Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

Blue Sargent comes from a family of fortune tellers whose predictions tend to deal with nonspecific items or events but are always accurate. But when Blue would have her readings, they were always the same no matter who gave her the blunt and specific conclusion. “If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die.” For awhile, this bothered Blue but at the age of sixteen, she decided she just wouldn’t fall in love. But everything changed when her aunt Neeve came to town. Upon opening the front door, Neeve states “You’re Maura’s daughter, this is the year you’ll fall in love.”

Although Blue isn’t psychic like the other women on her family, she does have the ability to hone the powers of her clairvoyant family. Which is the reason on every St. Mark’s Eve, April 24, at midnight, Blue sits with her mother at the old, abandoned church to await the spirits of those members of the community who will die during the next twelve months. This year Blue is keeping watch with Neeve. While waiting on the parade of those spirits to pass, Neeve asks Blue is she goes to the school she passed on her way into town, Aglionby Academy. Finding humor in the seemingly innocent question, Blue lets her know that it is an all-boys school for the wealthy whose uniform consists of “khaki pants and a V-neck sweater with a raven emblem." Raven boys are easily identifiable during the school week. “Aglionby Academy was the number one reason Blue had developed her two rules: One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble. And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.”

While transcribing the names Neeve tells her, Blue can actually see a spirit in the graveyard, a young man in slacks and a sweater. Neeve sends Blue over to get a name since he won’t answer her. Knowing that if he steps over the church’s threshold she will never get his name, Blue is shocked to see that he is in the Aglionby uniform. The boy answers “Gansey” and Blue cannot quit staring since he looks so real. He falls to his knees and fades away while Blue and Neeve look on. Blue asks her why she could see him. “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love,” Neeve said “or you killed him.”

The next morning, Gansey calls his roommate Ronan Lynch to pick him up since his car had stopped on the side of the road. He is stranded after being out all night while scoping out the grotesquely modern Church of the Holy Redeemer with his recorder in an attempt to contact the future dead on St, Mark’s Eve. In playing back the night’s recording, Gansey’s voice can be heard saying “Gansey” followed by a far away female voice asking “Is that all?” Gansey’s voice replies “that’s all there is.” He tells Ronan that nothing, absolutely nothing was happening when the voice were recorded. Knowing that voices from other places and times can be transmitted across the ley line, Gansey’s voice being recorded is a mystery.

Having spent the last four years looking for the straight, supernatural energy path known as a ley line, Gansey has a knack for finding the impossible and doesn’t believe in coincidences. He believes that Own Glendower was brought from Wales to be entombed in Virginia and is eternally sleeping, like the legends of King Arthur. Whoever finds and wakes him is believed to be granted a favor. Knowing that he is onto something, Gansey asks for suggestions on what to do next. His other roommate, Adam hands him the phone number for a psychic. Perplexed, Gansey wants to know what he is going to ask a psychic. Adam says to find out who Gansey was talking to on the recording.

Blue and Gansey’s worlds collide when Gansey and his friends go to Nino’s restaurant where Blue works. Noticing the group of Raven Boys but not knowing who they are, Blue offers to take their table but the other waitress refuses. Later that night, her mother calls to let her know that Gansey schedules a reading for the next afternoon. Blue will take off from work to be there. Blue is then perturbed when the pompous-looking Raven Boy (Gansey) taps her on the shoulder. He asks her if she would do him a favor and talk to his shy friend (Adam). He inadvertently offends Blue. After her shift is over, Blue finds Adam waiting for her in the parking lot to apologize for the actions of his friend. After talking a while, Blue notices that Adam is unlike his friends, there is not an air of wealth about him. She gives Adam her phone number and he promises to call the next day and leaves. Then her manager catches her to ask if she knows who left behind a strange journal. Having an inkling, she says she will locate the owner but is immediately enthralled with what she finds inside; Gansey’s ramblings about Glendower and the ley line.

The reading with Gansey, Adam and Ronan is eventful to say the least and Blue’s mother is furious that she and Gansey have already met. Disobeying her mother, Blue soon finds herself wrapped up with the Raven Boys. Will Blue help the Raven Boys find the ley line? Why does Blue’s mother not want her involved with Gansey and his friends? What favor does Gansey wish to ask Glendower? Is Gansey Blue’s true love and is he truly destined to die the next twelve months? Will Blue really kill him? What part does Blue’s attraction to Adam play in the future? Will Blue confess what she knows about Gansey’s future?

The Raven Boys begins an epic quartet that will sweep readers into the happenings of Henrietta, VA. The author is currently working on the second book in the series.

Visit Maggie Stiefvater's website.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline Jones and her parents have moved into a new flat. They live in the middle of the converted house. Two elderly ladies, Miss Spinx and Miss Forcible, live on the ground floor. Above Coraline, beneath the roof, lives a crazy old man who said he was training a mouse circus. No one can see the mice because they aren’t ready. All three call her Caroline even after she corrects them.
Coraline began exploring soon after. For two weeks, she searched the garden and grounds. Then it began to rain and Coraline was stuck inside. Bored, her father suggests that she explore the flat. She counts everything blue (153), the windows (21) and the doors (14). Thirteen of the doors could open and close. The fourteenth door was locked. It was a “big, carved, wooden door at the far corner of the drawing room.” When she asks her mother about the door, she tells her that it goes nowhere. Coralline doesn’t believe her until she finds the door key and unlocks it. On the other side is a brick wall. Her mother explains that there is an empty flat still for sale on the other side. Coralline comments that her mother didn’t lock the door back. Her mother tells her that there is no need.

