the plot point which had drawn me to the story in the first place (the romantic element – Blue’s true love) was very slow to develop so the first book’s tag line – If you kiss your true love, he will die – is misleading as it made me think I was going to read a love story.
However, I’m giving this series five piranhas for the sheer inventiveness, imagination, world-building and fantastic writing (book three especially manages to be very humorous as well as really dark!). As I said, I was completely hooked by these stories, almost against my will as they weren’t the type I would normally choose, and that takes great skill on the author’s part. (Also, I may be the only one who wished for more romance and less dark magic, being the incurable romantic that I am). I would say that anyone who wants a YA series that is totally unique and packs a real punch, this is it.
Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The fourth one in the series – New England Dreams – is out now!
Excellent writing … shame about the story (or lack of)
About the book:
When the United States of America crumbles under civilian protests and riots, a new United America rises from the ashes…
After a reformation, United America runs like a well-oiled machine. Solar power trumps fossil fuels, strict laws keep crime at an all-time low, and at sixteen, residents are assigned their role in society—and fulfill it without complaints. But unbeknownst to the citizens, they are also under constant monitoring, and reigning President Vaughn has eyes in every sector of the gleaming country.
When Rosaline Thatcher turns sixteen, it is time to receive her position in society…
When President Vaughn calls Rosaline to the stage, she dutifully follows orders. Though she dare not disobey, it’s unclear why she is being singled out. As she passes her best friend, Wesley, she’s reminded of what’s at stake. With her new role, she could be torn from her friends and family forever.
Rosaline goes from ordinary citizen to leader of the free world…
Shocked and overwhelmed, Rosaline can’t understand why she was chosen for the most vital position of all. But with great power comes great responsibility, and with the help of those closest to her, the fate of their thriving country rests in her hands.
When she discovers a secret location only known as the O.C., the United America Rosaline thought she knew may turn out to be history’s greatest fraud…
In a society where citizens obey without question, what will happen when one girl dares to defy, and what will that mean for United America?
Review by Katy Haye:
I rather thought this story was a waste of evident writing talent. Jaci Wheeler can clearly write well and there was no problem zipping through the pages. But I had a couple of massive problems with the story.
*There are spoilers ahead, don’t continue if you don’t want to see them*
Key was that NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. You would think that a story about a 16-year-old being appointed President would be full of drama, but it was all tediously low key. Stuff happened, but it was all on the level of: get up – eat dinner – show a bunch of adults what they’re doing wrong – go to bed. Everyone agreed with each other the whole time. There was no friction, no conflict and consequently I didn’t really care what was happening or to whom.
My other issue was that this newly-envisioned slimmed-down USA was utterly unconvincing. Everyone was impossibly nice and co-operative and harmonious. And yet, despite that fact, Ros has been selected to be President because she appears to be the only person found (despite 24/7 surveillance Big Brother would be proud of) to be capable of behaving like a civilised human being and treating other people with any degree of respect and humanity.
And the premise of a 16-year-old being selected as President and slipping straight into the job with everyone non-stop positive that she was the best thing ever simply didn’t gel with me. I just couldn’t accept that no adults would have a problem with someone so young having the top job. But nope, despite her being pretty patronising to many of them, they were all overjoyed to serve.
She wandered through the book spotting things “wrong” with the country that simply made me scratch my head – people with disabilities are written off instead of being brought into working adult life? Well, of course that’s wrong – BUT DON’T YOU THINK THEIR FAMILIES MIGHT HAVE HAD SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT? Despite everyone being 100% bought-in to harmonious US life, a few bad apples persist and must be incarcerated. Our heroine discovers that the prisons are inhumane and everyone working in them knows that fact BUT IT TAKES A 16-YEAR OLD GIRL TO POINT THIS OUT. Nope, not buying it.
Furthermore, this US seemed to exist in a weird vacuum. One of the key jobs of a President is surely to represent the country to other countries (‘Leader of the Free World’ is mentioned in the book description above). Except that there didn’t seem to be any other countries in this world – or this harmonious, glorious US existed suspended in a bubble apart from them.
I guess the ending was supposed to be some kind of a twist that upped the stakes, but it certainly didn’t intrigue me enough to make me want to read more. I nearly gave up at 50% through, but decided that would be a waste of the time I’d already spent. Having persevered to the end I’m not sure I was right about that.
Afraid I really can’t recommend this one.
The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the Blitz for Laura Diamond’s Dawn of the Vie. Just look at that cover – and the inside sounds just as fantastic!
Dawn of the Vie
(Immortal Aliens, #1)
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: October 3rd 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Since their Arrival less than 30 years ago, immortal Vie rule the planet like the super-predators they are. Enslaved humans are their servants…their entertainment…and their food. Anemies—humans with various types of anemia—are simply exterminated. Their nutritionally deficient blood is useless to the Vie.
Or so it’s thought…
Alex, an Elite Vie, is a bit of a Renaissance Alien. Part scientist, part Raid Specialist, part drug addict, he knows Anemie blood is valuable. Rather than blindly carrying out his boss’s kill order, he convinces some colleagues to spare a few Anemies, not only for study, but also to reserve a secret stock.
The more Anemie blood Alex drinks, the more he slips into delusion, and the more his double life threatens to crumble. But quitting Anemie blood is not an option. Every Anemie has their own personal flavor. Each gives a unique high.
When Alex takes a hit of Justin’s blood, his hallucinations bleed into reality…
Anemie Justin knows his little sister, Sammie, and he are living past their expiration dates. It becomes a guarantee when they’re bitten by a Vie named Alex during a raid. (The bite is fatal, thanks to a toxin carried in Vie saliva.) Alex adds insult to injury by promising Justin a second chance—an antidote in exchange for agreeing to be a lab rat.
And a mule…of his own blood.
When Justin says no, Alex takes off with Sammie.
All Justin has to do is find them, beat Alex, and cure himself and Sammie. All he has is a stake and serious lack of self-preservation.
Alex wants Justin’s blood.
Justin wants his sister back.
I hated afternoons the most. Soon after came darkness—the time when a raiding squad could snatch you out of bed and drain all the blood from your body. It was amazing that any Anemies survived with the extermination campaign ridding the world of us red blood cell-deficient freaks.
I gently squeezed my sister’s hand to make sure she kept up. Dirt caked under her fingernails like it caked under mine. The cuff of her torn sleeve had stains like mine. Her pant cuffs were rolled up six times… also like mine. A younger version of me—mouthiness and all—in girl form. Unlike me, Sammie tended to dawdle, and since we held onto the last rung of the society ladder by the tips of our fingers, giving in to distraction could get us hurt—or killed.
My gaze jumped to the pale, indifferent sky then jittered to the partially constructed biodome edge as I walked. Large, clear panels filled the metal framework in a beehive of hexagons. Eventually, the damn thing would cover the entire city, including the river surrounding the island and part of the ocean capping the south side. The project had been progressing since before I was born.
Once the construction workers completed the biodome, Vie wouldn’t have to fear the destructive UV rays of our sun and could wander freely during the day. We’d have no safe period whatsoever. Vie could get us any time.
Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist currently specializing in emergency psychiatry. She is also an author of all things young adult—both contemporary and paranormal. An avid fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and anything magical, she thrives on quirk, her lucid dreams, and coffee. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found sniffing books and drinking a latte at the bookstore or at home pondering renovations on her 225 year old fixer upper, all while obeying her feline overlords, of course.
The Paisley Piranhas are delighted to join the Book Blitz for Ramona Finn’s The Glitch. Love the sound of this one! Continue reading