Book Review: The Dream Thieves

Usually, the desire to fangirl over a book turns me into a heart-fluttering, obsessive mess. However, the fangirl aroused by THIS book, was inspired by much deeper feelings. Feelings that just left me staring off into space and generally just trying to process. This book, you guys. This. Book. (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK)

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“I’ve been all over the world. More than one country for every year that I’m alive…I’m not saying that to show off. I’m just saying it because I’m trying to understand how I could have been so many places and yet this is the only place that feels like home. This is the only place I belong. And because I’m trying to understand how, if I belong here, it…”
” — hurts so much,” Blue finished.

And that is how I feel about my lovely home in Virginia (I swear Maggie Stiefvater patterned Henrietta after my adopted hometown). Because even though I don’t live there now, and won’t for who knows how long (if ever)…I’m pretty sure it will always, always feel like home. It hurts, because it doesn’t make the most sense for me to live there, because there are part of it that make me angry and sad, and yet…this. So much this. That someone understands all the deep, intense emotions I have about home is so rare, and then to find it in a book…I’m pretty sure that The Raven Cycle is going to be one of my all time favorites.

 

It was a massive old forest, oaks and sycamores pushing up through the cold mountains soil. Leaves skittered in the breeze. Ronan could feel the size of the mountain under his feet. The oldness of it. Far below there was a heartbeat that wrapped around the world, slower and stronger and more inexorable than Ronan’s own.

For beautiful, heartfelt, feel-it-in-your-blood prose like this.

Anywho. Gansey, who actually plays less a part in this one, nevertheless starts off with a bang as he spouts off one of the most hilariously quotable lines in the book (I’m practically stalking for an opening in a conversation so I can use it):

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”
“I did explain it.”
“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

Bahahahahahaha. Ahem.

The Dream Thieves continues the story of the Raven Boys and Blue Sargent as they search for the Glendower, the long lost king of Wales. This second of four books focuses more on Ronan Lynch than the first, and he is arguably the MC/POV but all the others still figure well into the story. For myself, I kept wishing we would see more of Maura and the Gray Man, but then the book would probably have been too long…ah well, maybe in the next one.

Ronan is still a complete and total dick. No worries, guys, your daredevil bad boy isn’t going anywhere. He just proves to a be a badass with a soft spot for home, and family, and the balls to go with his sharp tongue. He’s the emo, complicated boy type at its finest. With a couple of twists. Like the whole dreaming deal he has going on. I’m trying reeeeeeeally hard not to give actual spoilers but…yeah. Oh, and Ronan also has an extremely quotable line (I’ve already used this one, and I want the fucking t-shirt, damn it):

“I am being perfectly fucking civil.”

His depth of love and commitment to his family is his most redeeming quality. Ronan is so far from perfect…but the Raven Boys and Blue need him. They need him as the avenging angel that will sacrifice himself to do whatever is needed to protect them. Ronan has pretty much given up his right (and let’s be honest…he gets off on the thrill so it hasn’t been THAT hard for him) to an easy conscience. He still doesn’t do anything SO bad…but he will protect his own, no matter what it costs him. We still get to see a softer, more vulnerable side sometimes – with his brother Matthew, and with Chainsaw. Who knew a raven could be cute?

There’s a lot of development of the other characters as well, almost to the detriment of the overall plot. I suppose that’s a point against, but I didn’t actually mind it, I was so interested in seeing more of Ronan’s family, and Blue’s 300 Fox Way family.

For Blue, there was family – which had never been about blood relation at 300 Fox Way – and then there was everyone else.

I adore Blue…she’s some awesome combination of spunky and unsure and sweet…someone I’d want for a friend. Her killer kiss curse isn’t quite so much in the forefront in this book, which I liked. This one just overall felt less like high school. They were focused on more important things in general, even though there’s still a bit of tension of love/like between them. There’s one part in particular where Blue and Noah – Noah, of all people! – almost broke my face in half, I was grinning so hard at their awkward adorableness – totally non-romantic, but adorable. I loved that we saw more of Maura, and that she was more than just Blue’s mom. That’s something so often left out of YA novels, it was very refreshing. Especially as an older reader, I felt like I could relate to her.

The appetizers were delicious, not because of the kitchen, but because all food eaten in anticipation of a kiss is delicious.

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The waiting, yo, the waiting.

