Book Review: The Dream Thieves

|+| Warnings: Drug use, mild torture, violence |+|

“Secrets and cockroaches-that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”  ~The Dream Thieves

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Woots! Fist book review of the year! This is the sequel to The Raven Boys, and while I’ve done my best to make sure there are no spoilers for both books I might have accidentally let something slip. Please consider this your fair warning.

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre:  YA paranormal fantasy/mystery, romance

Summary: Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys-a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by there elite private school, Aglonby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface-changing everything in its wake.

My Opinion: This book was awesome. What I loved about The Raven Boys was back in full force in the sequel. The fantastic characters and their organic development, the mythology and magic. Once again, things that seemed random fell in place. There were a couple of plot twists, and once again, they had me on the edge of my seat. My biggest issue was the ending. Unlike the first book, this ending felt a bit anti-climatic in a way. Also, I was expecting more about the school because there’s been so much buildup surrounding it. All in all, I gave this book four stars.

While the last book focused mostly on Gansey and Noah, this book focused mostly on Ronan and Adam. While the last book let me down a bit in getting to know Blue, I felt like I really got to know her character a lot better. I loved seeing more magic from Ronan and Adam, and getting more depth into their characters as well. There are new villains and some old ones, but they show their colors in a new way. At first I was a little wary at some of these changes, but they were executed so well that I was behind these changes all the way.

The world building was one of the things that got me hooked on the first books. Thanks to how the characters and the magic of the world are tied together, I got even more of that. But the school really wasn’t a big part of this book. From the summary and the last book, I was thinking that there would be more about the mystery of the school. It’s clear in the set up in The Raven Boys that Aglionby holds plenty of secrets. This book didn’t touch on them. That seemed like it would be such a huge element, yet it just was not addressed here. I get that it was summer in this book, but still…

Then there was the ending. There were two sub plots that really carried this book, and both had a rather anti-climatic endings. The first plot twist that had me on the edge of my seat was resolved in such a way that I just sort of frowned at the book and went “ok?” The second plot had a stronger resolution, but it still felt weak. Even with the well done cliff hanger ending, the whole last 20 pages just fell short for me.

The ending of The Dream Thieves certainly hasn’t stopped me from diving into Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but it did put a damper on the book for me. Despite not seeing certain things and those anti-climatic plot resolutions, this book was a great one. It built on what had been established in The Raven Boys and really moved the saga forward.

TL;DR: No second book syndrome here! While The Dream Thieves didn’t quite live up to The Raven Boys for me, it still was a wonderful read. It built on what happened in the first book, added depth to all previous elements, and really carried the overall story forward beautifully. The more I read, the more I fall in love with this series. If you read the first book and are hesitating to read the second, don’t, it’s well worth it!

 

Book Review: On Writing, and No Plot? No Problem!

Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m reviewing two books in one go. There are certain books that are more difficult to give a longer review to. I find that books on writing are among these.  On Writing by Stephen King is one of my favorite non-fiction books, and it just doesn’t seem right to not review No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, during November. So while these reviews are shorter, the books are still wonderful writing resources and lovely reads!

On Writing

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Author: Stephen King

Genre: Memoir, reference

Summary: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Opinion: While I don’t agree with everything in this book, Stephen King is a brilliant teacher. I really do love this book and will gladly give it five stars.

The first part of the book is mostly dedicated to King’s writing journey, how he started writing and how he got to where he is today. This is filled with humor and interesting life and writing advice. The second half is more focused on exactly what it takes to be a writer. For example, you must be a reader. You must have an interest in writing in the first place. King goes on to set up the writer’s tool-box. Here he covers everything from tricky grammar rules to how to make the most out of descriptions while staying true to your voice. All the while King makes the book feel personal. His humor shines through and there’s plenty of parts in it that challenge you not only as a writer, but as a person. True, this book is a memoir, but it’s also a guide to the writing life and a friendly pat on the shoulder. If you’re interested in writing or a fan of Stephen King, I strongly recommend this book.

 

No Plot? No Problem!

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Author: Chris Baty

Genre: Non-fiction, reference

Summary: You’ve always wanted to write, but . . . just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

My Opinion: YOU DO NOT NEED TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THIS BOOK. Ok there, now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue shall we?

The latter part of the book is for if you’re going to go through with the “write a novel in 30 days” challenge. For some people that’s just not their thing, and the advice changes more into encouragement in this section. If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before (as I have), most of the stuff in the later section of the book will be familiar to you. Also Baty’s writing style was a little off for me at times. But that’s just personal preference. Because of that I rated this book four stars.

This book is funny. It’s got silly ideas, funny metaphors, and yet somehow it all comes together to make sense and give some practical writing advice. Some of this advice I wouldn’t have thought of on my own but it makes a great deal of sense. It’s writing advice that you can use for planning out a novel you’ll write over the course of a year or for your history paper due in 3 days. It was those nuggets of advice that really endeared the book to me. It also gave tips on how to keep yourself organized as a writer, how gather ideas, and how to make your dialogue and character interactions sound genuine. This book lacked depth, but it made up for that with a plethora of encouragement and good ideas to get you started on your own writing journey. Even if you know NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, I think this is still a good book to read simply because of the good ideas. Even the sheets in the back, typically used for NaNoWriMo, can be made useful. This book isn’t about writing yours in 30 days as much as it is about giving yourself a strict timeline, giving yourself motivation to stick to that timeline, and then giving yourself rewards for meeting your goals. It’s a fun and quick read that’s quite handy.

