Completed in the last two weeks: I finished Cress by Marissa Meyer, Scowler by Daniel Krauss, and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi all on audio. Scowler won the Odyssey Award for audiobooks and it is well deserved. Look for a post on the creepiness that is Scowler coming soon. A few hours ago I finished Barry Lyga’s The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl in hardback. I was pleasantly surprised by Lyga’s story although I’m not sure it is appropriate for my middle schoolers and I KNOW Scowler is only for older audiences. Hell, I was a little disturbed sometimes. All of these titles were well worth my time.
PUBLISHER: Viking Juvenile
LENGTH: 400 pages
SOURCE: ARC from ALAN convention
SUMMARY: For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?
REVIEW: Once again Anderson has out done herself with her newest book about PTSD and its effects on the victim and his family. Hayley and her father are doing what many families do in the face of an impossible-to-comprehend situation: they are maintaining. Sometimes running, and sometimes bracing for impact, Hayley and her father are dealing only with the fallout from his PTSD episodes. To Hayley’s credit, she tries to persuade her father to seek help but, much like with addicts, it is impossible for Hayley to manage a permanent solution until Andy wants to help himself.
Andy has brought them back to his hometown so that Hayley can attend school on a regular basis. But the school schedule seems to be the only “regular” thing in their lives and Hayley never quite knows to whom she will be coming home in the afternoons. Will it be the loving, patient father she knows is at Andy’s core or will it be the trauma-ravaged soldier who has trouble remembering what is still good in his life outside the haunting memories of war. Hayley is a down-to-earth teen in an impossible situation. Enter Finn, who challenges Hayley’s belief that change is impossible and forces Hayley to look at what is manageable and what needs managing in her life.
Anderson’s portrayal of Hayley’s coping techniques is brutally honest, making readers want to simultaneously hug and shake Hayley into believing in the power of healing. Thinking that she and her father are irreparably broken, Hayley begins to give up and shuns the proffered assistance from one of her father’s old girlfriends and even from Finn. Anderson does not shy away from the hard truths of alcohol and drug use in both victims and family members to numb the pain and provide escape. In the end, Hayley must make a choice: stay locked in the cycle of painful memories she and her father share or break the cycle, perhaps at terrible cost to herself and her father, in hopes that they can start over in the town they both so desperately want to call home. Watching Hayley navigate the painful minefield of memories she and her father share, readers are brought face to face with the reality that healing takes time and emotional wounds leave scar tissue that has to be taught how to bend in order to make everyday life bearable and meaningful. Another novel that compels readers to keep turning pages until the emotional climax, Anderson continues to give her readers a glimpse into the pain and perseverance that make her protagonists unforgettable.
From Award-Winning, Young Adult author Rajdeep Paulus comes the sequel to Swimming Through Clouds, a powerful reminder that life is a battle you don’t fight alone. And sometimes the sweetest love story starts with a simple act of kindness.
SUMMARY: After a lifetime of abuse, the Vanderbilt siblings flee their home, finally free to pursue new dreams while running from yesterday’s nightmares.
Once bed-ridden Jesse navigates the Chicago streets, concealing his identity and planning revenge. A chance encounter in the rain introduces a girl who offers Jesse a glimpse of a sunnier future, but how will he weather the growing storm inside himself?
Separated from her Post-it note prince, Talia hides at a safe house for survivors of domestic violence while her father turns the city upside-down to find her. Surrounded by women fighting their own demons, Talia faces her past at every turn.
About the Author: Rajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University and lives in New York with her Sunshine and four princesses. The author of Swimming Through Clouds, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram .
Praise for Seeing Through Stones:
“Tough and touching, resilient and raw—Rajdeep Paulus has crafted a story of love and abuse with the deft touch of a master… Paulus never allows her characters to be anything less than real and she never averts her pen from the realities that face far too many women and children. “ ~ Tosca Lee, NY Times Bestselling Author of Havah and The Books of Mortals series with Ted Dekker
“In this follow-up to her debut, Rajdeep Paulus quickly pulls her readers back into a heartfelt story that challenges our notions of family loyalty. Seeing Through Stones continues Talia’s healing journey, but, even better, it gives readers the long-awaited story of her heroic brother, Jesse. There’s something here for everyone, and perhaps the best part is Paulus’s weaving of multicultural characters and traditions into a rhythm as unique as it is refreshing.”