Last but not at all least, there is Adam. To me Adam has always been a sympathetic character and one I could identify with, for several reasons. I guess in the first book he sometimes seemed a bit whiny, but really…his backbone, ability to pick himself up again and again, and his work ethic won me over. His pride, which so often gets in the way of others helping him, is so much a part of him that no one really wants him to get rid of it. In this book he’s struggling with the parts of him he’s inherited from his father, struggling with being able to express himself without being cut down (either literally or figuratively) for it – and guess what? He’s a teenage boy. With issues. It’s hard. He makes mistakes. But he’s just…he’s such a sweetheart. And the fact that, of all the Raven Boys, he feels the most alone…it just breaks my little heart. I wanted to make him hot chocolate and tuck him in bed, to make him feel safe and cared for.

If he had no one to wrap their arms around him when he was sad, could he be forgiven for letting his anger lead him?

I really hope that Adam finds some real happiness in the next two books. If he doesn’t, I swear…I’ll be reduced to writing fanfic to give him some.

I gave this book 5/5 stars, which surprised me, especially since the first one was only 3.5/5! I just loved it so freaking much, for so many reasons. I really fell in love with all the characters in this one, much more than in the first. I’m still very intrigued in the Glendower part of the story (especially with the complete realization of Ronan’s ability to dream things into being), but right now I would follow these characters anywhere.

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Something Else Sunday #9

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I desperately NEED this wreath.

Where is September going?? How is it halfway over already? I don’t really mind, since October is one of my favorite times of year. Spring is my absolute favorite, but I love all the changes of the season. Also I’m slightly obsessed with decorating for Halloween and Christmas. I’m trying really hard to restrain myself this year because I don’t HAVE that many decorations and BUYING them would mean shipping them all home in the spring. It’s soooooo hard!

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Sir Tristan says hello from the throne of the Most Adorableness. 

Tristan is being his usual cute self, supervising everything I do most closely.

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This week I got a little more spinning done, but no pictures because it looks exactly the same as the OWL yarn (green/black) from a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t have another finished skein yet! I was unexpectedly bit VERY HARD by the crochet bug after finishing that little granny square last week, and, um, well. It multiplied. How that’s possible, I’m not quite sure, but this was the result. I learned to connect the squares without ever breaking the yarn, which was HUGE as you can see the number of ends still waiting to be woven in here. Also, I’m not entirely sure what this is. I just wanted to practice my crochet, haha. I have many new diabolical plans now. Hehehehe.

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These happened today. The perfectly swirled frosting really made me happy. I know the season is slightly off, but oh well. 😛

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This was a good week for reading! I finished 3 books, posted 2 reviews, and will have a review of the now very controversial The Cruelty up on Monday or Tuesday. Right now I am very happily reading (finally) The Dream Thieves and hopefully will get that reviewed this week too!

Hope you all are enjoying the last few days of summer! What’s your favorite thing about autumn? Mine is undoubtedly all the coziness imbued in the season. Hand knits, crackling fires, hot chocolate, heavy blankets…ahhh.

 

Book Review: The Raven Boys

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I know I’m a little late on the bandwagon for this one. However, I couldn’t resist starting the series after seeing all the Instagram hype over the last book coming out a few months ago, so here we are! I was very reticent about starting this series. I absolutely loved the idea of it – set in Virginia, Arthurian legend mixed with modern-day paganism, characters with…issues. However, the YA trappings worried me, as I couldn’t help but think that the idea could very well be ruined by trying to force it into a YA style writing and or setting. 

The opening of The Raven Boys (2012, Maggie Stiefvater) drops you right into a world that, at first, I wasn’t entirely sure I was familiar with. 16-year-old Blue Sargent has grown up in a household where clairvoyance is taken for granted and psychic abilities accepted as normal. The rest of the world though, isn’t so sure – the modern day Virginia depicted is quite typical of the current America, complete with attitudes toward spirituality outside the realm of mainstream Christianity. Blue is the only one of the family to not be gifted some type of clairvoyance herself, but she is still incredibly perceptive and intelligent as a person. She definitely marches to the tune of her own drum, regardless.

She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.

Unlike most high school girls of my acquaintance, she is proud of being different and seems to rather enjoy reminding people of the fact – not so much of her family member’s odd occupations, but of her own sense of style and her unusual interests. Then of course, there is that unusual little prophecy that her mother and aunts and cousins three times removed keep making about her, that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Thankfully, Blue is enough of a forward thinker to not entirely believe this…but, then, it definitely worries her because…well, bit of a damper on typical teenage activities.

