Category Archives: Magical Realism

10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I remembered that I hadn’t yet written a review for THE RAVEN KING (nearly two months later) and when I sat down to write it, I just couldn’t put this book into real sentences. THE RAVEN KING was full of so many moments, so many things, and so many swoons that I just really had a hard time organizing them into long strings of perfectly formed paragraphs. Instead of struggling, I decided instead to switch over to my non-traditional review format with “10 Things I Felt About This Book” and let the feels fall where they may!

10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: April 26, 2016 by Source: Audible, Amazon
Genres: Paranormal, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 29, 2016
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), All the Crooked Saints, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1)

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.

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10 THINGS I FELT ABOUT THE RAVEN KING

  • TERRIFIED. Oh boy, I was just plain terrified to read this. The end of BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE left me with so much anticipation AND I hyped myself up for it so I was nervous that somehow it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
  • IN LOVE. I am so head over heels for this gang. I’ve never read a friendship that was so amazing and so all-encompassing like it is for Blue and her Raven Boys. Too many times, someone starts to get jealous and it ends up fracturing a friendship and while that was still present in this series (naturally. It happens to the best of us), it was taken to a level where the characters didn’t want it to affect the friendship and they did everything they could to keep the group together instead of letting jealousy take over. I love how much these characters wanted to be together and how important they were to one another.
  • IN DENIAL. THE RAVEN BOYS starts off with the prediction of Gansey’s death so it’s no spoiler that it’s heavy in everyone’s minds during THE RAVEN KING. I was in total denial that it would even happen so I pretty much spend the entire book convincing myself otherwise even though Maggie said it was definitely happening.
  • ACTUALLY FEARFUL. There were some ACTUAL scary moments in this book! I don’t read books about ghosts when it’s taken at a horror angle. I’m way too much of a chicken. There were some very, very creepy things that happened in this book and I will not lie to you — I cried actual tears of fear. I mean briefly, but yeah, it was scary!
  • IMPRESSED. I know Maggie Stiefvater had this all sorted out before she even started but I’m always so impressed to see an author bring a series together for a great conclusion. It was really neat to see how all of the pieces fit together and see so many things from all of the previous book find an explanation in THE RAVEN KING.
  • UNPREPARED. I just really, really, REALLY was not ready for this series to end. Confession? I actually felt SUPER weird once it was over. The cliffhangers from the previous books were so intense and interesting that it was really weird to leave this book with a note of finality. I mean, obviously we needed to but it didn’t leave me with that series hangover feeling because I wasn’t ready for it to end like that.
  • SHIPPY. I won’t spoil anything but obviously in a big conclusion, we get some big ship answers and conclusions as well. I was totally feeling them.
  • ANXIOUS. The hardest thing about reading a huge series finale is that A) everyone is so in love and B) there is no ARC so everyone reads the finished copy all at the same time. In a series like this, I was especially afraid of spoilers and they were so hard to avoid!
  • HOPEFUL. The way the book ended, there was a whisper of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might get more words about this gang in the future. I’m hoping for an adult Raven Cycle book,.
  • SATISFIED. This was such a satisfying conclusion. I actually was a bit — disappointed is too strong of a word but the best I can think of at the moment — at a big moment at the end because it felt too… happy? I mean happy things happen in this book but I think I was expecting a devastating moment and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I actually somehow hoped for it a little bit but I guess things really did work out quite well and it just wouldn’t have been the ending that it was had the book not played out like it did. Cryptic, I know, but how do you talk about the ending of a book without spoiling it?? 

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Buy it and read it, of course!

This is still one of my all-time favorite series. I really can’t wait until it’s time to re-read the whole series again knowing how it all ends!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE RAVEN KING

             UNDER THE NEVER SKY

10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

THE RAVEN KING is coming out early 2016 and I’m re-reading all of The Raven Cycle on audio before it comes out. I need a refresher on details and feels before I head into the last book of the series and oh boy, are these books sure giving me a heavy dose of both!

Since I’ve already done one formal review of THE DREAM THIEVES back when I first read it, I’m switching things up a bit with a bit more feeling and a little less analyzing with “10 Things I Felt About” THE DREAM THIEVES!