~ Laura Anderson Kurk, Author of Glass Girl & Perfect Glass
“After reading Rajdeep Paulus’s debut novel, I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the sequel. The wait was worth it! With a lyrical voice, heart-tugging characters and skillful handling of sensitive subject matter, Paulus’s sophomore novel is a beautiful piece of storytelling. I can’t recommend it enough.” ~Melissa Tagg, Author of Made to Last and Here to Stay
“Seeing Through Stones both broke my heart and filled it with hope at the same time.Paulus’s writing simply soars as she paints her characters’ pains, fears, and hopes in a beautiful portrait of recovery and grace. With this book, Paulus has established herself as a powerful voice in Young Adult literature. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.”
~John W. Otte, Author of Numb and the Failstate series
“Brilliantly crafted, Rajdeep Paulus stitched what seems dark and broken into a tapestry of hope and love.”
~Jennifer Murgia, Author of Angel Star & Between These Lines
Author Name: Kate Scott
Book Title: Counting to D
Length: 228 pages
Publisher: Elliott Books
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Have you always been a writer? If not, when and why did you start?
No. I’ve always had an active imagination, but I’ve also always been a very bad speller. For a long time, I didn’t believe writing was something I was capable of. I started writing fiction seriously in my mid-twenties. As for why I started, I think it comes back around to always having an active imagination. I love making up stories. It just took me a while to realize writing them down was something I could do.
How did the idea for Counting to D come to you?
I am dyslexic, and I knew that I wanted to write a book with a dyslexic main character. It took some time for me to figure out how to write that book, but the general idea has been with me ever since I was a teenager.
Do you have a particular writing schedule or routine? Could you briefly describe it?
No. I write when I feel like it, and I don’t write when I don’t feel like it. Now that I’m working on my second novel—and know it will be published as soon as I finish it—I feel like I should probably start following a schedule. I haven’t figured out exactly what that routine looks like yet, though.
Where do you write? Why?
I have a home office where I do most of my writing. It does have a desk in it, but I prefer to write sitting in a comfy chair with my laptop on my lap.
What is the hardest part of drafting for you?
Setting. Dialogue is really easy for me, but I suck at setting. I tried writing speculative fiction a couple years ago, just for kicks. Oh man, it was awful. I cannot world-build. Most of what I do during revisions is add exterior details, but even my final drafts are sparse on setting.
How did you originally come to be published? (long road or short?)
I had a literary agent for about two years, but we decided to part ways in the spring of 2013. Instead of looking for a new agent, I chose to submit to small presses on my own. Once I started researching small presses, I realized being a small press publisher would be a super fun job. So I started one: Elliott Books. Currently, Counting to D is the only title on Elliott Books’ roster, but my plan is to start accepting submissions from other authors this summer. I just wanted to make all my mistakes on myself before I took on other people’s manuscripts.
How do you handle criticism/rejection/bad reviews?
Fortunately, I haven’t had any super critical reviews yet. Some people enjoyed my book more than others, but the people who didn’t love it have been courteous. There are lots of hugely popular books that I didn’t enjoy. Everyone has different taste. I don’t expect everyone to like my book. I just want to make it available for the people who do love it. And thankfully, a lot of people do, which is all around fabulous.
What is one part of writing craft every aspiring author ought to thoroughly understand?
Voice is probably the most important thing to understand, in my opinion. It’s also the hardest to explain. I think the simplest key is to know your characters. As a writer, it’s critical to understand exactly who your characters are, so you can make their voices authentic.
Do you read other authors’ books while you have a work in progress? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I believe understanding what works in other great stories is a key aspect of knowing how to write one yourself. Also, reading is fun. Why would I abandon all books by other writers just because I want to write one of my own?
What is the most rewarding part of writing?
I enjoy getting to know the characters as they come to life in my mind and on the page.
Are any of the characters or MC modeled after real people?
I modeled the main character, Sam, after myself. Everyone else is fictitious.
What has been your favorite part of the book release?
The amazing feedback I’ve gotten from readers. I actually got my first fan letter a week before the book came out. Not sure how the fan got a copy of my book, but his thank you note to me was priceless. I wrote this book because it’s the story I wanted to read as a teen, and it didn’t exist. Knowing at least some of today’s teens are connecting with it is all kinds of inspiring.
