Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater

“Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.”


And so it continues. The quest for Gansey’s king is in full swing this time around, with a return to the focus on the group as a whole instead of singling anyone out. Blue and her raven boys continue on their quest for Glendower, and with Maura missing, everything seems a little more real. Real in the ways each of them is affected, and real in the way they need each other. Where The Dream Thieves had their relationships fragmenting, here, we have the much needed healing.

These friendships feel more realistically written than almost anything else I’ve read in YA. I love that these characters have flaws – bits that annoy me, bits that annoy each other – and even when they don’t understand what makes their friend tick, they try to. Each of the main characters here are so uniquely different. We’ve known that from the last two books, but we see them embrace it here.

Blue is once more a main character, and I missed her and her fire. There’s one scene where Blue is grossly offended for a man complimenting her nice legs. Adam can’t quite seem to understand why she’s making such a big deal over it, and the two argue. Later, Blue’s able to compare it to him disliking what others think of him when they see him in his Aglionby uniform. She doesn’t want to be stuffed into that mold, and neither does Adam – the two come to an understanding over it.

Adam, like Ronan in the previous book, grew and grew. His pride, which has always been such a defining feature for him, has finally decided to take a step back. There’s several times where Adam has to tell himself not to fight with Blue or Gansey, because he legitimately doesn’t want to. There’s no mention of Ronan there – because it’s Ronan – someone who seems to know Adam better than he knows himself, and it’s more apparent here that Ronan is slowly making his feelings for his friend known. Wonderfully, Adam doesn’t seem to mind. If anything, I can see him returning it.

“See, Adam Parrish is wantable, worthy of a crush, not just by anyone, someone like Ronan, who could want Gansey or anyone else and chose Adam for his hungry eyes.”

And Ronan?

“It was a small white plastic container. Adam twisted off the lid. Inside was a colorless lotion that smelled of mist and moss. Replacing the lid with a frown, he turned the container over, looking for more identifying features. On the bottom, Ronan’s handwriting labeled it merely: manibus. For your hands.”

He sees things too, like Adam. He’s sweet, kind in the way that matters. I love their growing relationship, and because of my love for Ronan, I hope it keeps developing.

And this moment for me, made my heart ache. Adam’s development is shown here more clearly than it ever could have been otherwise.

“ Was it okay? Adam had turned down so many offers of help from Gansey. Money for school, money for food, money for rent. Pity and charity, Adam had thought. For so long, he’d wanted Gansey to see him as an equal, but it was possible that all this time, the only person who needed to see that was Adam.
Now he could see that it wasn’t charity Gansey was offering. It was just truth.
And something else: friendship of the unshakable kind. Friendship you could swear on. That could be busted nearly to breaking and come back stronger than before.”

I don’t think I could love these characters more if I tried.

We see less of Ronan’s thoughts here, but I enjoyed almost every line out of his mouth. Whether it’s something as crazy as “Jesus shit Mary fuck,” to “I don’t want to make a bigger cage. I want to open the door.”

He’s still the hurting, sharp edged boy as always. He’s finally managed to shape his ability and make it his own. The things he and Adam think up will make your head spin. I found it spoke volumes when Adam comments on the sorts of things Ronan, when left to his own devices, dreams up into reality. His dreams are magic – his kindness being who he is.

“I’ve dreamt him a box of EpiPens. I dream cures for stings all the time. I carry one. I put them in the Pig. I have them all over Monmouth.”

This is the boy who dreams up cures for his friend with a bee allergy. The one who leaves hand lotion for his friend with chapped hands. The one who holds Blue when they see the image of their deceased loved ones in a cruel lake. …I love Ronan, okay? Kerah!

Noah is more a ghost here than before – and I genuinely felt nervous during his scenes. It’s not only once that he appears to lose control, and I found myself missing the smudgy boy that kissed Blue. Before, you didn’t always remember that he’s dead. Here, there’s no mistaking it.

Blue and Gansey seem more intertwined than ever. They spend late nights on the phone together, and even take random night car rides together. There’s hand holding, almost kisses, and visions that come to fruition – albeit changed slightly. I liked that, btw. The tree visions are not always what they seem, and I liked that for the two we do see happen in this book, they are not what the character had originally witnessed in Cabeswater.