10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: September 17, 2013 by Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Mythology, Magical Realism, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 5, 2015
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), All the Crooked Saints, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1)

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?
Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.
One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.
And sometimes he's not the only one who wants those things.
Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan's secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

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10 THINGS I FELT ABOUT THE DREAM THIEVES

  • EMOTIONAL. Let’s be honest. My re-read of THE RAVEN BOYS stirred up all kinds of feelings and I was prepared to be emotionally wrecked again.
  • INSIGHTFUL. I actually didn’t feel as emotionally wrecked as I had thought (though some parts just killed me — looking at you, Blue & Gansey…) but I did feel like there were a lot of answers and there was a lot more set-up for BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE which was really interesting to see having read the first three books already.
  • IN-THE-KNOW. Like THE RAVEN BOYS, there were sooo many more clues and little things that I was able to pick up on knowing what I know of the series. It was so much fun to see those things and how much more sense they make, as well as how something small really does make a huge difference! (I wonder what I’m missing that’ll be important in THE RAVEN KING…)
  • MORE CONFIDENT. One of the big things I took away from THE DREAM THIEVES during my first read was that the ending was a bit confusing. I think I just didn’t quite wrap my head around what was happening and I was so excited to be reading the book and finishing it that I think I rushed through the ending and ended up confused on the details and these aren’t books you can rush. Knowing it was coming, I paid much more attention and listening to audio really helps because my eyes can’t skip across the page and miss something!
  • FORGETFUL. Not gonna lie… I remembered the things that stood out to me and forgot a lot of the details that actually happened in this book. BUT it was that much more exciting to re-read it! Like the Gray Man. Totally forgot how his story even closed in this book!
  • CONFUSED. … at why Kavinsky’s voice sounded like Christopher Walken on this audio hahaha. It did not seem like an appropriate voice for him, but okay.
  • IMPATIENT. I just didn’t want to put this audiobook down! This series is just so engrossing and all-encompassing.
  • RONAN-CENTRIC.loved learning so much more about Ronan in the book… In a way, it made me feel less and more for him. It’s sort of like the more you know about something, the less mysterious it is BUT those moments of Ronan affection really make you realize exactly how important and extraordinary they are.
  • SHIPPY. With all of the fan art and non-canon things I see floating around Tumblr, it was definitely important for me to re-read and experience each and every one of these relationships again. Not that I have anything against non-canon things but it does muddy things up a bit in my head sometimes!
  • CONTEMPLATIVE. I just keep thinking about ALL the things we learn in this book, what we already know from THE RAVEN BOYS, and what readers will learn in BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE and omg. It’s overwhelming. HOW WILL THIS END. I also fear for Gansey. 

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Re-read it!

You MUST re-read these book if you’re a fan of the series at all. I can tell you they just get even more magical.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE DREAM THIEVES

     THE ACCIDENT SEASON        PAPER VALENTINE

Armada – Ernest Cline

Armada – Ernest ClineTitle: Armada by Ernest Cline
Publishing Info: July 14, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 21, 2015
Related Posts: Ready Player One

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.And then he sees the flying saucer.
Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.
It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

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I’m going to be very honest for a second… I didn’t really know what ARMADA was about until I started reading it! I absolutely loved Ernest Cline’s previous book, READY PLAYER ONE, and hearing that Wil Wheaton was narrating another one of his audiobooks, I immediately pre-ordered the audio. By the time the book came out months later, I had almost entirely forgotten what the book was about but since I do like to go into books blind, it wasn’t an issue with an author I trusted!

ARMADA was exactly what I expected and quite different all at the same time. I love that it’s still a video game tie-in/base (like in READY PLAYER ONE) but it’s used quite differently in this case! It really brought the same sort of feel — along with overall tone and character personalities — that READY PLAYER ONE had but didn’t feel like a repeat of the same story at all. I actually didn’t realize that the book revolved around an alien conflict (or totally forgot since I had read the synopsis so long ago) and I actually think that was a good thing! I’m very hesitant about alien stories and tend to steer clear so I’m actually glad that I didn’t really realize that was the main plot of the book  before I started!

ARMADA was really excellently written. Considering video games and aliens aren’t really my “thing” at all, I was totally hooked and interested the whole time and Ernest Cline did a great job of really making me feel like all of this could actually happen! The balance of action, plot, and character development was so consistent and dynamic and I just found myself falling further an further into the book. I’m still a newbie to sci-fi sometimes (sometimes I have issues with really technical concepts or specific references) but the book does a great job of connecting with all audiences and on many different levels.

This is definitely a more plot and action-based book but I really appreciated the attention to characters and character relationships. I really enjoyed getting to know Zack and I especially loved his relationship with his mom. She was one of my favorite characters and I really appreciated how she was portrayed! Zack also had some really great friendships and I loved that they didn’t suffer from friendship drama just to add another conflict in the story. The plot had enough going on by itself and I loved that his friends were there for him no matter what.

Whether you’re a sci-fi fan or afraid of alien books like me, I think ARMADA is enjoyable for so many audiences! If we’re comparing, READY PLAYER ONE is still my favorite of his, but ARMADA was so incredibly enjoyable as well. I think I personally connected more with the concept of READY PLAYER ONE so that gives it the extra push!

