The Dream ThievesThe Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads | Amazon

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Four and a half stars

Thanks to Scholastics and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released September 17th, 2013.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers for The Raven Boys. See my review of the first book HERE.

Given my last review, it will come as no surprise to anybody that I love this book. If the writing was only good instead of awesome and the plot was only so-so, I would adore it for the characters alone. But the writing is amazing—maybe the best yet. I had to resist the urge to quote random sentences at literally everybody.

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ARC Review: “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads | Amazon

“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.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

5 stars

Thank you to Scholastics and NetGalley for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself on September 18th, 2012.

*Note from Gretchen: Before this review gets started, I would like to take a moment to welcome my first guest reviewer! As this blog gets bigger and bigger, I’ve found I can’t handle to review load on my own. Therefore, I turned to a longtime friend to help with the load, and this is her first review! So give a warm welcome to Marina, who also happens to be a HUGE DIEHARD Maggie Stiefvater fan.

I have a confession to make: I did not agree to guest-post here because I was doing a favor for Gretchen.  I agreed because she said “Raven Boys!” and I said “GIMME.”  Because I am very fond of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.   I am not Gretchen, but I assure you I’m usually very picky, so all the gushing I’m about to do is completely out of character for me.

But with that out of the way, READ THIS BOOK.

There are complicated, damaged characters who behave like real people.  There’s magic just inaccessible and strange enough to be believed, and there are trees that speak Latin.  There are guns and helicopters and fancy cars that break down.  There’s even a raven named Chainsaw.  What’s not to love?

Read this book because it will surprise you.  I’m used to knowing vaguely what’s going to happen, because I read way too much and after a while there are patterns, but this one surprised me no less than three times (and possibly more, I wasn’t counting.)   It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely astonished, and it was immensely satisfying, even though I was left staring in horror at the words and saying “MAGGIE WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.”

Read this book because Blue is not a boring only-there-for-the-romance female protagonist.  She’s an actual, interesting character who is unusual and awesome in her own right.  When Gansey gets condescending, she doesn’t just get offended; she shames him and then shames him again and again until he behaves.   Love at first sight is not on Blue’s agenda.  Actually, relationships as a whole are not on Blue’s agenda, and when she does get into one it’s sweet and quiet and cautious—just like first relationships should be, particularly with the addition of Blue’s “If you kiss your true love he will die” curse.  Unlike a lot of the insta-love relationships that Gretchen’s always complaining about, this one felt real.  Because the characters are shy and careful, the relationship was too, and to me, at least, that made it all the sweeter.

Speaking of relationships, the relationship between the raven boys—Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey—was brilliant.  They’re all damaged, they’re all struggling, and the group quietly makes adjustments for whoever needs it at the time.   When Ronan, who is definitely the most outwardly damaged, is discovered to be missing, the seamless way his friends come together to search for him is heartbreaking, because it’s so clear they’ve done this before.  They know where to look and how to look.   They’re not demonstrative; sometimes—often—they’re not even that much alike.  But they’re unflaggingly, ferociously loyal to each other, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

My only objection: this is the first book in a four-book series.  While it is a self-contained story, there are plot threads that I am dying to have resolved that just really aren’t.  The part of me that is a writer (I write stuff, by the way) accepts this and understands why it works.  The part of me that is a reader is dying to read more.  The last line is…not a cliffhanger, since cliffhangers imply unresolved action, but suffice to say that several of the raven boys are hiding things, and not all of them explain those things before the book is through.   Now I have to wait another year to find out and it’s KILLING ME.

This is a book about people who desperately want something—not always the same things—and the reasons why they want it, and what they’re willing to do to get it.  It’s a book about people who are trying very hard, despite a number of different things making life difficult, from abusive parents to prophecies to awesome sad things I can’t say due to spoilers (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, NOAH AND RONAN).  The characters are gorgeous, the relationships are delightfully, painfully real, and the plot…will definitely keep you on your toes.  I’m giving this four and a half stars because as a guest reviewer I don’t feel right giving five.  I assure you I’m normally quite picky, and if this was my blog it would be five, so don’t let the missing half star fool you; read this book! [Note from Gretchen: Don’t be silly, Marina. I finally got around to reading this, and we’re totally going with five stars. And that is my endorsement of this review.]

