Mini Reviews: The Raven Boys, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Illusions of Fate, The Graveyard Book, Bull

Mini Reviews:  The Raven Boys, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Illusions of Fate, The Graveyard Book, and Bull

Here we go again!


Bull by David Elliott

Bull
by David Elliott

 

Goodreads | Amazon 
Series: no
Published: March 28th 2017
Rating: A wild ride
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gabrielle

“What can I say? 
Life’s no bed of roses
For a kid who’s different, 
A kid with horns. 
A bed of roses? ”

I hadn't heard anyone talk about this book before my librarian friend recommended it to me as the best book that she had read in 2017.  High praise.  It is a retelling of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur but twisted so that we are looking at it from Asterion the Minotaur himself.  It is a novel in verse told in different styles by different characters. I was especially moved by Asterion chapters. They were almost heartbreaking. Which might lead you to believe that This is a staid book one step away from the epic poetry of Homer or Virgil.  Um... no.  The first line of the book is literally Posidean saying,  "Whatup bitches?" Which sets the tone.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman 

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: September 30th 2008
Rating: It's love
Times read: 5
Recommended by: Found it in a bookstore in 2008

“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.” 

Reread.  It has been a few years since I read this but it held up (again).  I don't know about it I find so compellingly.  The writing is powerful and lovely.  There is a weight to the words that make the story seem like more than a story.  It is as if the book is a parabel and Neil Gaiman is telling us how to live.   With all that there are exciting moments of actions, scares, and love all conveyed with a dash of surprising humor.  It isn't often that a book about the dead also laugh out loud funny. I have been thrusting this book at students since it first came out.


Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Illusions of Fate
by Kiersten White

 

Goodreads | Amazon 
Series: no
Published: September 9th 2014
Rating: okay
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Goodreads

“Shadows go in front of you, leading into your future, and trail behind you, leaving a part of you in the past. They are clearest when we are in the light, and disappear when we lose ourselves in darkness.” 

This is a fantasy that reads like a historical. I feel as if I should have enjoyed this book more than I actually did.  It is full of things that I love: A sharp and focused heroine, a love interest that communicates with her, and a fantastical setting. But I didn't love it or connect to it. I have had this feeling with Kiresten White before so it might just be that I don't gel with her writing. I think that I find her heroines too cold to relate to.  This is a stand-alone novel, but I felt as if there was a lot left unexplored and would not be disappointed in a sequal.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon  by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: August 9th 2016
Rating: wonderful
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Goodreads

“Knowledge is power, but it is a terrible power when it is hoarded and hidden.” 

This book charmed me from the first sentence. There are a lot of dark elements: Babies are left to die. Faces are scarred. A mother goes mad with grief. But although the story gives these moments their gravity it isn't graphic or bogged down in the darkness. Woven throughout the book are short, one-sided hearth conversation between a parent and a child where the importance of how a story is told and by who is examined. There is also a dragon, Fyrian, who is "no bigger than a pigeon." He is a perpetual child and also convinced that he is "perfectly enormous." Please show me where I can sign up to foster him because I have need.  I already bought copies for friends and my mother which. Now, if anyone needs me, I will be at the library shilling this book to every student who walks by.


(The Raven Cycle #1)

The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: (The Raven Cycle #1)
Published: September 18th 2012
Rating: fantastic
Times read: 2
Recommended by: Gillian at Writer of Wrongs

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

This is the start of one of my favorite series.  I wish I knew more YA fantasy lovers in real life because I feel as if I never get to talk about it.  There is something about Stiefvater's prose that just touches me.  I loved ALL the characters. Blue, Noah, Gansey, Adam, and Ronan.  They are the sort of characters that transcend the book and start to feel like people that you actually know.  Or would know if your life was a bit cooler. The book flips third person POV's seamlessly, but in the end, to me, this is Adams book. Never has the search for a dead Welsh King been so beautiful or so much fun.


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Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White cover

And I Darken
by Kiersten White
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: (The Conqueror's Saga #1)
Published: July 7th 2016
Rating: Genius concept

"So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?"

Gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler. Do you need to know more? And  I Darken is the story of Lada, a Princess of Wallachia who falls into the hands of the Ottoman Empire along with her brother. Held hostage to ensure cooperation they plan their escape to freedom.

This book was long. So long. Almost 500 pages. And you feel it.  Fast paced? Not so much. This isn't a light paranormal YA that it might first appear to be.  It is more along the lines of a dense historical, political drama. It probably took my six times longer to read it than other books of the same length because it dragged. Year pass, politics happen, and events unfold in slow motion. I thought that it was going to be incredibly gory as well.  It is a Dracula retelling.  There is violence but most of it is implied, and even the scenes of torture have a dispassionate tone that robs them of their horror.

I am a bit torn about Lada. I love that streak of vicious practicality. There are very few female characters who break things down the way that she does.  She finds her ultimate long term goal and is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get to it. Deliberately.  The betrayals and deaths aren't accidents that just happen to come about. She carefully plans them to meet her own ends needs. She is a bit like the proverbial wolf gnawing away at a leg to get free of a trap. The loss of the limb is painful and might cause the animal to bleed out, but all they see is the ultimate goal.

When reading a character like this, it is impossible to get away from "likability". Yes, that old foe of powerful women raises it's head yet again.  Lada is unlikable. There, I said it. I wouldn't want to be her friend, and she flirts along the edge of being an antihero. She isn't sympathetic. I don't care. Whatever she did, I found understandable, and I wanted her to succeed. I mean, I also want to get her some therapy because she is emotionally constipated, but that is just the teacher in me.

I love Radu. Radu was likable. In fact, he is so likable that Radu liking Lada in the early parts of the book is one of the few reasons for liking Lada. Radu uses this as his weapon. The ability to make other trust and love him becomes a blade in his hand.  He used it to get what he needs. Information, influence, and loyalty. In his way, he is just as ruthless and cold-blooded as Lada. For example, at the beginning of the book, he is bullied and manages to get revenge after months of planning using a servant boy who he befriends to manipulate.  It turned out well for the serving boy, but Radu still manipulates him. I  liked this because I think that often people who are soft and lovable do this unconsciously. We all use the tools we have available.

If you like historical fiction, antiheroes, and a unique setting then And I Darken should go on your TBR right this minute.

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From Goodreads:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.