Sunday, 20 September 2015

'The Raven Boys' by Maggie Stiefvater

Book details

Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9780545424929


“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.


This is the first time I’ve ever dared to delve into Maggie Steifvater’s world, and I have to say I’m struggling a little to keep my emotions in check. I have a headache. It feels like all my thoughts about this book are spilling out of my ears because my brain is hyperventilating and throwing around furniture.

What a marvelous story. Stiefvater’s writing is magical. There’s really no other way to describe it. Right from the opening line, Stiefvater began weaving this intricate and electrifying spell that made me dizzy. It may have started off slowly, drawing on more and more of my energy as the story built itself up, but ten pages in I was already entranced. By the time I reached the halfway mark, the world around me felt like it was buzzing with electricity, but for the life of me I couldn’t draw my eyes away from the pages. The final few chapters were an explosion – Blue’s world and my own seemed to shatter into a billion pieces, and then it just… ended.

Note to the author: That is not okay. You broke me. You can’t just drop a bomb like that with such nonchalance, and then skip happily on to the acknowledgements.

The only negative point I have to mention about The Raven Boys is with regards to the characters. While charismatic Gansey and eccentric Blue seemed so enchanting and otherworldly in the beginning, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in them by the end. They seemed to become increasingly two-dimensional as the novel progressed, whereas Adam, Noah and Ronan did the exact opposite. It was a strange scenario, but I’m sure Stiefvater will rectify it in The Dream Thieves.

Overall, though, this was an incredible novel. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Rating: 4/5
Recommended to: Everybody. Everybody. Everybody.

The Last Word

The Noah twist:

Well played, Stiefvater.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Why I dislike John Green

Let’s face it – famous people have a hard life. Nobody’s really indifferent towards them (myself included), meaning that they either receive e-mail proposals (rings and all, apparently) or blood-soaked hate mail on a daily basis. But there are celebrity problems and then there are bestselling author problems.

John Green has bestselling author problems. Half the time he’s in the spotlight as one of the best YA authors of the decade, and then he spends the other half watching teenagers hurl abuse at him for making racist comments, misrepresenting their generation or just being "downright rude". The poor man can barely carry on with his job… or, various jobs: hanging around the movie sets for adaptions of his latest novels, filming YouTube videos with his brother, and writing, obviously. He’s either seen as the all-holy leader of misfit teens, or a problematic middle-aged misogynist who must be stopped.

But you’ve seen the heading of this post, so you already know where I’m going with this. I’ll get on with it, then.

I dislike John Green. Not “hate”. Dislike.

I see you making this face right now, but let me explain,
okay? Okay. (Maybe okay will be our always.)

Don’t get me wrong – I really, really want to love John Green. I adored The Fault In Our Stars. I thought it was one of the most beautiful novels I’d ever read at the time. At fifteen, I just wanted to soak up all the goodness I saw in that book and radiate it onto other people.

But then I grew up, just a teeny tiny bit, and read some more of his stuff. And cringed.

I’m one of those people who strongly believe in speaking out against the things that make us uncomfortable. It’s one of the ways in which we develop strong opinions on topical issues and alert others of the problems of which we have become aware. But that said, I’m hesitant to use the word “hate” against somebody like John Green, who really isn’t trying to destroy anyone’s life for his own personal gain, contrary to popular belief.

I’ve read three of Green’s five novels (I’m still debating whether I should delve into Will Grayson, Will Grayson and An Abundance of Katherines) and his short story in Let It Snow. All that to say I’m not exactly an expert on all things Green. But a few things about him have made me ever so slightly uncomfortable, which is why I want to address them here.

Firstly, I struggle to understand how such an influential man in the YA world isn’t making more of an effort to redefine the genre. The Fault In Our Stars was a breakthrough novel, managing to expand Green’s audience past the teens who read consistently to those who wouldn’t have dared to pick up the book if it hadn’t been for the success of the film. And Green does write very well – his prose is simple and accessible, always allowing his story to take center stage but with a bit of added flair that a lot of other authors don’t get right. But his novels conform to rather than rebel against the restrictions of contemporary YA fiction, such as the constant presence of romance, attractive characters and a quirky protagonist. He could redefine YA as we know it with one novella! Why isn’t he trying?

I also found myself muttering, “Why isn’t John Green embracing diversity in his novels?” whenever I picked up Looking For Alaska or Paper Towns. YA is supposed to be something that you can lose yourself in, regardless of your age, gender, size, smell, race, religion, hair colour, relationship status, what have you. For somebody who claims to be an advocate for teenagers wanting to be different, his representation of characters in novels is extremely limited. Nerdy teenage boy (usually the protagonist), extremely hot teenage girl (love interest), comic relief (boy’s best friend)… Most of his characters are attractive, white, heterosexual, middle-class teenagers. What does this say about everyone else? Where’s the diversity?

