Friday, October 24, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
by Maggie Stiefvater
Read: September 11 - 13, 2014
Published: October 21, 2014 by Scholastic Press
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU, Scholastic!!!)
Tags: YA, Fantasy, ley lines, Welsh kings 

Series: The Raven Cycle, Book 3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 


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.
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NOTE: Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in The Raven Cycle. My thoughts may contain some spoilers for The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves (click on the titles for my reviews). If you're keeping up with this series, you shouldn't miss Maggie Stiefavater's recaps of the FIRST and SECOND books. 

What can I possibly say about the series that has everything? Including reviews that are more insightful and inspiring than my own. I've gotten so overwhelmed with trying to come up with something interesting to say that I may have just gone off on my own tangent all together. 

What I'm going to do for you today is explain this book in two tweets by author Maggie Stiefvater herself. Ready? (These read from bottom to top, btw)



So I bet you're wondering what that has to do with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, besides causing mass panic, because maybe I'm saying that STIEFVATER ISN'T GOING TO FINISH WRITING THE FOURTH BOOK!!!! Don't worry! That's not where I'm going with this at all. But what I am saying is that true to Maggie Stiefvater, the strength of this installment is the prose and characters, and I would argue, most especially their relationships. 

Of course there's plot in here as well. And it does move the story along. However, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is definitely number three in a four book series, or cycle in Raven Boy lingo, written by an author who prefers why to what. Thinking of this in math terms: if you add the questions asked in this book to the ones still lingering from the previous two cycles, then subtract out the few revelations we are given here, you are very much still in the plus side of the questions vs. answers equation. Thankfully, Stiefvater is pretty brilliant at why, and this is another stunning addition to the series. 

I am a reader who likes to Know What Happens. In other words, I value plots, which is the reason I rarely DNF. But I don't like to skim either, because while plot is important to me, I will fall in love with a book for its language and characters. For the first point, I will admit to getting a tad antsy during the reading of Blue Lily, Lily Blue. This book especially has a lot of crazy events happening, and without the final book completing the picture, I'm definitely wondering what was going on in parts of this installment. I can't wait to figure it all out, or more likely, have it all revealed to me in the finale. But I'm also just so incredibly invested in this series and worried for my beloved characters that I Must Know how it all works out for them.

As stated, the strength of this book is in the relationships between its characters and in its gorgeous language and imagery. I am endlessly fascinated by the fact that all of this author's characters are based on real people, both in appearance and personality. Though Stiefvater admits to doing quite a bit of mixing and matching and embellishing of the real people. As usual we have some new and eccentric character additions to this storyline,  One who looks like her dog. One who speaks and looks like a giant. One who might be crazy.  I didn't love these newbies as much as the characters we know already, but I sure spent a lot of time being amazed that people like them exist out there somewhere. 

I care about this series so much because I have been made to care so deeply about Blue and her Raven boys - Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah as well as Blue's family and friends at 300 Fox Way, including the Gray man. What is so evident in this installment in particular, is how clearly these characters all care for each other. The longing in these pages is palpable, and pairing off and wanting is all the more obvious here. But so much more than who is with whom, these characters all hurt for each other and try their best to protect each other. They are just the most delicious grouping of individuals, and while I'm eager to find out all the whys and hows whats at the end, I'm not sure how I will possibly say goodbye to them when it's all over. 

If you are looking for some specifics, in this book you will find 

1) Adam coming to better terms with himself and his role in everything. 
2) Aching moments as Blue faces wanting what she's told is impossible.
3) Secret glances and much longing between Blue and Gansey.
4) The identity of Greenmantle. Also Malory.
5) Information about Butternut, aka Blue's father. 
6) What Ronan's second secret means.
7) Characters deciding what they will ask Glendower when they wake him.
8) Lots more of Blue's family, especially Persephone, Calla - and where is Maura?
9) Noah continuing to be insightful and tragic. I just want to hug that boy. 
10) A lot of crazy magical things going on. Some big surprises there. 
11) Bonus! As per usual, an abundance of compound words that look similar but all have different meanings (I continue confuse myself with these) - Glendower, Graywaren, Greenmantle, Cabeswater. They're all present and accounted for. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium? We have another big surprise at the end, but this conclusion felt less stressful to me than the last one. Obviously we have one more book to go and everyone has one huge question about that: 


AHHHHhhhh! This is one moment I don't think I'll ever be ready to experience. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Every Breath Blog Tour + Giveaway
Virtual Tour of Melbourne with author Ellie Marney

Blog Tour organized by Tunrda Books
See full schedule HERE

I'm thrilled to be included in the Every Breath blog tour!