PBJ or ham & cheese? Ham & Cheese
Coffee or tea? Tea
Summer or Winter? Summer
Typing or longhand? Typing
Which comes first: plot or character? Character
Emails or letters? Emails
Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke (I’m addicted)
Sugary or salty treats? Sugar!
Dogs or cats? Neither – allergic
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors – when it’s not raining
Beer or wine? Wine
Mac or PC? PC
Outline or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants? What’s an outline?
I read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee and enjoyed it. It reminded me of Oliver’s Liesel and Po. I finished listening to Blameless, the third in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I’m still not ready to leave this world so I’ll be sticking to the series but am taking a break for a bit to read/listen to some others that have been eyeing me from their spots in the queue of my TBR list.
Remember that commenting on all four posts about The Raven Cycle earns you the change to win copies of the first two Raven Cycle Books! Post #1 was about the series in general. Post #2 was about the characters. Keep up with this and the final post to enter to win the books!
artwork courtesy of deviantart.com
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
LENGTH: 416 pages; 11 hours 8 minutes
PRODUCER: Scholastic Audio
NARRATOR: Will Patton
SUMMARY: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, 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 is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher 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 doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
REVIEW: I read Stiefvater’s Mercy Falls books and was expecting something similar when I picked up The Raven Boys. The only element of Shiver and its series-mates that’s fantastical is the existence of the shape-shifters. From the first sentence of the Prologue of TRB, it is clear that magic and mysticism waft through Henrietta and around it’s inhabitants like perfume. Characters and readers get whiffs of Glendower’s magic that are sometimes pleasant and sometimes noxious but it is always difficult to pinpoint the source. The genius of Stiefvater’s writing is that even skeptics will accept what’s happening with the boys and Blue. The idea that magic exists and that we can influence it as much as it influences us is one of the great childhood dreams. When I was younger, I so wanted magic to be real and to interact with it. Books like Stiefvater’s let readers live that fantasy in the pages of their story for a little while.
The plot, in which Gansey and his friends (while on a search for the legendary King Glendower) awaken old magic and uncover and solve a decades old murder, works because readers are learning the intricacies of the Glendower legend and the mythology behind it right along with Blue. Basing Gansey’s obsession on Glendower, a real historical figure, lends credence to Gansey’s search. Gansey’s search then parallels the other characters’ searches: Blue for purpose, Adam for status, and Ronan for identity. Although, truly, they could all be searching for all of those things. Crafting four disparate characters who are all struggling to belong (as is most of Stiefvater’s readership) lends believability to the characters themselves and their friendships. It also provides a way for all readers to be included in the story because they will inevitably identify with one of the characters enough to become invested in the outcome of the search that each character is on.
In the end, Stiefvater surprises readers with a resolution, not to Blue’s conundrum about Gansey, but to an entirely different mystery readers don’t even know is there at the beginning of the story. Meanwhile, she builds in character complexities to explore in the next book, all while leaving the reader still wondering if Blue will really be the death of Gansey or if there’s a way out of that too. Superb writing and characterization blended with the perfect proportions of intensity and humor make this one a don’t miss read.
artwork courtesy of rebekahfaubionbooks.wordpress.com
***SPOILER ALERT! There are quite a few elements discussed herein that might give away some things from the two already-published Raven Cycle books. Read with care if you haven’t finished the series.***?
On to the discussion: The term “cycle” indicates a process that repeats over and over again. Stiefvater’s books do exactly that in my mind: the plot and characters spin around and around days after I’ve finished reading them. At this point I’ve read both books four times and I could keep reading them for YEARS and still find new things to ponder after each read. As you are aware, I find it necessary to ruminate over these types of stories with K, my dear book friend (and sometimes scarily telepathically-connected mind-sharer). I know you understand this, YABBAs. K and I have had numerous discussions about The Raven Cycle over the months and readings since The Dream Thieves came out. (Our talks, mostly via text messages, tend to be meandering and disjointed, so I’ve tried to put the ideas in an understandable order.)
We began by talking about Blue and her assertive, matriarchal family.
Me: There are so many strong female characters in this series. I love that Blue has so many positive influences to shape her emerging stalwart character. There is a definite parallel to mythology going on here. The women seem to be channeling The Fates. Calla is Past, Maura is Present, and Persephone is Future.
