Book Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

My mini-review:

“There was something unfamiliar about him. Something ferocious about his eyes, some sort of bite in his faint smile. Something altogether hectic and unsettled. She stood on the ledge of his smile and looked over the edge.”

The quote above accurately describes how I feel when I’m reading any of Maggie’s books.

From the first page of The Raven Boys, the character development, mystery, and possibility of something more, will hold you in a trance. Captivated. I thought this feeling would gradually fade away after the first book, but like Blue’s ability to amplify energy, everything is intensified with each subsequent book. It just keeps getting better.

And this. Ronan and Adam. Lynch and Parrish. Parrish and Lynch. PYNCH.

“I know when I’m awake and when I’m asleep,” Ronan Lynch said.
Adam Parrish, curled over himself in a pair of battered, greasy coveralls, asked, “Do you?”
“Maybe I dreamt you,” he said.
“Thanks for the straight teeth, then,” Adam replied.

Needless to say, I am highly anticipating The Raven King. How do you end something like this?

★★★★★ (5 stars) for obscenely tall men and fake lakes and crumbling caves. For Blue, Gansey, Noah, Ronan, Adam, Maura, Calla, Persephone (especially Persephone), and the hitman. And maybe even Orla, too. But not Greenmantle. Or Piper.

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”

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.

My review:

“Fate,” Blue replied, glowering at her mother, “is a very weighty word to throw around before breakfast.”

I thought the synopsis of this book was detailed, but wow, it doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I expected some YA angst and drama and forbidden love. This was so much more than that. It was captivating. It was family and magic and understanding. It was right and wrong and life and death. It was beaten-up Camaros and pizza from Nino’s. It was bruises and birds and bones. It was fate.

How do I say this without sounding like an idiot? I feel as if I know the true essence of every character. The character development was astounding. It’s as if I was given access into the minds of almost everyone: Blue, Neeve, Maura, Persephone, Calla, Whelk, and most importantly, all of the notorious Raven Boys.

I can’t explain how thrilled I was throughout the entire book. I was literally on the edge of my seat. Seriously. My leg has an odd cramp in it because I was so tensed up.

I wanted to say that the world-building was perfect but it wasn’t necessarily a new world. It was our world, but with undiscovered magic and the quest for purpose and trees that speak Latin.

★★★★★ (5 stars) for the eccentric sensibility of Blue and all the ghosts who are our friends. For Gansey.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My review:

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit.”

This book has turned me into a person of few words, and I mean this in the best way possible.

This world was so easy to slip into. I felt like a speck in the masses of Blackcliff. Inconspicuous and insignificant. We are all life and dark and strength and spirit. Each of us is a soldier in battle. Some of us know what we are fighting for, some of us are simply fighting to find out what for. Others have no will to fight. Most days, the struggle is deciding who we are fighting with, and who we are against. Sometimes, but more often than not, we are against ourselves.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

I am a skeptic when it comes to fate and prophecies and claims like “everything happens for a reason”, but I was meant to read this book. That’s all I know.

★★★★★ (5 stars) for the everyday soldier, fighting for a better life.

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My review:

“But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.”

Initial response (last night): My heart needs time. I only planned on reading a few chapters before I went to bed. It was sometime between 11 pm and 12 am when I read the first page. Now I’m here, at 2:12 am, wondering what took me so damn long to read this book. I was not expecting this. This book. Wow. I don’t want to write a review yet because I’m sleep-deprived and need time to digest but I can’t contain all the feels. Just wow. I want to thank the author. Thank you, Benjamin.

Update (this morning): This book is one of those books that you want to tell everyone about. I want to talk to everyone about this book. I want the universe to know that I read this book and that now nothing will ever be the same. Like, where do I even begin? I don’t think I’m capable of writing anything coherent right now. I just think everyone should read it.

This book is the definition of ★★★★★ (5 stars). All the stars in the universe. In the desert. Where there is no light pollution. Looking up from the bed of a pickup truck.

Book Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

My mini-review:

“Sometimes one must choose whether to be kind or honorable,” he said. “Sometimes one cannot be both.”

I have nothing else to say other than it has been an absolute pleasure reading this trilogy. I almost wish I would have read slower so as to prolong my experience in the world of Shadowhunters.

★★★★ (4.5 stars) for truly placing me in another world.

Book Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

My mini-review:

“If no one cares for you at all, do you even really exist?”

I care, William Herondale. I care.

I want to give all the stars to the entirety of The Infernal Devices, but I don’t want people to think that I am too easily enamoured.

★★★★ (4.5 stars) for turning around my dreadful weekend/life.

Update (February 15, 2016): I am giving this series all the stars.

Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

My mini-review:

“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

This is very close to 5 stars for me. I’m giving it ★★★★ (4.5 stars) for now. All it took was a few pages for me to become immersed in the Shadowhunter world. And now I can’t get enough. I am really looking forward to reading “Clockwork Prince” next. I am obsessed.

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My mini-review:

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.”

Relatable. So relatable. Like, unbelievably relatable. I imagine that my life would be written a lot like this if it were a YA novel; however, Fangirl is far less tragic and far more cute than my story. Also, I don’t normally “ship” people—nor do I even use that phrase—but I have to say that Simon and Baz make me want to use the word “ship”. I ship them. So there. I did it.

★★★★★ (5 stars) for reminding me why I love and embrace being a nerd. This is probably now one of my all-time favourite books.

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

My mini-review:

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

The majority of this book was read while I was waiting around in airports, so my expression remained rather stoic (in an attempt to go unnoticed by other passengers) except for the few times I couldn’t quite suppress my laughter and it slipped out like a chuckle or a cough. I didn’t much like how people were staring at me while I was reading. I am a bit paranoid though. Anyways, the point I wanted to make is that I felt rather involved yet withdrawn while reading this book, and then for some reason, after reading the last page and putting the book down, I felt my eyes stinging and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

★★★★★ (5 stars) because I’m not really sure what is so great about this book but it was something I needed to read. I do wish that the author was a terrific friend of mine.

Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My mini-review:

“There was nothing to make him last a long time.”

I understand that some readers may have disliked this book because they thought it was written to be tragic just for the sake of being tragic (if that makes sense), but it was still a lovely story. And from what I hear, it’s inspired by a personal experience of the author’s, so the tragedy is hardly present just for the plot excitement. One can also make the point that a lot of YA novels are regurgitations of each other, but I still found this to be a very touching story. Like Theodore, I am a different Layla for different people for reasons unknown, and I have lasted longer than I thought I could.

Ugh, I love Finch.

★★★★★ (5 stars) because you make me lovely.