Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “maggie stiefvater”

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #86 Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

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I knew that I was going to like Ballad.  I hoped I was going to like Ballad.  I was worried about being disappointed by Ballad because it was the second book in a series by Maggie Stiefvater.  Linger, her second book after the brilliant Shiver, left such deep scars of disappointment that it took a book like Insurgent to make me trust that second books could be wonderful.

The first few chapters felt jumpy and a bit disjointed, especially when a third narrative was woven into the story.  I almost put the book away on the bookcase, but then I remembered that I’d felt the same way about Lament at the beginning and I kept reading.

I am so glad that I did!

Ballad is the story of James, the dependable friend and sidekick of Lament’s heroine who stands by her side and helps out, loving her completely even when she falls in love with the Faerie who has been sent to kill her.  By the end of Lament, James comes to understand that Dee will never feel the same way about him that he does about her.

Ballad opens with a strange, unsent text message  as Dee’s narrative, then jumps into the story from James’ point of view.  He is studying at the Thornking-Ash School of Music on a special scholarship, but soon discovers that he is surrounded by more faeries than ever before, especially one who seems almost human.  Will he lose his heart… or lose his life?

Once you get past the slow pace of the first few chapters, the story develops into something so captivating and satisfying that you are loathe to put the book down for mundane things such as eating and sleeping.  The book and its amazing characters race towards one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve enjoyed in a book in recent memory.

KUDOS to author Maggie Stiefvater for this brilliant and enjoyable tale.  I adored how this second book made the series stronger instead of weaker.  The ending was unexpected, touching and terrific!

Paperback format, 388 pages, Copyright 2009, Scholastic Canada Edition (2012)

Malin’s #CBR Review #92: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent lives in a household of psychics. Her mother’s one, her aunt is one, and all her mother’s friends. Sometimes their predictions are vague and non-specific, sometimes they are very accurate. Blue has known for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. Until this summer, that hasn’t been a problem. Blue knows boys are trouble, and the Raven Boys, the young men enrolled at the prestigious Aglionby Academy in town, are the most troublesome of all.

Every year, on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue and her mother go to an abandoned graveyard at the outskirts of Henrietta to watch for all the spirits who will die in the next year. Blue normally can’t see them, her power is that she enhances the psychic abilities of those around her, and it’s her job to write down all the names of the ones her mother speaks to. This year, Blue goes with her aunt, and for the first time, she sees one of the spirits on the Corpse Road. Unfortunately, that means one of two things. Either the boy is her true love, or Blue is the one who killed him. The spirit said his name was Gansey, and he was dressed as one of the Raven Boys.

Richard “Dick” Cambell Gansey III, known to all his friends and acquaintances as Gansey, is completely unaware of Blue’s vision, or even existence. He enrolled at Aglionby Academy in  Henrietta, Virginia because he is looking for the burial place of Glendower, a legendary Welsh king. With the help of his friends, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch and the mysterious Noah, he searches the town for evidence of ley lines and mystical artifacts.

Adam is a scholarship student at Aglionby, and only managing to keep his place there by holding down three different jobs. He’s Gansey’s best friend, but the difference in their backgrounds and financial situations create conflicts and complicated undercurrents in their relationship.

Ronan Lynch is one of three orphaned brothers, vicious as a wild animal and self-destructive to the extreme. Gansey and Adam do their best to keep him out of trouble, and from being expelled from the Academy. Noah lives with Ronan and Gansey, but seems strangely strangely quiet and distant from the others. He never eats anything when others are watching, and spends a lot of time on his own.

Having previously stayed far away from all Raven boys, Blue now needs to discover the truth about Gansey. Is he her true love? Did she cause his death? Is there any way she can prevent his spirit from ending up on the Ghost road? Can Blue and her family help Gansey and his friends in the search for Glendower?

Based on the blurb of the book, I was expecting something a bit different from what I actually got. First of all, for all the ominous talk about kissing and dooming boys, there is very little romance in the story. Blue is a very sensible girl, and fully aware that her family’s predictions are nothing to be messed with. When befriending the Raven boys, it’s not even Gansey she feels drawn to, at first, but Adam. Still, not wanting to tempt fate, Blue’s not about to be kissing any boy, rich or poor.

Gansey and Blue do not get along at first, mainly because of a massive misunderstanding, and because they come from vastly different worlds. Gansey has never known a day of want in his life, and has always had huge amounts of money that he can buy whatever he wants with. He doesn’t understand why Adam would rather work three jobs to go to the Academy and stay with his abusive father, rather than accept a loan from Gansey and stay with him and their other friends in the huge warehouse apartment off campus. He only wants what’s best for those he loves, and is painfully aware that occasionally he insults people just because of his carelessness with money. Gansey has several reasons for wanting to find the missing tomb, Adam needs to find it because of the supernatural favour the finder is supposed to be granted. He needs to get out of his dead end existence, but he can’t do it while relying on someone else – he has to know that he managed to get out while being beholden to no one.

Maggie Stiefvater has an amazing way with words, and I always have very high expectations to her books. I think that’s why I was a bit disappointed with her previous book, The Scorpio Races. I want to love her books, and it’s very difficult for me when I don’t. This book was different from what I was expecting, but drew me in and enveloped me in the sort of magical worlds that I’ve come to expect from the author.

It is very clearly the first book in a series. There are story lines that are resolved, but also new ones that clearly need to be addressed in later books. The character of Ronan, who I’ve not really written much about in this review, but who is also a very interesting and complex character (say what you want, but Stiefvater is brilliant at creating fascinating people to read about), will clearly play a more prominent part in the next book, if the last page of the book is anything to go by.