For as much as Blue Lily, Lily Blue developed the characters, the plot advanced as well. The characters make discoveries, and ultimately, we’re left with a cliffhanger that makes me glad I do not have to wait to start the final book. I’m torn, in that I don’t want to leave this world and these characters yet – but I need to know what happens. That’s the consequence of marathoning a series, I suppose. I read Blue Lily, Lily Blue in one day – in two sittings. I think I may take my time reading the last, since I want to savor this a bit before it ends. I’m not quite ready to leave Maggie Stiefvater’s beautiful prose.

“Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.”

To lose that would be a terrible thing, wouldn’t it?

5 Stars


The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater

“Dream me the world. Something new for every night.”

The final line of The Raven Boys left me wanting. With that being said, Ronan is the star of the second book in this series, and I am so glad for it. He was my favorite character in the first story, and like Blue, I wanted to get to know this strange boy – edges and all.

The quest to find Gansey’s Welsh king from the first book has taken a backseat here. Instead, this book focuses on the idea of secrets. There are three that Ronan describes in the beginning of the story.

“There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day, thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confessors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.

And then there is the third kind of secret, the most hidden kind. A secret no one knows about. Perhaps it was known once, but was taken to the grave. Or maybe it is a useless mystery, arcane and lonely, unfound because no one ever looked for it.

Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold. It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate.

All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches — that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”

Slowly, we get to know Ronan in a way we were never privileged to in the first book. Each of these secrets plays an important part in the story – and by the end, I feel like we know Ronan better than even his own friends do. We learn more about his ability as a dreamer. We learn about his family – as Ronan’s ability places both himself and those around him in danger. I found myself worrying for him as his thrill seeking behavior more than pushed his limits – the guy isn’t just in danger from his enemies, but from himself as well. Though the friends seemed quite united in The Raven Boys, here, each of them is struggling with their own personal issues.

Adam is juggling three jobs in order to pay for his education while also coming to terms with the sacrifice he made at the end of book one. It was interesting to see him work through this – and what it means – especially since Adam has always been so very stubborn in his insistence on being his own separate being. He’s reluctant to allow anyone to help him – something he admits is an issue of pride, but something he will always stand his ground on. At the same time, I found myself irritated with him – his pride forces him to see everything negatively – even acts of kindness from friends. Even simple concern can be taken wrong, which I know is something Adam needs to work on on his own.

Noah, meanwhile, is barely visible. He disappears and reappears randomly, and often needs to draw energy from his friends to remain where he is. His energy is tied to the ley line, and though Adam made it stronger previously, there is something that is causing its energy to weaken. We do learn what that something is, and again, it comes down to Ronan – only in part, though. The book is called The Dream Thieves, after all.

Blue is still struggling with her fated kiss, which means the death of her true love. I was sad to see her take on a more background role this time around. Much of her plot line involved being one part of the love triangle, which bothered me. Thankfully, she doesn’t fade into the cliche YA heroine in love with two boys, and her feelings are stated very obviously throughout the book. The romance we do get feels organic, a perfect slow burn that I hope we get more of in book three. Blue is as strong as ever, refusing to be an object to either love interest – but, like her, I wanted that something more. I’ve always felt she’s been an important part in this group of friends – not only for her role as the only female, but because of the bonds she’s formed with each of them. She doesn’t have the history Gansey and Ronan have, so she is left with the here and now.

Gansey tends to cling to that former version of Ronan, which I found problematic at times.

“Ronan was broken, Ronan was fixable, Ronan had a soul.”

You don’t value a friendship for what “was.” It’s no better than someone being in a destructive relationship and hoping the person changes back into the affectionate person they once were. Gansey himself seems to struggle with each of his friendships – each fragmented in its own way. The have-not Adam and the have-it-all Gansey grow further and further apart here, not only because of their background, but also because of the sacrifice Adam made. I did enjoy seeing the very strong brotherly bond Gansey and Ronan have, however. Over and over, Ronan is teased about his relationship with Gansey, with some characters seeing it as a romantic one. It was refreshing to see his feelings shown in a way that didn’t have sex enter into the equation, though at times I admitted I almost wanted the feelings to be non-platonic. Ronan doesn’t deny his sexuality here either, which is also so, so refreshing. Though it is a major part of one of his secrets, you can see that he comes to terms with who he is by the end.

New characters are introduced, including another Aglionby boy and a mysterious – and dangerous – stranger that courts Blue’s mother. I enjoyed the addition of the latter character immensely. Through his eyes, you get a few wonderful descriptions of characters we already love. Here’s his view of Ronan.