This book is a winner. It combines an awesome Aussie setting with a Sherlock-like genius boy called James Mycroft and a female narrator named Rachel Watts. Of course there's a mystery to solve, and as the suspense heats up, readers get to see these two slowly fall for each other in the most delicious way. It's a magical experience.

If you'd like to see my glowing review, go HERE.

Every Breath takes place in Melbourne, and the setting came alive in these pages. I am such a visual reader and loved the importance of place in this story. But I've never been to Australia, so I asked author Ellie Marney to give readers a tour of the city as she and her characters know it. 
I'm so excited to have her on the blog today to talk with us.



Welcome to Love is not a triangle, Ellie!

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Sometimes you choose a city and sometimes a city chooses you – the Every Breath virtual tour of Melbourne


When I first arrived in Melbourne, I was applying for film school and I’d done that very typical thing of following my dream, and a boy.  It was the tail-end of 1993, and the city I was coming from – Brisbane, in the more-tropical north of Australia – was starting to feel claustrophobic.  Mainly, I think it was just a bit too close to my parents.  So I sold my belongings (including three boxes of beautiful books – alas!  The stupid things you do for love!) and went on the road with my then-paramour in a combi van (of all clichéd things) on a great trek to see the distant cosmopolitan south.

(1) Melbourne green cooridors

(1) Melbourne was a shock.  For one thing, it was about four times larger than the sleepy banana-growing city I’d been raised in.  I received an object lesson in that one day when took the tram from the top of the city for a job interview, expecting to arrive in half an hour, and finally gave up two sweaty, frustrating hours later, calling my (highly displeased) prospective employers to tell them I was hopelessly lost.  Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.

(2) Astor Cinema

The other thing about Melbourne was the diversity.  Brisbane was parochial, white-bread yokel-farmers-made-good (locals call it ‘Brisvegas’).  Melbourne was a huge urban multi-ethnic melting pot.  Greeks and Italians had come to city decades before, making it their home-away-from-home.  Vietnamese refugees had arrived soon after, and in the years to come, more overseas talent came to make Melbourne part of their life, and enrich the culture of the city in the process.  St Kilda East – where I first lived, one block behind the glamorous old (2) Astor Cinema – has a huge Jewish enclave nearby (I had never met a Jew before in my life), and for months I cycled around the city, searching out new visions and ethnic areas, and having my expectations and ideas transformed along the way (and if you really want a taste of St Kilda proper, that’s fellow-Aussie author Simmone Howell’s old turf – read Girl Defective for a glimpse).

(3) Melbourne Trams

St Kilda Road, where Mycroft and Watts dive into an encounter with the long arm of the Victorian law at St Kilda Road Police HQ, runs like a throbbing vein through the south end of the city.  It’s where I blagged my way into the foyer of police headquarters one day, while researching Every Breath, by saying I was looking for directions to the police museum at Southbank. Catch one of the many (3) Melbourne trams (a relic of older, more pedestrian-friendly days – you might call them streetcars.  We’ve somehow retained the largest tram network in the world outside of Europe) and travel further north, and you get into the heart of the CBD, over the sluggish brown Yarra River.
(4) Federation Square

Opposite the crazy patchwork architecture of (4) Federation Square is the building that featured on the (5) Australian edition cover of Every Breath: Flinders Street railway station.  It used to be the thing – before mobile phones changed life and punctuality forever – to say ‘Meet you under the clocks’, which is to say, the line of clocks telling local and international time on the gaping-mouth front façade of the station.  Beneath the station is a whole subway underground of little shops selling home-made clothes, classic vinyl, graphic novels and zines.  Pop up out of the tunnel into (6) Degraves Street, where you can get a delicious coffee – Melbourne is famous for its lattes and barista community.  Then work your way up the little cobbled alleyways with European-style street cafes, and enter the high-end cachet of Collins Street, where Tiffany’s sits next door to Subway.