The back of the book may suggest that this is a supernatural love story, but it’s much more of a mystery, with a quest narrative thrown in. The friendships of the four Raven Boys, and the relationship of Blue to her family are central, and all really well depicted. The villain in the book could’ve been given better characterisation, and I never quite felt that the stakes were as high and dangerous as they were probably supposed to have been, but the book is very good indeed, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Crossposted on my blog.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #71 Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

It was with some trepidation that I opened Lament after my youngest daughter finished reading it. Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver was one of the best new books I’d read a few years ago in the YA category, but the mucking about that she did to the story line with the rest of the trilogy left a bad impression to say the least.  In my opinion, Shiver remains strongest as a stand alone novel and I felt totally disenchanted by the thought that a trilogy was more marketable and profitable.  Shiver’s story was so strong, the ending so startling that I felt in awe of all the possibilities that lay before the amazing characters.  Then the two other books totally ripped apart what I had hoped and imagined, culminating in one of the most dissatisfying conclusions to a series I’d ever experienced.

Given this bias, I am amazed that I added Lament to my challenge list.  The first few chapters were hard.  I found myself thinking that the “impossible odds love story” was just too formula, too predictable and too “young”.  Slowly, Stiefvater’s incredible style and descriptive prose drew me in.  I fought it.  I didn’t want to be drawn into another tale only to hate where the author would lead me.  When the love triangle emerged, I nearly groaned.  Is there no other plot line for young women to read these days? Visions of Team Edward and Team Jacob began to blur my vision.  Luckily, the swift pace of the plot pulled me on and I ended up finishing 3/4 of the novel in a single gulp.

Lament’s ending is wonderful, poignant and satisfying.  I was also surprised to discover that this novel was actually written BEFORE Shiver, Linger and Forever.  The writing seems as mature and polished as in Shiver, so it didn’t feel like a “younger” work.  The novel didn’t try to wrap everything up in a neat package and allowed me to imagine how the story would unfold after this glimpse.  The fact that there is another novel written about one of the characters now intrigues me rather than filling me with dread, so I may see if I can find a copy of Ballad to read before the year is out.

Maggie Stiefvater has plenty of talent to share with the world and with her readers.  Whether or not she can thrive given the current market pressure of selling stories as trilogies remains to be seen.  I blame editors and publishers for that more than the authors.  When compared to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books, all of whom could stand on their own if necessary, or even Sherrilyn Kenyon’s passionate tales that keep each book self-contained but within a much wider world behind it, I can’t help but feel as if the YA format is missing out on an important lesson…

Just tell one good story at a time.

Paperback format, 356 pages, Copyright 2008, Scholastic Canada Edition

sevenstories’ #CBR4 Review #36: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

“Every year, the Scorpio Races are run on the beaches of Skarmouth. Every year, the sea washes blood from the sand. To race the savage water horses can mean death, but the danger is irresistible. When Puck enters the races to save her family, she is drawn to the mysterious Sean, the only person on the island capable of taming the horses. Even if they stay together, can they stay alive?”

First Line: ‘It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.’

I’m a little torn about this in a very similar way to how I felt about Delirium by Lauren Oliver recently. The writing is carefully crafted and atmospheric but the pacing is off and the book takes too long to get going. The characters are largely appealing and the concept is refreshingly unique for the young adult market but I think the horsey focus put me off a little, as I’m not a big animal lover. I imagine that this will go down a treat with some teenager readers. It is also good to read a standalone young adult novel as well and to get some level of closure at the end.

The full review is on my blog.

Why I read it: I bought it for my husband after seeing it on the Cannonball group blog, who took it on holiday with us to Iceland where I read it after I finished the books I brought with me.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of earthy, gritty books rather than high tech, futuristic worlds who like a strong heroine and difficult decisions.

Alexis’s #CBR4 Review #16: The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

book review scorpio racesI loved this book and hate to write a recap or review because my clumsy prose will just make it sound cheap. So don’t bother with what I have to say, just know that I loved this book more than The Night Circus, which I thought would easily be my favorite read of 2012.

On the island of Thisby the capaill uisce come out of the sea to roam wild and monstrous in search of fresh meat. They can be caught and ridden like horses, which they are not, and to forget this for even a second means it will be your last. In November tourist come to watch the capaill uisce and their riders race down the beach in the infamous Scorpio Races. Many will die. The winner brings home a fortune on an island where most have just enough.

Sean, quiet and masterful, spends his days working with the horses and capaill uisce in his care with the dream that someday the capaill uisce, Corr, that he has raced and won with, can be fully his. Corr is all that matters and to loose the race is to loose him forever. Puck is the first girl to ever enter the Scorpio Race and she’s doing it with her beloved island pony Dove. She’s driven by desperation bound by loss and poverty to win and keep some measure of her family together. There can be only one winner.

Maggie has written a number of bestselling YA romance books (The Faerie Lament, Shiver, etc.) so many have lumped this one in with them. Which is short-selling both the book and the author who has far surpassed her earlier books with this one. This book is about love and loyalty, home and hope, magic and mystery.

Every so often, I can see the head of a capall uisce in the water, far out from shore, driven toward the sand by the November current. The ones we have caught struggle against us in bridles hung with bells and red ribbons, iron and holly leaves, daisies and prayers. The water horses are hungry and wicked, vicious and beautiful, hating us and loving us.

It is time for the Scorpio Races

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