“…there was a carefully cultivated sense of danger to this Lynch brother. This was not a rattlesnake hidden in the grass, but a deadly coral snake striped with warning colors. Everything about him was a warning: If this snake bit you, you had no one to blame but yourself.”

While The Dream Thieves wasn’t the perfect book the first in the series is, I enjoyed it. I read it over two sittings on my trip to Disneyland and finished it one hour before I got home on the trip back. I’ve actually already started Blue Lily, Lily Blue because I couldn’t resist before writing this!…With that being said, it’s a ⅘ for me. While I loved seeing so much from Ronan, I hope we get a more normal format in the third.

4 Stars

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

“She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.”

The trees speak Latin.
It’s a quote I have seen floating around the internet many, many times, and not once did I ever think more of it. I had heard of The Raven Cycle, but not until it’s final book had made its appearance on store shelves. Even then, I hesitated. The only question I am asking myself now is, “Why did I wait so long?”

The Raven Boys has all of the angst and joy of teenage romance I’ve come to expect from YA. But it had deeper, darker elements that immediately drew my attention. The characters are forced to deal with death, abuse, and the divide between those who have – and those who have not. To me, this was a book about the characters – the main cast consists of Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Though there is a main plotline, I found myself caring more about each character and learning their individual personalities.

Blue, our heroine, is sensible. She is described as such several times throughout the book, despite her attempts to show otherwise. Her clothes are a mismatch of different fabrics, as made by herself. She is the daughter of a psychic, yet possesses no such ability herself. Instead, she has the unique ability to make things louder. She magnifies whatever ability or energy something has. At first, I thought this wouldn’t make much of an appearance. But the author finds ways to use her in scenes I never would’ve thought to. I like Blue. She is thoughtful and kind, and though she could dwell on the points of her life that could be seen as horrible, she never does. Her father isn’t in her life, yet she has a fondness for the man she’s never met. She comments on the odd quirks of her household, always observant, and I loved seeing characters through her eyes. She isn’t the quiet observer like Adam – she is always active, and I liked the sass we get from her. She’s never too much, like some YA girls are guilty of being.

Gansey is relentless in his quest to find the Welsh King, Glendower, who is said to grant a wish to whoever wakes him. When Blue first meets him, all she sees is a boy who has it all. Gansey doesn’t want the wish; he’s after the adventure. But he’s more than the rich boy, polite persona he naturally exudes. He is as loyal a friend as you could possibly get. Each of his friends are so very different that none of them should be friends. Yet it is through their friendship with Gansey that they have become a unit, like brothers – more real of a family than most of them even have.

“He never seemed able to walk away from them.”
I don’t think he realizes that none of them could ever leave him either.

Gansey got to me a bit at first. Like Blue, I had to get to know him to like him. At first, he may appear rude – one of those people who know they are more intelligent than you and purposely try to use vocabulary you won’t understand. One of those people that throw their money around without ever considering how hard someone might be working to make so much less than that. Gansey is the oblivious sort – for someone so intelligent, so caring, and so obsessive when it comes to his quest, he doesn’t always understand the way others think – especially if their thinking differs from his own.

Ronan is one of my favorite characters, possibly because he is the most difficult to predict. He is temperamental, compared to a sword’s edge, and his approval is hard to win. He seems to be the most troubled of the boys. He fights with his older brother – physically and otherwise, skips school, and has a foul mouth. But there are actions that speak louder than this – he spends much of the book caring for a newborn raven, waking every 2 hours to feed her. He is gentle when you least expect it. He defends Adam through the abuse his friend suffers from, and this action is what caused me to love him more than I thought I could. Ronan is like a loose cannon. He never reveals too much of himself, but what he does show reveals enough.

Adam is…very much like myself. He’s the quiet one – the observant one. He isn’t like the other boys. He was not born into riches, and the only reason he is able to go to Aglionby (the prestigious high school the boys attend) is through his scholarship and his own hard work. He never wants to be pitied for his wealth – or lack thereof. Adam is never boastful. Though he has his own value, he never seems to look at it just right.

“Adam had once told Gansey, “Rags to riches isn’t a story anyone wants to hear until after it’s done.”