(5) Flinders Street under the clocks is featured on the Aussie cover

(6) Degraves Street

That was the thing I first loved about Melbourne – the variety, and the way the old European influences clashed and melded with the new style.  When I first arrived, I adored the CBD, where you could walk up Bourke Street to see Bullet in the Head or Iron Monkey at the Chinese community cinema, stroll further to Russell Street, where lads in baseball caps and low-slung jeans would ask ‘Are you chasin’?’ and you practically had to beat them off with a stick.   Finally you’d make it to (7) Pellegrini’s, where you could eat spaghetti made with lackadaisical splendour from the giant vats of bolognese sauce out in the miniscule kitchen, and drink real Italian coffee.

(7) Pellegrini's
(8) Red Triangle

I felt grown up for the first time in this city.  I rode my bike everywhere, met up with my future-husband to play pool at the (8) Red Triangle before tripping towards the artsy-fartsy zone in Brunswick Street to have a late dinner at Mario’s (where the waiters condescend to you like the real pros they are).  I shopped at Savers, the best warehouse op-shop in town.  I trained kickboxing at Fitzroy Stars, the old Aboriginal community gym in Gertrude Street, and yoga at Dance for Life barely a block away. 

(9) Sydney Road

By that time I lived in Northcote, closer to the places where Rachel and James make their home.  Nearby are those areas I described in Every Breath as ‘the gristly heart of migrant grunge’, where you can take the tram down (9) Sydney Road to eat Turkish food, see old men gathered in Greek social clubs, and listen to the cadence of Arabic and Lebanese spoken in the street.  Walk along the path near the (10) tennis courts to the Melbourne zoo, and you’ll see the cut-off stump of  (11) the willow tree where Homeless Dave died, near Royal Park train station.  Enter the zoo, and you’ll find the (12) Lion Pen easily enough.

(10) Tennis courts

(11) Homeless Dave's Willow
(12) Lion Pen

Melbourne has changed in many ways since I first arrived – the city has oozed, amoeba-like, into sprawling suburbia, and a lack of far-sighted planning has created streets clogged with cars.  But the places are still all there: the little alleyways and hidden streets I love.  Where else in the world would you find a cobbled stretch of path called Bionic Ear Lane?  Or get a meal of honey-roasted duck in Victoria Street, where the Vietnamese proprietors practically push you out the door (‘Eat and go! Eat and go!) after your last bite?  Or see the graceful time-forgotten arch of the Royal Exhibition building beside the stark modernity of the Melbourne Museum (colloquially called ‘Jeff’s Shed’, in honour of a notorious state premier)?  Where else could you walk through the green tree-sheltered expanse of Fitzroy Gardens on your way to see the football in all its riotous, sweaty-muscled glory at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) on a Sunday afternoon?

I still don’t get everything about Melbourne – the local footy obsession, for one – but I love this city like it was my own.  It’s not the place I grew up in, but it’s the place that grew me up (if that makes sense).  I live two hours away from it now, out in the country, but going to visit the city still fills me with the same dread and excitement that I think must fill Rachel Watts, when she wakes up in the morning and gazes out over another glorious-drizzly Melbourne day.  It’s my city now – I chose it, and it chose me.  And if Every Breath inspires you to come over and visit here some day, be sure to look me up.

Xx Ellie


I'm dying to see this city for myself now!


**Click the link under the top banner for more stops on the Every Breath blog tour!**
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About the Author

Ellie Marney was born in the tropical northeast of Australia, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kid’s literature at libraries and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go, her partner and four sons still love her. Ellie’s short stories for adults have won awards and been published in various anthologies. Every Breath is her first novel for young adults.

Find Ellie: BlogTwitter | Goodreads

Order Every BreathAmazon | B&N | Book Depository | Or at your local bookstore!