* P.S.   Gretchen has given me permission to translate the untranslated Latin in Chapter 12 (as a Classics major, I can do useless things like Latin but not useful things like cooking), so here goes: Ostendes tuum et ostendam meus means I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.  That seems out of the blue now, but it will all make sense when you meet Ronan Lynch.  And his Latin teacher.  You’re welcome.

ARC Review: “The Dark Unwinding” by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Goodreads | Amazon

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!
When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

3 1/2 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastics for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself September 1st, 2012.

Never before have I read an ARC and needed to insert a disclaimer into the review.

I need to do so now.

This is not a knock against the fantastic folks who allowed me and others to read an ARC of this book. This is more of why there is such a caution about reviewing ARCs. ARCs are never edited as they will be when they are released. However, The Dark Unwinding’s Kindle ARC version was one of the hardest ARCs I’ve ever tried to read. It lacked capital letters, formatting and a lot of punctuation. The reason I’m telling you this is so that you will PLEASE take my review with a grain of salt when I talk about places of confusion while reading the ARC. It is entirely possible they will not exist in the finished version.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the STORY!

This book intrigued me right from the get-go, and the world did not disappoint. I’ve really never read much steampunk, so I soaked in each and every description about Uncle Tully’s creations. The description in this book, whether it be for the inventions or just the setting, was really fantastic, and I could always see each scene right in my head. What I really liked was that there wasn’t too much emphasis placed on the “fantastical” elements of the book. Sometimes, people writing in fantasy, scifi, etc, have a tendency to hit the reader over the head with how new and exciting their setting is, but Cameron just let it roll like it was an everyday thing that needed only the slightest explanation. Infodumping was never a problem here.

The characterization of this book was interesting. I never really connected with the main character of Katharine, and in fact for a majority of the first part of the book never even liked her. I don’t think you were actually supposed to, so you could see the change in her attitude later on, but I never think that’s a wise choice to start off with. We should always be able to at least understand the main character straight off. Some of the other minor characters were eh, but my favorites were Uncle Tully and Davy, the mute little boy with a rabbit and many secrets. Despite being two of the most intriguing characters, they weren’t particularly given much screen time until the end.

The plot of the story was really where I had my problems. Again, I don’t know if it’s because I was struggling with just reading the words on the page or what, but I was in a state of “WHAT is going ON?” for most of the book. Sure, conversations and everything I could follow and I got the general gist, but some of the segways in between scenes were very abrupt and gave the reader no idea they were about to change. The best example is when the story shot from a normal paragraph to an event wherein Katharine may or may not be losing her own mind. Every time this happened, there was no warning and no preamble. All of the sudden she’s just dangling off the chapel roof or something. The almost supernatural hallucinations she was having were excellently written, yes, but every time they occurred I got jarred.

The ending is really where it all got convoluted. Characters and actions started making little sense, honestly. Personally, I thought the romance between Lane and Katharine was nonexistent until it abruptly appeared at the end. (That is actually a highlight for me, but this may not be for you.) The character of Mrs. Jefferies, Lane’s aunt and the cook, especially befuddled me, because her character kept morphing between someone who seemed truly evil and someone who seemed truly nice. I guess this was part of the suspense of the book, but–again–everything was happening far too abruptly to read smoothly and make sense. I’m all for mysteries, but like every other plot they should flow and never jar the reader out of the story.

A couple more really big elements were added at the end that I think should have been mentioned earlier, but perhaps that’s just my preference. The ending action was certainly–and literally–explosive, which was again wonderfully written. After all the twists and turns with the characters, I found the eventually ending rather expected, but overall I was very pleased. Goodreads doesn’t suggest that there is a second book, but there HAS to be. Right? RIGHT? I mean, that wasn’t a cliffhanger by any means but there is certainly more stuff to go down.

I truly hope there is a next book, and I really want to get my hands on a finished copy of this book. When the editing gets cleaned up, I think this book is going to read a lot smoother and be a fantastic ride for you guys.  The writing is great, the characters are interesting and the plot really does wring you around. If you like steampunk and you like mysteries, I really recommend you pick this one up.