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

I immediately pre-ordered this audio knowing Wil Wheaton narrated! He did an excellent job with READY PLAYER ONE and I loved listening to him narrate ARMADA as well! The voicing of Zack and his friends were excellent and Wil Wheaton just really embodies characters so well. He really just goes all out on the narration and I love how authentic it makes the books feel. They really just come alive!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Zack Lightman // Character Obsessions: Armada, video games, family, friends, the memory of his father.
Zack was a really fun character. I just love these portrayals from Ernest Cline. He just felt like such a genuine and real person and I loved how in combination with the audio, I could just see the whole thing playing out like a movie in my mind too. I really admired Zack’s courage once things started getting real and I appreciated his dedication and loyalty!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Video games & aliens. I don’t really play video games ever (do we count Mario Kart and Guitar Hero? No?) and I usually shy away from any books that mention aliens because I just don’t find them believable but somehow ARMADA had both and I just loved it!
Left Me Wanting More: Story after it’s over? I usually use this spot to say what I was missing from the book but I really couldn’t think of anything! I didn’t quite have that personal connection that I did with READY PLAYER ONE but that’s just me and my experiences connecting to a book so that’s not really anything I wished could change. I WILL say, however, that it seemed like it was left open for another book…? I’m not sure if that’s a future plan but very interesting!

Addiction Rating
Buy it! (Listen to it?)

I definitely recommend this book on audio! It’s simply fantastic and I love Wil Wheaton’s narration. I think without it, I MAY not have enjoyed the book as much just because he brings SO MUCH to the book with his voicing. I do think it’s worth the read and the buy, though, no matter what! It was so entertaining and is starting to change my pre-conceived notions about some aspects of sci-fi!

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BOOKS LIKE ARMADA

(Click the cover to see my review!)

INSIGNIA     THE 5TH WAVE

The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-DoyleTitle: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Publishing Info: August 18, 2015 by Penguin
Genres: Paranormal, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 21, 2015
Related Posts: Spellbook of the Lost and Found

Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it's bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it's just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There's a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she'll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she'll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she's ready or not.

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THE ACCIDENT SEASON was a really interesting and unique read for me! My first impressions were that it reminded me of books like PAPER VALENTINE, WE WERE LIARS, and UNSPOKEN and yet it was a book that really stood all on its own. The spooky and romantic atmosphere really brought the book to life and there were some really excellent moments all throughout!

I really loved the concept of “The Accident Season” itself. Every October, Cara and her family suffer countless accidents and injuries — even deaths — and Cara doesn’t really know why it happens. The question remains throughout the book and yes, the ending does provide an answer (thankfully)! The whole concept of it was just so interesting and shocking and curious and I really loved the answer as to why these things were happening and why they were only happening to Cara and her family.

I also really enjoyed the overlying theme of secrets. One character, Elsie, runs a “secrets booth” at school (which turns into a school project every year) so people drop their anonymous secrets there but each character in THE ACCIDENT SEASON is concealing a secret of their own and it was just so interesting to not only see those secrets revealed but also how they all tied into the main story line.  The structure was just great and I really appreciate how cohesive the story was.

I had a bit of struggle in the middle, though, I’ll admit. I was hooked from the beginning by the atmosphere and mystery presented to me but I feel like I got a bit lost in the second third of the book. My interest waned a bit — possibly when the story began to focus more on the characters than the mystery? — but it didn’t last too long because I easily fell back into that excited rhythm once all of the pieces started falling into place.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE ACCIDENT SEASON and it was a delightfully intriguing and spooky read. The book takes place during October (and Halloween) so it’s the perfect book to pick up during the Halloween season too! I can’t wait to hear the responses from fellow readers on this one!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

THE ACCIDENT SEASON gr updates

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Cara // Character Obsessions: Family, Elsie, secrets, romance, answers.
I really liked Cara a lot! She reminded me of a few other great heroines and I was definitely interested in her story. I liked that she felt like a good balance of normal teenager and concerned sleuth once she started investigating the weird goings-on. I didn’t always love her decisions BUT I also think that’s what made her more realistic!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Spooky vibes. I really loved the whole feel of this book! I’m not a horror person by any means so I love books like this where it’s spooky and a little scary but not enough to make me run away screaming! The atmosphere was dark and suspicious and it only made me want to read more!
Left Me Wanting More: Mystery in the middle. I felt a bit of a lull in the middle of the book when it dipped more into the character’s story lines rather than the mystery. It wasn’t that I disliked getting to know the characters better but I felt like the mystery sort of stopped for a while and it had been a great momentum that paused.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was a really interesting read and I sort of wish I had read it around Halloween time! BUT now I can recommend it to everyone else for a great spooky or Halloween read!

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BOOKS LIKE THE ACCIDENT SEASON

(Click the cover to see my review!)