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GIVEAWAY




Win a finished copy of Every Breath

Policies:
Giveaway is for US and Canadian residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Every Breath
by Ellie Marney
Read: June 5 - 7, 2014
Published: 
October 14, 2014 by Tundra Books 
Source: BEA book #2
Category: Contemporary, Aussie, Mystery, Sherlock-eque
Series: Every Breath #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon


When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft's numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft's passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn't right--and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder. 

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he's busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion's den--literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again
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Let me tell you about a winning combination: Sherlock Holmes and Austrialia. Well not really Sherlock, but even better for this story, we have aptly named James Mycroft. Why are these elements a perfect match? Aussie authors excel at realistic fiction. I don't know why, but they are able to capture something about humans, and especially teens, that speaks to readers in an incredibly honest way. Combine that natural Aussie-writerness with a troubled genius boy and a female narrator named Rachel Watts (one guess about her inspiration); give them a mystery to solve, and allow the detective duo to slowly fall for each other, and you've created the magical experience called Every Breath

Five reasons this book is not to be missed: 

1) Place. Every Breath takes place in Melbourne, and the city came to life for me in these pages. Rachel is new to the city, having come from a very rural farm, and I felt like I was discovering her new home right along with her. The whole story is imbedded in the culture of this place, and the plot and characters were alive in a very real and gritty way because of how present they felt to Melbourne. Even more than location, the way these characters speak heightened my experience with the book, pulling me into Rachel and Mycroft's world. Aussies tend to shorten lots of words, and it added so much authenticity to the story. 

2) James Mycroft.  I dare you not to fall in love with this boy. Mycroft is a mess. He is a genius with a tragic past and a depressing home situation.  He smokes (which is typically a deal breaker for me) and has tendency to downward spiral at times, but he is so endearing that I couldn't help but like him. I cared for Melbourne, because he cares so much about the city and its people, and I felt deeply his aches and the walls he uses to hide them. Mycroft is obsessed with forensics because of his past, and he uses that information in fascinating ways to help figure out what really happened to Homeless Dave. 

3) Rachel (Watts). This story is narrated by Rachel, whom Mycroft calls Watts. Mycroft is her neighbor, and at first they don't seem like a great match. But they balance each other so well. Rachel has recently moved to Melbourne from the country, and is struggling to fit into city life. Rachel starts off this book feeling quite lost and out of place in the city. The whole course of her life and who she thought she was going to be has now been thrown off. We get to see Rachel grow up a lot throughout this book, and the crazy journey she and Mycroft go on throughout Melbourne to solve a murder has a lot to do with it.  

4) The building relationship between Mycroft and Watts is beautifully executed. When the story begins, Rachel and Mycroft have been close friends for months. Feelings of more build slowly through the course of the story. This is't a romance disguised as a mystery, they are really trying to solve a murder. These two are able to keep their heads in what they're doing, and I love the way their relationship grows subtly over time as they figure out their feelings along the way. Thankfully, with so much going on, their romance isn't weird and angsty. It progresses naturally. I can't express loudly enough how perfect and slow burn Mycroft and Rachel's change in relationship status happens throughout the course of this book. As I write this, I keep thinking about one scene that takes place on some scaffolding, and it has the most amazing tension in it. AHHHHhhh! I love these two so much. 

5) Mystery. Mycroft and Rachel find the dead body of their homeless friend Dave and become convinced that it's not the simple case that the police claim it is. I appreciated that the author did try to account for the fact that these are high school students solving a crime. I didn't see all the connections that they did (obviously, Mycroft is smarter than me), but I guessed the killer before they did. Still, I was on the edge of my seat as the suspense increased. 

In sum, I loved getting to know Rachel and Mycroft and their city, as they solve a mystery and discover their feelings for each other. This book is a winner and spoiler alert! the sequel Every Word is EVEN BETTER. Even more partnership and tension and intensity.  