K: Persephone is creepy. At least, she is in The Dream Thieves (TDT).
Me: In The Raven Boys (TRB), Persephone seemed like such a minor and timid character to me: the sensitive and perceptive one who had a flash of insight here and there. She has BLOWN UP in TDT. She moved from timid and tangential to central and creepy. Much like Kavinsky. He went from sideline shithead to Antagonist Asshole.
K: Yes! I think that Persephone is connected to several elements of the story. I think she is Orphan Girl in Ronan’s dream world. She’s helping him realize what he is and how to use his power. Or rather, she’s guiding and advising him through the process of doing so. She even tells Ronan that she thinks she’s a psychopomp (a spirit whose job it is to guide souls to the afterlife–thank you, Wikipedia).
Me: Interesting…so Persephone can reuse time? Can any of the other women reuse time? Can Blue?
K: I don’t know. I think we have yet to discover the extent of all their powers. Blue is an amplifier: she strengthens the powers of those around her, but I don’t think it would make sense for her to be able to reuse time, too. That’s Persephone’s gig. But Blue is definitely Something More.
Me: Alright, so Blue is a power source. And Maura is truth? She is so blunt and straightforward. Calla is prickly and provides context from past events.
K: Yes, so their interactions provide three-dimensional pre-thinking for Blue as she makes decisions about how to proceed with the boys.
Me: Which brings us to THE BOYS. In my mind they each have a defined role related to the mythology behind the series.
K: Ronan calls Noah “prophet,” which got me thinking about the other boys’ roles. I think Gansey is the king, Adam is the magician, Ronan is the dreamer, and Noah is, as stated, the prophet. But one thing I can’t figure out is the quality in Gansey that makes them all follow him. Or is he really creating followers?
Me: It’s compassion. Gansey truly cares about all of them and is willing to help however/whenever he is able. Because all of them, Blue included, are searching for something, it bonds them together. They’re more teammates than Gansey’s followers because Gansey is trying to fill a hole like the rest of them. They all accept one another because they all feel unacceptable.
K: So they’re all missing something? Searching for something?
Me: Yes. Adam even says Gansey has a hole in him that’s eating away at his heart. Gansey wants the self-made aesthetic that Adam has crafted for himself. He worries that his own privilege gets in the way of people understanding him. Incidentally, it’s what originally made Blue detest him. Gansey expends so much energy trying to make it all look effortless. Adam is just the opposite. He’s constantly double-checking himself on the inside while he exudes this calm, flusterless persona. Adam is shaking on the inside and wants Gansey’s confidence that comes from Gansey knowing exactly what he wants. Ronan acts like he doesn’t care about anything or anyone but then why take such pains to stay in Gansey’s good graces? Ronan wants the unconditional love of a male figure since Niall Lynch disappeared and Declan is such a jerk even if he can’t admit it to himself. Noah longs for loyalty and true friendship because of Whelk’s betrayal. I think that’s why he and Blue seem to understand each other so well. Blue is proud of her individuality and “weirdness”, but she realizes how difficult it is for one who is weird to be friends with those who are “normal”. She needs friends just as much as Noah does.
K: Blue is more self-aware than the others in that way. Gansey is probably the closest to that level of self-awareness, even though he’s so often socially oblivious. (Hence his ridiculous “proposition” to Blue at Pino’s.) I think Gansey’s self-awareness about his privilege and position paired with his compassion and willingness to help all of them makes it more difficult for Adam, Ronan, and Noah to really know who they each are and what they want.
Me: Cue Adam and Gansey fighting in both books.
K: Exactly. Adam is looking for perfection in Gansey the same way Gansey is looking for perfection in Glendower. Adam believes that because Gansey was born into the life he has, that perfection should be another character trait like Gansey’s social acumen or his extensive vocabulary. Gansey’s frustration with Adam stems from Adam’s refusal to believe that he deserves better and take action to make it happen. Gansey is impressed with Adam’s determination to improve his station in life but Gansey doesn’t understand why Adam won’t take the final step to get away from his family. For Gansey it’s logical whereas for Adam it’s emotional.
Me: But emotion does come into it for Gansey because he gets upset about the story wherein Glendower kills Hoell. He’s realizing someone he idolized is imperfect just the way Adam is realizing that about Gansey.