PAPER VALENTINE     UNSPOKEN

Re-Read: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) – Maggie Stiefvater

Re-Read: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) – Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: September 18, 2012 by Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Magical Realism, Mythology, Paranormal, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 25, 2015
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), All the Crooked Saints, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1)

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

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I really fell in love with The Raven Cycle over the past few years and with the pending release of the LAST BOOK in 2016, I knew I just had to start re-reading them. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did! (And something I highly recommend for any fan of the series!)

Re-reading THE RAVEN BOYS was such a magical experience and the book was even better knowing all of the things that I do now. It was so much fun to have insight on some little things that I’m sure I didn’t even pick up on the first go around (mostly likely because there wasn’t any significance yet). It was so amazing to relive this story from the beginning, especially having the knowledge of what happens in THE DREAM THIEVES and BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE.

The feelings once again were fantastic. I had a sort of notion in my head how things had happened in this book (after reading the other two, things sort of get muddied since obviously plots start changing and relationships evolve) and it was so great to see exactly how Blue met her Raven Boys and how these relationships started versus how they’ve developed and where these characters have ended up. The friendships and subtle romanticisms in this book are just delightful and it was so great to see the beginnings of these characters knowing exactly how much they grow throughout the series.

Maggie Stiefvater is absolutely brilliant with words. The prose is lyrical and really just flows so wonderfully, carrying the reader through book. I remember when I first read THE RAVEN BOYS, I had no idea what I was getting myself into (in a good way, of course). The only Maggie Stiefvater book I was familiar with was SHIVER at the time and the writing was much different, in my opinion, so I was a bit surprised to see how much more complex THE RAVEN BOYS was. My first read through took me just a bit to get used to the writing style but knowing the exact feel of the books now made it that much more magical for me as a re-read.

I won’t get super detailed since this was a re-read for me but I WILL urge you re-read this series as well if you’re a fan. It’s just such a wonderful experience to go through this story again from the beginning and I immediately wanted to jump into THE DREAM THIEVES! It was so hard to pace myself and not just binge the rest of the books but hey, THE RAVEN KING is still quite a few months away!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

raven boys gr updates

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Noah // Character Obsessions: Friendship, camaraderie, subtlety.
I think the most interesting character for me to revisit was Noah (for obvious reasons for those who have read the series… no spoilers for those who haven’t). It was really fun to revisit his story again for the first time and to see how he interacted with everyone throughout THE RAVEN BOYS.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Lack of genre? I really love the blend of genres… or really lack of ability to put this series into a category. It’s not strictly paranormal or strictly mythology or contemporary or magical realism or urban fantasy. It’s sort of all of them or sort of none of them.
Left Me Wanting More: JUST MORE. I just need more, more, more of this series. I almost started the second book immediately after because I jUST COULDN’T WAIT. But ultimately I managed to pace myself.

Addiction Rating
RE-READ IT!

You HAVE to re-read these books if you’re a fan of the series! It’s so incredible to see this story start over from the beginning and relive this magic!

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BOOKS LIKE THE RAVEN BOYS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

WHITE CAT     GRAVE MERCY

Re-Read: The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

Re-Read: The Scorpio Races – Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: October 8, 2011 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: November 1, 2014
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), All the Crooked Saints, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1)

     It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die.
    At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
    Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

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Naturally, I felt the draw to re-read THE SCORPIO RACES in October and November. It’s been a while since my first read and to this day, this is still one of the audiobooks I push the most due to its amazing narrators (Steve West as Sean and Fiona Hardingham as Puck) and of course, Maggie Stiefvater’s gorgeous prose and amazing story-telling.

A book about horse races. Not something I’d normally gravitate to much less fall in love with, but Maggie’s magical realism is supreme. There’s so much more to this book than just horse races — mythical water horses, the first girl to enter the annual Scorpio Races, a fight for the proper place in the world, bravery, loyalty, love. THE SCORPIO RACES is just the kind of book that draws you in and really gets you lost in the world that the author creates. Both times I’ve read this book, I could truly feel like I was on Thisby, watching these characters, running with the horses. I could almost taste the salt of the sea and feel the chilly November wind in my hair. Just thinking back on it now brings all of those feelings back and this book is definitely one I just love to tuck myself into.