Additionally, there’s the way he accidentally (?) misrepresents things. Key example: feminism in Looking For Alaska. Green attempted to represent a badass feminist character, but unfortunately he failed miserably. Alaska talks a lot about equality and women’s rights, but somebody who was that desperate for constant male attention is not exactly the poster-child for girl-power. At times, I also got the distinct feeling he was mocking feminism through Alaska’s eccentricity, but I hope to every star in the heavens that I’m just being pedantic, otherwise I might have to introduce the book to my high-powered shredder, and its remains to a jug of gasoline and a lighter.

And then there’s his point about nerdy girls being a romantic resource and literary device rather than… um… people…

…which made me a little bit nauseous, because now there are at least a million teenage girls out there thinking it’s admirable to become a literary device, to turn themselves into somebody like Alaska or Margo, neither of whom are healthy human beings.

Green also toes the line between accurately representing teenage characters that smoke and drink and are generally “broken souls” as he defines them, and encouraging such behavior through his novels. This is an extremely dangerous way to go, especially considering his huge audience of younger readers.

All that to say, John Green has a lot of potential to become a super awesome human being and possibly change the world (or at least the teen reading world). I wanna see him do it. I do not want to see predictable characters and formulaic storylines in his upcoming novels – I want him to push the boundaries, I want him to pull another The Fault In Our Stars, but with diverse characters and a new twist on contemporary YA.

Oooooorrr maybe I'm just crazy. What do you guys think? Do you love John Green, but also want to see him push the boundaries a little? Or are you among those who just can't stand him, despite all his good intentions?

Saturday, 12 September 2015

‘To Hear The Ocean Sigh’ by Bryant A. Loney

Book details

Genre: YA
Publisher: Verona Booksellers
ISBN: 9780692415528

Available via  Amazon (& Kindle), Barnes & Noble (& Nook), IndieBoundKoboGoogle Play.


Jay Murchison believes he is a nobody at his high school in Oklahoma. Coming from a conservative family of affordable luxury, Jay has an overwhelming desire to become something great. After a mysterious girl named Saphnie in North Carolina mistakenly texts him, an unlikely relationship develops that affects Jay’s self-perception and influences the rest of his sophomore year. This correspondence leads him to a group of thrill-seekers who provide a grand departure from the quiet life Jay is familiar with and eye-opening experiences to witness first-hand the truth behind the loose morals his fellow classmates have come to know.

In a story filled with injustice, hope, hatred, love, grief, and understanding, readers will ask themselves what it truly means to hear the ocean sigh and learn of the dire consequences that come with its responsibilities.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion on the novel or its author.

I was a little bit hesitant to pick up a coming-of-age novel in my final months of high school. To me, coming-of-age has always seemed a little too realistic to be enjoyable, if that makes any sense. When I was fourteen, I didn’t want to read about pimples and popularity paranoia because I was living it. These days, I’m far happier to pretend those dark times never happened – I don’t need a book to stir up all those dark memories I’ve shoved into a bottomless pit in the recesses of my mind.

Nonetheless, I am so glad I decided to read this novel.

Like all coming-of-age novels, To Hear The Ocean Sigh deals with real issues that real teens face. Unlike most coming-of-age novels, it’s genuine. Heartfelt. Loney isn’t necessarily using his novel to uplift teens or warp their struggles into a cringe-worthy comedy – he’s sharing a story that most teens have either witnessed or experienced firsthand, and he does so without romanticizing or undermining his characters’ problems.

I loved most things about this book. It’s an almost perfect representation of real life in high school, from the difficulties of identifying personality disorders, depression and broken backgrounds underneath picture-perfect facades, to the struggle of trying to fit in when you don’t even know who you’re supposed to be, let alone how you should get people to like you. The characters were extremely well developed, and their tendency to irritate the hell out of me was really just a result of them being so similar to actual sixteen-year-olds. Nobody really likes you when you’re sixteen – you’re annoying and whiny and care too much about what other people think about your hair, or whatever. But you’re just beginning to develop your own opinions, which brings about such delicious confusion and conflict that it drives everybody crazy. Jay, Lily, Ethan and Saphne were exactly that: they were real and they were diverse and they were interesting and they were beautiful in their brokenness. And that was perfect.

Loney’s writing style was also stunning. He managed to find the ideal balance between simplicity, accessibility and delicate detail – perfect for a coming-of-age novel.  Although I got a bit restless in the last fifty or so pages on account of the pace slowing down significantly, the ending completely made up for it. The last few pages were heartbreaking, and all of a sudden Loney’s style transformed into this fragile and bittersweet masterpiece. I don’t think I breathed from page 258 until I turned the final page.

A wonderful story as moving as it is unique.

Rating: 4/5
Recommended to: Pretty much all teens in their awkward phase.

The Last Word

Please can more teenagers write coming-of-age novels like this one? I needed more of this when I was drowning in angst at fifteen, not endlessly condescending “these are the best years of your life” novels written by those who've forgotten how confusing it is to be stuck in the in-between phase of old-child. Teens don’t have the benefit of hindsight (or foresight), so it’s helpful to have a novel written from the perspective of somebody who still remembers what it feels like to doubt that life even carries on, let alone gets better. 