Bookish Recap: March

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If I missed out on horror books last month, this month more than made up for it. Sure I took some detours like re-reading Princess Diaries (I will never get tired of that book), and falling in love with The Martian, but I finished off Insomnia, and managed to read the Asylum series.

Books Read:

  • The Princess Diaries (Meg Cabot; re-read still 5 stars)
  • Insomnia (Stephen King; four stars)
  • Asylum (Madeleine Roux; re-read still 5 stars)
  • Sanctum (Madeline Roux; 4.5 stars)
  • Catacomb (Madeline Roux; 3 stars)
  • The Asylum Novellas (Madeline Roux; 3.5 stars)
  • The Martian (Andy Weir; 5 stars; review live April 4th)

I got a lot of reading done for the Cornerfolds Horror Challenge which is great, because heaven knows I was quite behind, not having read any horror in January or February. Obviously Asylum doesn’t count as I read and reviewed it last year, so my grand total read for the challenge is 4 books. Which isn’t bad.

The Princess Diaries is an old favorite, and I re-read it pretty quickly. The book is falling apart thanks to how many times I’ve read it. It’s some of the best first person pov writing I’ve ever read, has wonderful humor and for such an outlandish plot (I mean come on, it’s a girl finding out she’s a princess in modern day NYC), it’s incredibly realistic. I totally recommend this, especially if you’re looking for something light and fun to read.

Insomnia confused me a bit at the end until I started screaming thanks to that massive Dark Tower reference. My friend read me the argument of the second book and then EVERYTHING about Insomnia clicked. It’s almost like Insomnia is a prequel to the Dark Tower series which is really cool. I knew King did that, but to see how he pulled it off was incredible. That pretty much sealed my fate. The book was fantastic for a number of reasons, even if it was lacking in diversity and some parts just moved too slow. I wouldn’t consider this book horror, although I get why many would call it that. This is weird fiction more than anything, but it’s considered a horror book and weird fiction is a small niche  The characters were lovable, and King played around with some really old concepts but did something fresh with them. It’s a tome, and my first King book, but I highly recommend it to newcomers and to die hard King fans.

Now onto the whole point of this month reading wise. The Asylum series!

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I feel like every time I try to talk about Asylum I get a little better at it, and my fan-girling becomes more coherent which is good, cause I’m about to talk about it again. Re-reading Asylum was a blast. What I loved about it, the mounting tension, the genuine moments of terror, the realistic portrayal of mental illnesses including anxiety was all there and I picked up details about all of those elements that I had missed the the first time. Asylum is a book that is meant to be re-read. Not only did I pick up on things I missed the first time, I picked up on things that are impossible to pick up on if you just read it once. They’re things that when you read the book the first time they add to the ambiance. But when you read the book the second time, you realize there was foreshadowing on page two. Little things like that just kept piling up and really added not only to the mood of the story but the mystery as well. It’s so subtle which goes to show how great of a writer Roux is.

Sanctum had high standards to meet and just about met them all. The writing was better than in Asylum but this book was almost too much for me. There were some horribly brutal (although not necessarily gory) parts in this, and I had to put the book down for a bit. This book (and the series) is not for the faint of heart by any means. But where Asylum delivered on the genuine fear, Sanctum didn’t quite make it. Sure, it got in the eerie and unsettling, but I couldn’t fully give it 5 stars because of that. Asylum made me sleep with the lights on and dart down my dark hallway in fear of the Warden. Sanctum didn’t do that for me. Sanctum did give us a brilliant ending though, and I literally looked for the rest of the book because how could you end a book like that? It wasn’t even a real cliff hanger! Either way, brilliant ending.

Catacomb….ooooh boy did I have issues with this one. I appreciate what the book was trying to do, but the strength of the series clearly lies with Brookline. Once Dan and his friends take a road trip and are away from Brookline their encounters start reading a lot less like horror and more like a legal thriller with less law and a lot of eerie but not necessarily paranormal things thrown in. I was pretty disappointed. It was good writing, the mood was strong and pretty consistent with the previous books,  but the story just didn’t fit with the rest of the series and the ending felt more like a cop out than anything. Not the ending I was expecting or looking for, for the series. I have hope though, when I go back and re-read the series (which is very likely) I’ll probably enjoy this book more on the second read. We’ll just have to see if that’s because it was brilliant writing like in Asylum or if it’s because I know to expect less.

The Asylum Novellas were a mixed bag for me. I adored The Scarlets and The Warden but I could have done without The Bone Artists. The Scarlets and The Warden both really added to the series over all and both were very well written, though I never got any real scares from them. The mood and the build up was there but there was no payout. The Bone Artists on the other hand…that one was a mess. Just ignore that one. Even after reading Catacomb I still didn’t feel like it was needed or really added anything to the series.

Finally I read The Martian. A couple of my friends on tumblr had screamed their praises about this book and I adored the movie. I was rather terrified to read it because I heard that it was very math/science based but I shouldn’t have worried. Mark does a great job explaining everything even for the most math incompetent of us (aka me). It’s funny, it’s intense, it’s an adventure and survival story all in one. This is a must read for anyone who liked the movie, science, or space. Honestly, I adore this book. Stop reading this and go read The Martian.

Over all it was a very good book month. I got to read a lot and I wound up really liking the majority of what I read. Best book month so far!