This was actually my second time not only reading the book but listening to the audio. After reading it for the first time via audiobook, I couldn’t get it out of my head. The voice actors were just amazing and really brought the book to life. There’s no way I could read this book again and not have it be through the audiobook. It was a very familiar experience re-reading in the same format (lately I’ve been reading in print the first time around and then re-reading via audio, most often) and yet it was really a brand-new experience as well. Firstly, somehow in the this crazy reading world of mine, I had forgotten how the book actually ends. Obviously I knew it ended with the Scorpio Races themselves, but… did Sean win? Did Puck win? Did someone die? Did something insane happen? Somehow I didn’t remember the details and I don’t know how that happened but it did. That was kind of a good thing in a way though. The ending was suspenseful and emotional and like a brand new book. The second thing was that during my first read, I really wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I had a brief understanding of what the book was about but I really wasn’t sure what the feel was going to be like or where the story would go. It was nice to know exactly where I was putting myself when picking this book up for the second time (well, aside from the ending, apparently) so it felt much more secure and there was a lot more excitement on my part as well.

I really just LOVE everything about this book. I was a bit hesitant during my first read simply because I didn’t know what to expect. THE SCORPIO RACES does have its action but it’s also a very character-driven book. It caught me by surprise when I first read it and I felt like it took a while to get into but knowing that during my re-read and pining for these characters and the magnetism they have towards one another (and to me as a reader), I was already head over heels for the both of them and for this entire story and setting and feeling before I even started.

THE SCORPIO RACES might end up being a re-read every year book for me! I absolutely loved reading it during the months that it took place. I think the more I read this book, the more I’ll fall in love with it. If you’re looking for a great audiobook, this is definitely one I’d recommend to sweep you off your feet!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Puck // Character Obsessions: Family, Dove, riding, the house, bravery.
I adore Puck (real name Kate). She’s brave, fierce, loyal, and so dynamic. After losing her parents, she fights to keep the family together, especially when there are so many obstacles in their way. I LOVE her ferocity and determination. She never stands down (almost to a fault) and she goes after what she wants in life. She’s just such a wonderfully strong character.
Sean // Character Obsessions: Corr, horses, racing, freedom. 
Sean — or should I call him Sean *dreamy sigh* Kendrick — MAY be one of my favorite broody characters of all time. He’s definitely broody but not in a pouty or annoying way like some male characters tend to end up. Oh, no. Sean has a reason to brood and he keeps to himself and he’s quiet but strong. (And let’s not forget the strong jawline, oh yes.) I just love him and fell even more in love with him during this read. (Doesn’t hurt that Steve West’s voice is amazing and I may be in love with him a little too.)

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Kept Me Hooked On: Magical realism. When I first read this book, I honestly didn’t even know how to classify it and then I finally read a few books with more magical realism elements and thought that might fit in. Thisby is a unique place. You almost can’t even tell in what time period the book takes place and the wonderful thing of it all is that the only magical element, really, is the presence of the water horses. It’s perfect for those who like a mix of everything and maybe just a touch of fantasy. (I also love how unique and unclassifiable Maggie’s books are.)
Left Me Wanting More: Thisby. I finished my re-read and immediately wanted to listen to it again. This book has really become so magical for me. I want more Thisby, more Sean, more Puck, more everything.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

I really enjoyed my first read but this is a book I will want to re-read many, many times! I fell in love with it even more this time and I think it’ll hold that same magic each time I come back to it.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE SCORPIO RACES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        GRAVE MERCY       FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS

Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar – Meg WolitzerTitle: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Publishing Info: September 30, 2014 by Penguin
Source: BEA 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 20, 2014

    If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.
    She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
    But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
    Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

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BELZHAR is a difficult book for me to review. While I enjoyed the book as I was reading it, a few things just didn’t sit right with me in the end and it left me feeling a bit confused about what I had just read and how I felt about it. (Then again, if I actually read synopses through thoroughly AND even remembered what they were before I read the book, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had such big issues. This is, however, a THING I do since I try to leave as many twists alive in a book as possible before I start reading.)

Well, BELZHAR (the “zh” pronounced like the “J” in Jacques, for those who didn’t know!) is a bit of magical realism, which is always hit or miss for me. I’ve loved books like FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS which has quite a bit of magical realism, but doesn’t shy away from the fantastical elements and then I find myself on the fence about books like BELZHAR which tend to stick to a mostly realistic world with a specific magical element — and I think that’s the part of magical realism that doesn’t quite work out for me. I love fantasy and I love contemporary but to mix the two in one book is a bit difficult for me. I’m more inclined to believe in the fantasy part of a story if there is more fantasy in it. If it feels too realistic, the magical elements feel too unbelievable. This of course has nothing to do with how the book was written — it was simply an element that was an important part of the book that I just couldn’t connect with as I was reading.

That being said, I actually enjoyed the contemporary romance/realistic fiction aspect of this. I actually had a lot of sympathy for Jam (well, in the beginning) because she had lost her boyfriend and she was going through such a rough time. As the book progressed, I really enjoyed getting to know her, but honestly, I liked some of the secondary characters more than I did Jam. Her despair became a bit taxing for me as I continued to read and as much as I wanted to continue to sympathize for her, by the end of the book (once we really find out the whole story with Jam and her boyfriend since she chooses not to reveal everything to her friends all at once), I was just really frustrated with the whole situation.