~Thank you to Wes Florentine from Verona Booksellers for providing me with the opportunity to review this book.~

eBooks vs. Audio Books vs. Actual Books

All readers are well-acquainted with the struggle of deciding which format is best for their next book bargain. It may seem like such a shallow problem (they’re all books, you might say, they all have the same story) but, speaking from experience, sometimes reading a book in the wrong format sucks. I once downloaded Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children on my Kindle only to discover that its beautiful black-and-white photographs wouldn’t show up in the ebook format (many tears were shed that night). And of course, listening to a book with illustrations totally defeats the point.

A lot of people tend to ask me which format I recommend, which is dumb, because everybody has a personal preference. Just because I like mermaids more than unicorns doesn’t mean that unicorns aren’t badass, right? Right. And all formats have their benefits! I’m not about to tell anybody that they must only ever read hardback books, because they’ll run out of money for food and then they’ll literally have to live on words alone. (This is a serious issue. Guys, please don’t ever eat your books. Contrary to popular belief, eating a page out of The 5th Wave won’t help you survive the apocalypse.)

But because I love being an opinionated reader, I’ll share my thoughts on all three formats without necessarily choosing the best one. That way I can’t be blamed for ruining somebody’s life.


Ebooks are the best technological invention of the decade (other than e-readers, obviously, and also those reading lights you can clip onto your glasses). Do you frequently find yourself seeking intellectual stimulation whilst aimlessly scrolling through your cellphone in public? Look no further than an ebook! You can read it on your phone! You can read it on your tablet, iPad, iPod, Kindle! Even your watch! (All right that one’s a lie, but one day…) Seriously, ebooks are awesome. They’re cheap, immediate and image-friendly – no more worries about appearing “nerdy” or “weird” in public because you’re hauling around a suitcase filled with all your favourite books, because now you can keep them all in the wondrous digital cloud!

Downside of owning only e-books: When we have a solar flare and all our technology gets wiped out, you won’t be able to read ever again. Sorry. I’m sure as hell not sharing my precious few paperbacks when you’re bored and looking for a way to escape from the reality of a dystopian world through contemporary YA fiction. (Ha. That’s so ironic it’s almost an awesome concept. Someone write a book, quickly.)

Audio Books

Up until recently, I flat out refused to listen to audio books. “I’m a reader,” I would argue, “not a listener.” Well, clearly I was missing out. The beauty of an audio book is simple: they are perfect for multitasking purposes. You can paint your nails, cook dinner, play rugby, type up an essay, sleep, eat dinner with your family, sit in a lecture, or even read another book, all whilst listening to your audio book. That’s not to say that you should – playing rugby while you listen to a romance novel doesn’t sound all that safe. Imagine if you started crying during the match because your favourite character died? You’d probably be given a red card.

Also, audio books are awesome if you’ve always wanted to live inside the story. You can pretend that the voice is narrating your own story – you can become the protagonist. Sure, you might get yourself sent to an asylum, but you’re Celaena Sardothien, now. You’ll find a way out, right?

Downside of owning only audio books: I’m not going to lie, sometimes the voices get annoying. Not only because you’re literally hearing strange voices in your head for eight hours at a time or more, but also because sometimes those voices get annoying. I mean that in the least offensive way possible. Sometimes, I’ll be listening to a book, and the woman reading it will have an amazing accent. Then instead of focusing on the story, I’ll start trying to figure out where she’s from, and how I can get her accent (South African accents suck. We sound like we’ve swallowed ducks that are stuck in our throats and are speaking in unison with us. I’m always trying to give myself a nonchalant British accent, and failing miserably, but audio books are helping me learn).

Paperbacks and Hardbacks

I know this sounds terrible, but I’m incredibly vain when it comes to purchasing books. As in, I am perfectly willing to spend an absolute fortune on a paperback or hardback book just so that I can admire how beautiful it looks on my bookshelf. Other bloggers have pointed out that physical copies also just look way better in their booklr and bookstagram photos, and I say I have to agree. Trying to arrange a cellphone in an aesthetic position next to a bunch of flowers just doesn’t give the same vibe as a pretty paperback covered in autumn leaves or whatever. Then there’s that irreproducible feeling of getting books in the mail, especially after you’ve been anticipating their arrival for months. And the way a paperback smells, even when it’s old and dusty and falling to pieces. And the way you can pile them around you to make an impenetrable fort of literature.

Downside of owning only physical books: People can ask to borrow them, and then you have to come to terms with the prospect of somebody breaking the spine, or dogearing the pages. Or worse, they don’t give it back, and then it’s lost forever. These are the things that keep me up at night.

What do you think? Do you prefer listening to books or reading them? And is it better to keep a physical copy just in case the apocalypse wipes out your e-reader, or are ebooks just more convenient?