Love Triangle Factor: None

Cliffhanger Scale: Low, but this is part of a series

**Check back Wednesday for my Every Breath blog tour post, when author Ellie Marney gives readers a tour of Melbourne.** 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

The Cure for Dreaming
by Cat Winters
Read: October 8 - 14, 2014
Published: October 14, 2014 by Amulet Books
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU!)
Tags: YA, Historical fiction, fantasy, hypnotism 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository


Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
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Like any good performer, The Cure for Dreaming presents itself well. The cover of the book is eye catching and a little bit creepy. The fonts are equally interesting and the sometimes odd historical photographs in the book add to the general atmosphere of a story that takes place in 1900 Oregon and combines suffragists with hypnotism. I also loved the opening scene, where heroine Olivia Mead gets called up on stage by mesmerist Henri Reverie to be hypnotized at a performance on Halloween. It's a strong start, but, unfortunately, as the stage lights dimmed, and I got a better look at story in the book, I found that what was underneath had lost its luster. 

I had a few issues with this book, and the first is definitely more of a 'it's me, not you" situation. I have talked about this before, but I love fantasy and I love realistic fiction - including historical realistic fiction; however, sometimes I struggle when the two are combined without proper context. The Cure for Dreaming is mostly historical fiction about a girl who  has become impassioned by the the women's rights, voting moment, while her traditional father wants to erase that dangerous part of her. But the story adds this hypnotism component that started off interesting and became a bit to fantastical for my tastes. I don't know a lot about mesmerism, but some of the things Olivia is made to do - and is able to see - while under hypnosis, was just too much for me to buy. While reading, I spent too much time wondering if plot elements were possible. For me, this book needed to go deeper into the historical fantasy direction, or stay in the bounds of more realistic historical fiction. 

I didn't read this author's other book, and so maybe my expectations for this story were way off (i.e. my expectations were't based on any real fact, just my own suppositions), but I expected it to be creepier, and it never really got there for me. Olivia's father's behavior becomes pretty scary/crazy, but I also thought he didn't go far enough with it for the story to feel intense enough for me. I kept waiting for something bigger to happen, like a more serious villain than the general anti-suffragist population and handsy rich boys. The plot just felt a little scattered in the middle, and in the end, it wasn't really any big surprise how it all turned out. For me, this book didn't offer me anything better than other suffragist type books I've read, and because the hypnotism angle (and as you'll see, the romance,) didn't full work for me, the story as a whole fell flat.

Some spoilery thoughts regarding Olivia's mom:


I also didn't love the romance. It starts off with sort of a love triangle. Or actually, it has more of a love progression, or Decoy Boy. It's clear immediately that one of theses guys is a Bad Choice. Thankfully, it doesn't take Olivia too long to figure that out, and let the wrong one go. And that aspect of the story wasn't  that threatening and didn't bother me. Unfortunately, I never really connected to Olivia's romance with Henri. The whole story takes place over a very short time, and I had trouble with the fact that Henri kept hypnotizing Olivia against her will. Though, there are bigger circumstances at play, and that does sound worse than it was. I just needed more to feel anything from them, and I wasn't emotionally roused by Henri's tragic life situations either. The romance isn't a huge element, and the end is more open, but what was here, didn't grab me. 

However, I did get some good things from this book. The story made me re-prioritize reading Dracula. That's a classic that has been on my list forever, but I've never gotten to it. I'd like to do that soon during this fall season. Dracula is a theme in this story, and it made me want to read it ASAP. Secondly, I definitely want to do some more reading on the hypnotism movement. I hoped that the author would include a note about it, because I was especially curious about the bounds of what is possible under hypnotism. But I'm excited to do my own research, instead. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's a SPOOKTACULAR Giveaway!

This giveaway hop was organized by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer

It's October, and it's my birthday today! 
That means it's time for another SPOOKTACULAR Giveaway.
And you get to endure some of my fall photos. 




GIVEAWAY

Win a SPOOKTACULAR book of your choice* worth up to $15

If you live in the US and win, I will likely order from Amazon.
If you live internationally, I will order from The Book Depository.
*I will let you decide what this means to you, but you must pick an already released and available book. 

Policies:
Giveaway for US and Interational residents (aka everyone!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

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