I just feel so CONFLICTED. I enjoyed the book as I was reading and yet, once I finished, I felt like I had all of these emotions that I didn’t feel while I was reading. It was a very confusing situation and ultimately, that really changed my overall view of the book. Those little things that just didn’t sit right with me were actually very big things once I really started to think about it so I came off totally torn.

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Jam // Character Obsessions: British boyfriend Reeve, avoidance, despair, being alone.
Oh, Jam. I really wanted to like you. I really tried… But in the end, I just didn’t think you should have been the protagonist of this story.
Once I found out Jam’s FULL story, it actually changed my feelings about her entirely. I just really didn’t like her reactions and I felt like that really weakened her character for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Classics? I hadn’t read THE BELL JAR but from the book, I’m actually intrigued! I love when a book gets me interested in some classics again (though let’s be honest. I still probably won’t read it.)
Left Me Wanting More: Realism. Sigh. The magical aspect of this book just didn’t seem to fit for me. I feel like it could have been done a bit differently… but then again, I have no creative feedback as to HOW so what do I know haha. Overall, it just wasn’t something that sat well with me.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I just feel all over the board on this one. What do you think, friends? I feel like this book incites very mixed reactions amongst readers. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

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BOOKS LIKE BELZHAR

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        tandem   nil

Fairytales for Wilde Girls – Allyse Near

Fairytales for Wilde Girls – Allyse NearTitle: Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
Publishing Info: June 23, 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Gift
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 24, 2014

    A deliciously dark bubblegum-gothic fairytale from a stunning new Australian talent.
    ‘He's gone the same way as those little birds that bothered me with their awful songs! And you will too, you and your horrible heart-music, because you won't stay out of my woods!'
    There's a dead girl in a birdcage in the woods. That's not unusual. Isola Wilde sees a lot of things other people don't. But when the girl appears at Isola's window, her every word a threat, Isola needs help.
    Her real-life friends – Grape, James and new boy Edgar – make her forget for a while. And her brother-princes – the mermaids, faeries and magical creatures seemingly lifted from the pages of the French fairytales Isola idolises – will protect her with all the fierce love they possess.
    It may not be enough.
    Isola needs to uncover the truth behind the dead girl's demise and appease her enraged spirit, before the ghost steals Isola's last breath.

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Wow, FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS is just so unlike anything I’ve really read before. It first caught the eye of Alyssa, Amy and I (well, I’m sure one of them saw it first and recommended it to me, actually) was the fact that it was billed as “bubblegum gothic”. We weren’t even sure what that quite meant, but we wanted it! We ended it up selecting it as our April read for our On the Same Page feature and I will tell you that “bubblegum gothic” is an extremely accurate description!

FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS follows the story of Isola Wilde — a teenage girl who seems a bit odd to the normal public (even her father). She grew up reading the fables and fairy tales of Lileo Pardieu, an author who she ended up idolizing for her fantastic and magical tales which also seemed to fit perfectly with Isola’s fantastical and imaginative reality. See, for Isola, those fairy tales were a bit more than just stories. She’s a girl who sees ghosts and mermaids and fairies that she’s collected as her “brother princes”, a sort of collective of friends and trusted advisors to council her and guide her on a day-to-day basis. To her friends and to her father, they’re just imaginary friends and possible serious delusions, but Isola knows they’re real and they’re the people who are always there for her. When Isola happens upon a dead girl in the precious Vivan’s Wood, her life slowly begins to change for the worst when this girl threatens to shatter her relationships and her safety.

Okay, so normally I don’t rehash the plots in my reviews, but I felt the need to give a brief explanation of what this book is really about. It’s an amazing mix of fantasy and contemporary wrapped in magical realism and author Allyse Near really leaves no stone unturned with each genre-specific feel. I don’t have a lot of experience with magical realism so I will say that sometimes it’s a bit difficult for me to follow. I’m used to reading worlds that are entirely real or worlds that are entirely fantasy so when the two combine, it’s hard for me to tell what is real and what isn’t and where the lines blur to create that middle where the book exists. It wasn’t always simple to figure it out, but I think that’s also the point of FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS and I really enjoyed the places this book took me.

The first thing I need to say about this book is that the writing is simply gorgeous. Allyse Near is a fantastic writer. Sometimes the use of metaphors is a turn-off for me but not with this book. They’re done superbly, excellently placed, and really just fit with the theme of the book. I loved how descriptive everything was and the words were so beautiful, really just flowing off the page.