Then there is Gansey, the other, male, MC of the story. He is for all intents and purposes little more than a spoiled rich kid, saved only by his genial good nature and constant but unintentional offending of the less fortunate. Gansey has an undeniably good heart combined with a rat terrier’s stubbornness once an idea has entered his head, and somehow it’s very endearing. At a young age Gansey had a life altering experience that brought an ancient Arthurian legend to his attention, and ever since he has been chasing  the idea of it, digging further and further into history and the depths of a spirituality almost forgotten by the modern world.

Gansey attends a high class, expensive prep school with the other “raven boys,” as the local citizens (of which Blue is one) call them. His little posse of friends all have their own intriguing quirks and foibles, which combined are both irritating and curious. In the beginning, a lot is left unexplained. The narrative switches between Blue and Gansey in 3rd person. I was very happy to see this, as it seems like almost every YA book I’ve picked up lately has been from 1st person and honestly I get tired of it! So that was immediately a point in favor.

Now, stick with me – first, the problems I had with the story.

Through about the first 100 pages or so, I was still not convinced that my fears weren’t going to come true. Really, what 17 year old has the money, time, and interest to go traipsing about to multiple different countries looking for a legend, own his own “dorm” because he finds the ones on school grounds too full of annoying other students, and whose biggest problem is that his classic Camaro occasionally breaks down? Seriously? And what about Blue? How many teenage girls are completely ok with being the only odd one out – because even at the end of the book, Blue seems to have no other friends than the ones she has made in the unlikely “raven boys,” despite having lived in their little Virginia town her entire life. Her mother has a fairly hands off parenting approach – typical YA story, in my experience, because too much parental meddling or supervision would interfere with a decent storyline. In fact, at one point of the book, Blue’s mother forbids her to do something, and it appears to be the first time she has ever issued such a command (Blue must have been an exceptionally compliant child, or perhaps her mother was just over-tolerant)! Also, Blue in general seems much older than 16. Her attitudes, even her mannerisms, spoke to me of a woman in her early 20s – as did Gansey and some of the other high school age characters. Their true age is only really revealed in their naivety about some things and their willingness to believe in the good of people. Apparently early jading isn’t actually that common? Oh, and one of the less-mature raven boys in Gansey’s little squad is constantly drinking. WHERE does this underage alcohol come from? How is it he never gets in trouble? Maybe I was just a good kid and didn’t break rules, but without an older sibling/cousin/reprobate parent in the picture, alcohol wasn’t that easy to come by when I was in high school. 😛

So those were my issues with the book. At this point, you’re probably wondering how I still gave it 4 stars!  So let’s get into the good stuff.

As already stated, I was quite taken with the Arthurian legend bit. Add in that it’s set in my claimed home state of Virginia, and the way Stiefvater manages to invoke the true feel of the mountains, the mist and fog and how they can exude both security and foreboding.  Her writing throughout the entire book is by turns intriguing, amusing, and lyrical, and it kept me turning pages even when the initial introductions made me do the internal eyeroll. In fact, halfway through I looked her up to see if she had ever written adult fiction. Her talents seem limited by the YA field. But I digress.

Even now, it seemed to Gansey that he could feel the aching presence of the nearby mountains, like the space between him and the peaks was a tangible thing.

Yes. Yes, it does feel that way. And I can truly identify with Gansey’s desire for the old legends to be true, to find something, somewhere, that will prove to the world that the things he feels are not just a child’s make-believe.

Then, the little rag-tag (rich) group of misfits stumbles upon a wood that, well. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was curled up on the couch in my very well-lit living room as I read it, and I got actual goosebumps. I can even tell you what page it was on, because I was that impressed (it takes quite a lot to give me goosebumps). Page 244 of the hardcover edition, if anyone is wondering. The story just gets better from this point. The atmosphere invoked is just spot on. The characters are revealed more and more as the story moves along. Little immaturities come to light that make their age more believable. I didn’t feel that the romance angle was particularly angsty – Blue’s little prophecy deal makes her gunshy of boys in general, even when her heart and hormones scream at her – her head has, so far, managed to overrule the more impulsive parts of her but there are lots of avenues left open.

There is, of course, a cliff-hanger of sorts – not terribly dramatic but enough to make me wish I had the sequel immediately on hand! I’m anticipating maybe a switch in narrators in the next one, and hope that the slow reveal is continued. Overall, I gave it 4/5 stars. I really did think for awhile that it was going to be 3…but I became so invested about halfway through that despite its issues, I felt it deserved the higher rating. I’m really hoping the ensuing books don’t disappoint!