He looks at the others, seeing always what he lacks and never what he has. He longs for a day that he doesn’t have to think about money. More than that, however, is the issue of abuse. Reading the scenes about Adam’s father had me reflecting on my own past, my own weakness, and I instantly could forgive whatever Adam did towards the end of the book. Gansey, having never experienced this, could never imagine not wanting to leave behind an abusive family. When you live it, day by day, home is still home. Adam compares it to Stockholm syndrome, and it saddens me to be able to relate to this character in that way.

Noah, without revealing too much, was mysterious from the beginning. The story never focused on him too much until it mattered. He was in a scene and you’d not even realize it until he spoke. I wanted to know more about him that I ended up with.

I mentioned romance earlier, and the romance here is a slow burn. Wonderfully so, as those who know me know that I absolutely hate instalove. Blue has always been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. There are no specifics to this particular prophecy, and Blue thinks of it often throughout the book as she grows closer to the boys. Though she is not psychic, she sees the spirit of Gansey early in the story. She’s told that this means he is either her true love, or she will kill him. I don’t particularly mind love triangles if they are done right, and this didn’t feel like a true one. From the visions we see, it’s obvious that Gansey and Blue are meant to be, even if the two don’t know it yet. The innocence of her romance with Adam was heartwarming. It’s the same feeling you get when thinking about a first crush – and I loved that the romance here was so well written that you didn’t need the kissing. I think that the kiss, whenever it does happen, will be worth the wait.

The writing is amazing, and I loved the way she described each little character detail. From the way Noah pets Blue’s hair to the way Gansey rubs his lip, each detail helped the characters come alive. More so than in other books, they felt real, like they could step off the page and hold a conversation with me. I liked the magic in this book – or the feel of it. As the boys and Blue journey on their quest to find Gansey’s king, we travel through a forest with trees that speak Latin – in a rustle of whispers only some of them can hear. The forest plays with time, making you see what you think you should see – making the seasons alter, and inviting all the things that come with it. It’s interesting – the characters take one step and lose themselves in a vision only they can see – and I liked the clever use of foreshadowing. I was simultaneously fascinated and nervous while reading the scenes in that location, and I’m always, always a fan of writing that makes me feel.

So…that’s my overwhelmingly positive side of things. What about the negatives? For me, the main negative is the story’s poor villain(s). While I admit that I didn’t see it coming, I felt a little disappointed in the way it was done. Maybe it’s because the reasons didn’t make sense to me, but the villains felt weak. Bad for the sake of being bad – one more desperate than the other – who just seemed more odd than anything else. You know those bad guys in a videogame that want to rule the world and have all the power? It felt almost like that, but at that point, I didn’t care because I was too invested in the heroes to stop reading. To be honest, in a book filled with magic and the paranormal, I had little to complain about. I’m nitpicking here.

I have already ordered the rest of the series. As I sit here anxiously awaiting the shipping notification, I remind anyone reading this that I am going in blind! I know nothing of what will happen to these characters, and I don’t intend to spoil myself despite these books having been out for some time. With that being said, I am a quick reader, and I hope to finish this series soon enough. But first….my family vacation to Disneyland with my husband and three year old.

5 Stars

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

“Remember, it’s only a game.”


Caraval is one of those stories I could not wait to read since the author was in the early stages of being published. I desperately sought an ARC, but unfortunately, didn’t manage to receive one. Instead, I received it in my Owl Crate box, which I couldn’t have been more pleased with. Still – I had such high expectations for it; the book community showered it with praise, and I tend to put off reading books like that until the hype has died down a bit. I don’t like to go into reading a book with any sort of influence from others. Once summer vacation hit, however, it was the first book I chose to dive into. With that being said, let’s get started.

The story – Caraval is a story about two sisters. Scarlett has dreamed of going to Caraval, a game filled with magic that is run by the mysterious master Legend, ever since she was little. Her grandmother had told the sisters stories of it, and each year, Scarlett writes to Legend in the hopes that she and her sister will be invited to participate. Her letter finally receives an answer, less than a week before her impending marriage, and her younger sister, Tella, convinces her to go. Accompanied by the handsome sailor Julian, they flee both the small island they were raised on and the abusive father they fear. Very quickly, Scarlett realizes that the game is not what she dreamed of. It is a fantastical thing, filled with strange people that barter goods for secrets and days rather than coin. Yet it’s not all fun and games – the danger seems all too real for a game. Scarlett is tasked with winning the competition alongside Julian in the hopes of saving her sister. As fantasy begins to blur with reality, Scarlett fears what will happen if she loses. But…it’s only a game, right?