One thing that was really special for me was Isola’s relationship with her brother-princes. Alejandro — the ghost of a young Spanish man who died at the age of 24 in Victorian London — was the first one we meet and naturally, he was my favorite (whispering to Isola in Spanish, hellooooo. Their relationship wasn’t romantic at all but I sure had a crush on him). Isola has a fantastic connection to each of her brother-princes and the love that they have back for her is so fierce. I loved that even though she was an only child, Isola had her siblings in that sort of way and they did everything they could to protect her and advise her and you could just tell the love that they had for one another was so genuine.
On the more contemporary and realistic side, Isola also has some semi-complicated relationships with her friends and family. She feels responsible for taking care of her mother who goes through spouts of mania and depression. She feels incredibly disconnected from her father who seems to ignore both of them for a majority of the time. She has a best friend James but their friendship started to get complicated with “feelings” getting involved; a best friend Grape with whom she always has a partner in crime; and a new friend Edgar that may develop into something romantic. Just like Isola and her relationship with them, each person is incredibly dynamic and complex and I just felt like each character in this book just leapt off the page.

I felt like the pacing of the book was just perfect. I never really felt a lull and the only time things tripped me up a little bit was when I was just trying to get a grasp on the balance of magical versus real. I think one of my only major hesitations was the ending, actually. I really enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t quite sure it sat right with me based on how I was reading the first three quarters of the book. The reader does get quite the resolution but I also felt like little things were sort of left open to interpretation and that made me second-guess how I had read the beginning and perceived that. I’m sure that’s not the case with everyone who reads the book, but for me, that was something that I was just a tiny bit unsure about.

FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS just felt so original and magical. It’s unlike anything I’ve read recently and I wish there was more access to wonderful Australian books like this for American readers (although Fishpond is a great place to start)! If you’re looking for a combination of fantasy, contemporary, and horror, FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS is a fantastic place to start!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Isola Wilde // Character Obsessions: Brother-princes, Lileo Pardieu, taking care of her mother.
Oh, Isola. What a character! She seems so mature and yet still allows the fantasy of fairy tales and bedtime stories to fully weave in and out of her life. It’s an incredible balance between the two. I really loved her quite a bit and her story was quite incredible.
Edgar // Character Obsessions: Family, art, Isola.
I really loved Edgar. He was more of a quiet, soft-spoken, artistic type and I kind of fell in love with him a little bit too. I really loved the relationship he developed with Isola and despite everything going on in his life (or because of that), he just seemed so solid and understanding.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Dark & twisty fairy tales. I loved how dark this book was and yet how it was still all about fairy tales. A darker fantasy. I’m always fascinated and FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS totally nailed it.
Left Me Wanting More: A concrete ending. So much was resolved at the end of the book but there were just tiny things that I wasn’t quite sure of that seemed to make a big difference for me.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you like fantasy and contemporary all combined into one, pick up this book! The writing is absolutely beautiful and amazing descriptive and I feel like this one will be an easy one for a lot of people to fall in love with!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

       Daughter of Smoke and Bone     The Graveyard Book

The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races – Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: October 18, 2011 by Scholastic Inc.
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: January 29, 2013
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), All the Crooked Saints, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1)

    It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

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THE SCORPIO RACES was magical. I’m not entirely sure what I had expected when I started, but I really ended up enjoying it! I actually felt like it took me a little while to get into it — not because it wasn’t good, but because it took a while for me to “meet” the characters and get to know them. I felt like both Puck and Sean have a really tough exterior so even to the reader it takes a little bit to break that shell. I was never really going to quit it, but I can’t seem to think of different wording than I’m glad that I stuck with it. The writing is simply beautiful and whereas I did not really enjoy the only other Steifvater book I’ve read so far (SHIVER) I was totally captivated by the beauty of Maggie Steifvater’s writing and her character development.

Even though THE SCORPIO RACES ultimately boils down to a race, exciting action, and violent sea horses, I think was I was really sold on was the character development. We really get to know Puck and Sean separately until the races intertwine their two lives. They’re both in different yet similar predicaments — they must win the races and the monetary prize that goes with winning in order to maintain their currently lives and not lose a valuable piece of their family (or whatever they consider their family after everything they’ve already lost). Watching the interactions between Puck and her family and Sean & his horses was the most magical part of this book for me by far. As far as their romance goes, I loved that it wasn’t rushed and it wasn’t even the main focus. It fit in perfectly and easily, without being forced at all.

For some reason, I was totally caught up on the logistics of the water horses. How did they survive in the water AND on land? Did they have gills to breathe in the water? Were their lungs adapted to both land and water? It was never explained and somehow I was a little stuck in the fact that I didn’t know the details.

A big part of the magic of this book for me was Thisby itself. I have no idea in what time period this was supposed to take place but I very much pictured something in the 1930s or 1940s – a time before technology started coming through and the automobile was just becoming a part of every day life. I loved the atmosphere that this setting created. It was such a personality in itself and I loved the feeling of Thisby.