Later that night, almost asleep, Coraline hears a noise. She climbs out of bed to investigate. Seeing nothing more than a shadow, she follows it to the drawing room where it darts to the far corner. Turning on the light, the only thing there is the old door from earlier that is now slightly ajar. Remembering that her mother closed the door, Coraline opens it to the brick wall and shuts it again. Going back to sleep, she dreams of “little blacks shapes with little red eyes and sharp yellow teeth.” They sing to her in a whiney, whisper voice that makes Coraline uncomfortable.

The next morning while exploring the garden, Coraline runs into the crazy, old man. He tells her that the mice have a message for her. “Don’t go through the door" and wonders if she knows what it means. She says no and leaves. Later in the day, a bored Coraline goes downstairs to visit Miss Spinx and Moss Forcible. They sit down for tea sand Miss Spinx offers to read Coraline’s tea leaves. She tells her that she is in terrible danger. Miss Forcible asks to see them. She agrees with what Miss Spinx saw and neither of the elderly ladies can tell her what she is in danger from.

After a morning of shopping for new school clothes, Coraline and her mother come home at lunch time to an empty refrigerator. Her mother runs back out for some food while Coraline stays behind. After a bit, Coraline decides to go back to the drawing room with the key to the door. This time when she unlocks it, the brick wall is gone. Instead she finds a duplicate of her own flat but with a strange, musty smell and things don’t seem quite right. Soon she runs into someone who looks like her mother but she doesn’t look quite human. Her eyes are big black buttons. She introduces herself as Coraline’s other mother and her other father is in his study. At lunch, they let her know that they have been waiting for her for a long time.

Afterwards Coraline’s other mother send her to her bedroom to play with the rats. There the rats form a pyramid and sing a creepy song in a whispery voice. The crazy old man comes to collect them. Coralline also meets the other Miss Spinx and Miss Forcible and the weirdness ensues. Finally her other parents ask her to stay and be a family with them. Coraline leaves back through the door and into her own flat. She locks the door.

Coraline’s mother isn’t back from the market yet so she makes herself some toast. Neither of her parents is home for dinner or at her bedtime. They weren’t at home the next morning either. Alone the entire day, Coraline goes to bed but wakes up crying in the middle of the night. She falls back asleep in her parents’ bed only to be woken up later by a cat. The cat takes her to her parents but they are only reflected back to her in a mirror. Their only communication is HELP US written in their side of the mirror.

Coralline decides to be brave and go back through the drawing room door. Face to face with her other parents, they tell her that her real parents don’t want her. Knowing that it is a lie, she refuses to believe her other parents. Angry, her other mother locks the door, trapping her inside the other flat.

What does Coraline’s other parents really want her for? Will Coraline not only be able to escape herself but free her parents? And what part do the rats play in everything?

There is a very detailed graphic novel version as well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns book 2)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the first book in the series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Stop! I don’t want to ruin one of my favorite series for you!

When an animagus appears in the city during Queen Lucero-Elisa’s birthday parade, Joya d’Arena is thrown into turmoil. The animagus declares that Elisa, the only living bearer of the Godstone, belongs with them. Fear ripples through her citizens as rumors of another invasion by Inviernos begin. Locked out of the palace by one of her Quorum members in the ensuing panic, Elisa and her private guard, Hector, sneak back in through a hidden passageway. Once back inside, her right hand men all claim someone else made the decision to close the gates.

Elisa is seen by some of the Quorum as being too young and inexperienced and talk of a regent soon turns towards a political marriage. Knowing she is being set up and deciding to play along, Elisa goes to Alejandro’s tomb in the catacombs to pray in solitude. Unfortunately, she is attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead. Barely alive when she is found, Elisa recovers quickly from the injury because her Godstone deflected the knife and speeded her recovery. Determined to uncover who in the palace is undermining her efforts, Elisa quickly realizes there are few people whom she can trust; Ximena, her nurse, Mara, her lady-in-waiting and Hector, her personal guard and friend whom she is slowly developing feelings for.

Trying to rebuild her country, Elisa is faced with the possibility that her prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. Ximena believes that the gates or paths of the enemy and of life are real places that she must go. As she continues to meet with an Invierno defector from the Wallows named Storm, he tells Elisa of the legend of the place where the Earth’s magic flows near the top and is easily tapped. Only those chosen by God can find the gate of life and pass through. Elisa knows that Storm speaks the truth because her Godstone flares to life, bringing her to her knees. Storm knows she will go searching for it and asks to go along.

Under the pretense of betrothal negotiations, Elisa, Hector and some of the others head off for the southern islands in search of zafina, the legendary gate of life. Soon after their departure into the desert, they discover that someone is following them. Who want Elisa dead and what are their political reasons? Will Elisa be able to fulfill her destiny and tap into her magic or is she setting herself up for failure? Can Elisa rise to be a great queen? What happens when Elisa realizes that one of her closet advisors doesn’t have her best intentions at heart?

With spine chilling action and a dramatic cliff-hanger in the final chapter, readers will be left clamoring for the dramatic conclusion to Elisa’s story in The Bitter Kingdom out in the fall of 2013.

Visit Rae Carson's website.