K: True. Gansey realizes that his hero isn’t perfect. I suppose that’s why Adam gets so angry with Gansey after the cocktail party in TDT. He’s realizing that Gansey isn’t perfect. And if Gansey isn’t perfect then what is Adam striving for? Gansey’s obliviousness strikes again during the cocktail party and when he talks to Blue, Blue is livid that Gansey “lost” Adam. Again, Gansey’s logic vs. another character’s emotion.
Me: With Ronan it’s ALL instinct and emotion. I think Ronan is Adam’s protector because Adam can’t (or won’t) protect himself. Ronan feels like he’s being attacked by his own mind and he can’t do anything about it so he channels that rage toward something/someone he can fight. In TRB it’s Adam’s father. In TDT it’s Kavinsky. Both “enemies” teach Ronan something about himself. Adam’s father shows Ronan that strength is not strength if you abuse others. Kavinsky shows Ronan that he does have morals and standards: he’s not a thief.
K: Oh, *sigh* Kavinksy. He’s so hateable and yet functions as the activation agent for Ronan’s realization that he is the Greywarren.
Me: One thing I wondered is why there are several of them that can dream things real? Was Niall Lynch the Greywarren and Ronan inherited it? Is Kavinsky a part of that “species”?
K: The forest tells Ronan that there are many thieves but only one Greywarren. Kavinsky is a thief, which is how even he describes himself: He gets in, grabs what he wants, and gets out. Like you said, Kavinsky shows Ronan that he doesn’t have to be a thief. He reminds Ronan that he had an ally in Orphan Girl and was able to take things from the forest long before he met Kavinsky.
Me: So how does The Gray Man fit in? I find it too much of a coincidence that he calls himself The Gray Man and is searching for the Greywarren.
K: It’s not a coincidence. The Gray Man is a cipher.
Me: Is he functioning as the key to a puzzle or is he “encrypting” something that’s already complex? It seems that his involvement with Maura will only complicate matters, as Calla predicts even though Calla does like him.
K: The term “cipher” is a British term for zero as well as meaning “to encode”. The Gray Man seems like he’s both trying to be nothing and cover up who he is. He’s hard to decode/discern.
Me: Ah, so he just adds another layer to the complexity of the character interactions. He’s complicating the sisters’ lives by becoming part of Maura’s. He’s complicating the plot surrounding Ronan because he was first hunting but now hiding the Greywarren.
K: Exactly. And Calla doesn’t like change or messiness. So she’s skeptical of Maura and The Gray Man getting involved because she’s certain it will end messily.
Me: What about the minor characters?
K: In a weird way, I’m not sure there are any minor characters. Even the characters doen’t stick around very long are integral to moving the plot forward or key to understanding the subtle symbolism of the series. For instance, Whelk seems minor but without his actions prior to TRB and his attempt to correct his teenage mistake, they never would have discovered Cabeswater.
Me: Which brings up Neve. As an old friend of Maura’s she seems ignorable but her presence is central to Blue learning the truth about her own fate that her mother has never told her and succeeding in waking the ley lines. Both events are crucial in moving the plot to TDT.
K: And all of Ronan’s family are symbolically important. His mother’s name is Aurora (Sleeping Beauty’s name) which is fitting since she sleeps through most of both books. Ronan’s name means either “little seal” or “oath”. If you look at the word “seal” like a seal on a letter or sealing a contract, both meanings are appropriate. The Barns are sealed and can only be opened by Ronan when Ronan deciphers Niall’s will. The contract and its specific language are like an oath or a promise between Niall and Ronan to protect the family and its secrets. I’m not sure that Declan’s or Matthew’s names have special significance besides them both being Irish names as well.
Me: I did have a thought about the brothers. Declan means “famous bearer” and for all of TRB and most of TDT Declan is carrying the burden of his father’s secret alone. He knows that Niall is responsible for The Barns’ and Aurora’s state and is carrying that around by himself. Matthew is the youngest and is innocent of most everything related to the Lynch family’s mysteries. He reminds me of Michael from Peter Pan. He’s going along with his siblings because it seems fun and he wants them to like him. Then he is ultimately the one that forces Ronan to confront his fears in order to save Matthew.
K: That’s deep.
Well, on that note, I think it’s time to see what others think. Leave us your comments and thoughts on the characters of The Raven Cycle. Don’t forget that commenting on all 4 posts enters you to win copies of both books at the conclusion of this series of posts!