I was REALLY hesitating how to rate it. I was caught somewhere between liking it and loving it, but overall, I think I’m leaning more towards loving it. Thinking back on the general feel and the emotions I felt toward the end, I’ll lean towards the higher rating!

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

Yes. Get this as an audiobook. Steve West reading for Sean Kendrick and Fiona Hardingham reading for Puck Connelly was superb. I absolutely loved the British accents and for some reason it just made the story flow. Is it weird that my favorite part of the narrating was George Holly’s American voice? I don’t what it was, but for some reason I found it weirdly sexy….. Anyone else? No? Just me? Okay, awkward….

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Puck: Even though both characters alternate narrating, I really felt like it was more Puck’s story than Sean’s. I just felt like she had more going on as far as a conflict goes and more of her personality came across to me. She was so spunky and determined and I loved her spirit. She was definitely a ton of fun to read about/listen to.
Sean: Sean was a lot more reserved and a little bit brooding… I loved his quiet strength and his passion for looking after the horses. My heart went out to him the whole book and I just felt like there were so many emotions bubbling under the surface for Sean. He brought so much passion to the story and really made me FEEL for the characters — even the horses!

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BUY IT

This book was so magical… and the audio was just fantastic. I’m highly recommending this one — a magical realism I can get on board with!

book_recommendations1

           

The Elementals – Francesca Lia Block

The Elementals – Francesca Lia BlockTitle: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block
Publishing Info: October 16, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 21, 2012

    From star YA author Francesca Lia Block comes an adult novel about a student haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, desperate to find and withstand the truth.
    The Elementals is on one level a contemporary story about a young woman, Ariel Silverman, facing the challenges of her first years away at college in Berkeley, California, while her mother battles cancer at home in Los Angeles. But the book takes on deeper, stranger meanings when we contend with Ariel's obsession with the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, who vanished without a trace a few years before. Her emptiness of spirit seems finally to find some healing with three mysterious, beautiful and seductive young people living in a strange old house in the Berkeley hills. But at what price?

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Well this was quite different than what I was expecting so I’m not really sure quite how to review it. It’s a very different kind of book – part mystery, part horror, part magical-realism — and despite how uncharacteristic it is of my usual reads, I really was sucked in until the very end. I will say that Block does a great job of keeping the reader curious regarding what happened to Jeni, what will happen to Ariel and her new band of misfit friends, and also what will happen with her mother.

That being said, as much as I was entranced, it was more like I simply couldn’t tear myself away, but definitely more in a messed-up kind of way. It was actually kind of sad for me to read because here we see Ariel, starting college at 17 (I’m guessing she had a late birthday) and she is so purely innocent. Never even having kissed a boy (although I’ll stay kissing your best girl friend is still weird to me), no drugs, no alcohol — and we just see her entire innocence ruined throughout her stay in college. True, I guess it could be said that she never would have been in that position if Jeni hadn’t gone missing and her mother hadn’t had cancer – but even still, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t have gone through any kind of course of action like that if I had been in the same position.

I think the biggest message I took away from this story is how much more college-age is “coming of age” versus high school and young adult. Once you’re away from your family, your home, every comfort that you once had, I’d say you’re that much more vulnerable to try new things, find new dangers, and seek more excitement. When you’re shaping your life yourself and taking these chances on your own, I think that’s a time where you change so much more than in what I’d say is the more traditionally thought of “coming of age” range in high school.

character_breakdown1Ariel: Poor Ariel. Lost her best friend, barely clinging to her mother, and ripped from all familiarity. I sincerely felt bad for her and it was kind of a heartbreaking story because I just felt like she was getting taken advantage of and everyone in the story was totally abusing her innocence. I can’t say that I liked her or disliked her, really. She was just really hard for me to relate to.
John: John kind of creeped me out in the sense that he kept switching back and forth from feeling strange and dangerous to maybe being a good support for Ariel. Even after the finishing the book I’m still undecided!
Tania: I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near Tania. Right of the bat she seemed like she had hidden motives wrapped in pretty packaging to entice you and reel you in. She was way too involved in her “other world” which was kind of odd and out there. I think she was the most frustrating character of the book!

QUOTES

p8: “But you just can’t run faster than time, not faster than death and, as I’d find out, not faster than love.”

p219: “When I went away to school I had thought I was a grown-up but now I realized that even at twenty I was still a child who was just learning who she was and how to take care of herself.”

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Borrow it.

I was interested but it wasn’t quite a book that really stuck with me. Somehow I couldn’t stop reading but overall, I really didn’t love it or connect with it.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE ELEMENTALS