Characters – Scarlett is not like your typical YA heroine. She is not particularly gifted. She is not sassy, overly brave, or adventurous. She is content with “love and protection,” as she thinks those are the stuff of every girl’s dreams. She tells herself that it’s okay to marry someone she has never met in the hopes that it will provide that protection for her sister and herself. She has dreamed of seeing Caraval all of her life, yet her only thought when beginning it is that she must find her sister and return to her island – she cannot even think of jeopardizing her impending marriage. Over and over, she speaks of her love for her sister. Yet as the story goes on, this bond seems weakened by her growing affection for Julian. I feel she has spent so much of her life worrying about her spirited and rebellious sister that she has forgotten what it means to live. Tella herself realizes this, and that is part of what drives the story forward. I will be honest. At first, I very much disliked Scarlett. She was too cautious. Too confined by rules and what is deemed proper to find enjoyment in even her wildest dream. She lies to herself more than I would like her to, even if the motivation behind it is good. I realized my dislike stemmed from her similarity to myself, and once I figured that out, I understood her in a way I hadn’t before. Scarlett is one of the few characters that shows any development during Caraval, but I wish it hadn’t been motivated so much by the love interest. I loved this story at the outset because it was a story of two sisters – much like my sister and I. Yet at times I found myself wondering if Scarlett would choose her sister after all.

Tella is the opposite of her sister. She bends the rules whenever possible, and takes risk after risk as she pursues her happiness. Her abusive father uses this to his advantage. He controls Scarlett through Tella. Neither is safe from his abuse. At times, this was hard to read. My sister and I were abused by our father, physically and mentally, for over 18 years. I will admit that if you have dealt with either physical abuse or sexual assault, this book has a few scenes you might want to skip over. I was uncomfortable, but again, I related to the sisters more for it. I was the one who protected my Tella, and I relate to that. I would do anything for her, and that is the bond I was hoping to see in this book. People might find issue with the fact that their father is a senseless villain. After his wife’s disappearance, he turns from a strict father to a monster seemingly out of nowhere. He is murderous, the true definition of an evil character. That is where people might be confused. Yet people who abuse their children often are broken themselves. We may never know the true reasons that would force someone to do it. I still don’t know the reasons my own father abused us. So I did not look for any further explanation that what the author gave here.

Julian kept me guessing. He is much more like the usual boy you’d find in YA. He is mysterious, almost as much so as the rest of the members of Caraval. He knows too much, but only ever gives enough of an explanation to barely satisfy the reader’s – and Scarlett’s – curiosity. He is kind, brave, handsome, and all the typical traits you’d want him to be. But he is not perfect, and I found that refreshing. While the story does indeed take place over a week, and some may find issue with the instalove portrayed here, the ending redeemed this for me. It’s refreshing to get the chance to truly learn and love someone all over again, without the added cliche of memory loss.

The world – This is where Caraval failed for me. While the writing is full of beautiful prose and quirks – Scarlett sees her emotions in waves of color – there is not much in the way of describing the world. I don’t know whether the island system is part of a larger country or continent. I don’t know anything about the rules, the surroundings – other than that they seemingly travel from island to island by boat. Even the magic system falls short. Tella describes the magic of Caraval as something none of them really understand – even the performers. “Tella didn’t know the particulars as to how it worked. It was one of those things that people didn’t really talk about.” In a way, I feel this is lazy, and I would have liked to see Garber give it more attention. Also – though Caraval is described as a competition, it did not feel like it. While the other participants are only rarely described, it never really feels like Scarlett is ever at risk of losing. She stumbles into each clue with almost incredible luck. While this is not like The Hunger Games, I did want it to be a little bit more convincing as a competition. The stakes did not feel very high until near the end, where things dramatically pick up. I did enjoy this – I am usually the type to be able to guess things far before the main character does. The twists here really did surprise me, and I was glad I went in blind for this one.

While this book did not amaze me, and it is weak in some areas, I did read it in a day. It’s the kind of book that keeps you guessing – you turn the page to find endless twists and you question yourself as much as the main character does. Some of the writing is questionable – such as referring to Julian’s body as that of a sculptor or painter when I think she means sculptures or paintings, but the other descriptions really are lovely. Overall, I give it a 3.5-4.0. It’s an enjoyable read – just not my favorite. I think this is because of my own personal background, but I hoped for a stronger story of two sisters rather than the journey of discovery for Scarlett that we ended up with.

4 Stars